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What Might Have Been: The Eunos Cosmo

July 20, 2011 by Matt

Mazda JC Cosmo

How might the automotive landscape been different had an automaker made a critical decision differently? Decided to see a particular concept through to production? Persisted with the production of a flawed model a little longer? Kept developing a promising technology? Changed a key part of a model whose sales were flagging?

It’s hard to play revisionist historian, what with the infinite number of variables that swirl around us on a daily basis. That said, there are definitely cars, ideas and technologies that deserved a lot more success than they actually achieved. This is the first installment of a new series examining “What Might Have Been,” key decisions by various automakers that, frankly, I wish they had made differently.

Today we discuss the Eunos Cosmo, a RWD luxury coupe built by Mazda between 1990 and 1995 for their upmarket Japan-only Eunos division. Never heard of it, you say? Good reason: It was never exported outside Japan, and remained a right-hand-drive domestic-market-only vehicle.

It was a technological tour de force. The first mass production car to feature sequential twin turbochargers, it remains also the only production car equipped with a 3-rotor, 300 hp version of Mazda’s signature rotary engine, the 20B-REW:

Mazda 20B

The innovations continued inside the car, with the world’s first built-in GPS navigation system as well as a color touchscreen. Sadly, no manual transmission option was offered on a production car, though a few enterprising owners have adapted the later third-generation RX-7’s manual to their Cosmos.

The late ’80s saw an explosion of luxury sub-brands associated with Japanese automakers: Honda launched Acura, Nissan debuted Infinti and Toyota unveiled Lexus. Mazda was set to follow suit, building momentum for their upcoming Amati luxury marque. The Cosmo, along with a car which later became the Mazda Millenia, were pegged as the two Amati “launch vehicles.” But for reasons unknown, Mazda decided to change course and shelve plans for the new sub-brand. As a result, the Cosmo never crossed the Pacific, and remained a vision from afar for American enthusiasts.

It didn’t help us, either, that the development of the Cosmo occurred during a period of great aesthetic success for Mazda, when they released some their best-ever looking models, and some of the most beautiful cars to arise from Japan, ever. The lines of the stunning third-generation RX-7, Mazda’s final 929 and MX-6 were penned by their then-brilliant design department, but the Cosmo’s sinuous curves arguably topped them all. Had it been released here, between its technological prowess and overwhelming styling grace, I’ve no doubt it would have been a credible rival to the successful Lexus SC coupe. If only, Mazda, if only.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting key decisions I wish automakers had made differently, for divers reasons. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Mazda, Rotary, What Might Have Been

7 Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    First time that I’ve seen a pic of the Cosmo. Looks like what would be left over if someone took the ugly out of a Subaru SVX…

    • Matt says:

      Haha, it’s funny you say that, since I have a soft spot for that weird little GT from Subaru. You’re right about the resemblance. By that metric, the Cosmo is also what would be left over if somebody took the lozenge out of an SC coupe (not that the Lexus is a bad looking car). The Mazda just has more “shape” to it.

  2. I was fascinated by this car when I first heard of it. I was very enamored of the third-generation RX-7 (which I still think is gorgeous), and the notion of a three-rotor Wankel was fascinating. Even if Mazda had gone ahead with the Amati brand, I doubt this car would have sold well. The Lexus SC300/400 coupes never sold very well here; they did okay the first year or two, then plummeted as the market for big coupes evaporated.

    The Cosmo, of course, was also the name of Mazda’s first Wankel-powered car, the Cosmo Sport 110S, back in 1967.

    • Matt says:

      You’re probably right. It would have been a credible competitor to the SC maybe, but still a low-volume product. There are lots of days when I wish “personal cars” (i.e. big two-door coupes and GTs) would come back into vogue. Then Ford might even be able to make a T-bird reboot that doesn’t suck.

      About the 110S: Yep. And the name was applied to their ’76-’81 RX-5 coupe as well.

  3. Ollygt says:

    I still have the dealer brochures for this car, it was super modern looking when it came out with a light up dash and really smooth lines inside and out.
    Could be scary to drive with all that torque on luxury riding suspension.

  4. brett says:

    hi i hav a eunos cosmo 13,b twinturbo its 1990 h reg not runing hat the moumant but duw for a rebild the car as only dun about 65.000 mils wot a car cant wayt to get it gowing r gain. my cars r subaru svx manual 1992 wich i pot in my self.and a mitsubishi gto twin tubo. my bike is zx12r 2000 modal a1,from brett thanks

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