The Suzuki RE5 is the only Japanese mass-produced rotary-engined motor cycle. It is powered by a NSU-Wankel 497cc rotary engine which produces 46.2 kW (62.8 b.h.p) at 6500 r.p.m. The basic design of the rotary engine was established in 1924 by Professor Felix Wankel but a working prototype was not developed by NSU in Germany until 1957.
The major advantages of this design are lack of vibration, a broader power band and higher power to weight ratio than a conventional reciprocating piston engine motor cycle. Other manufacturers experimented with rotary-powered motor cycles. They include the Van Veen OCR1000 from Holland, the DKW/Hercules W2000 from Germany (both in the 1970s) and the British limited-edition Norton Classic of 1988. The Suzuki RE5 was launched at the Tokyo Motor Cycle Show in 1973 and was produced between 1974 and 1976. The RE5 was sold in Victoria from January 1975.
Although brilliantly engineered and intitially well received by the press, the RE5 was fuel thirsty and with high combustion temperatures it struggled to meet new emission standards. The RE5 was withdrawn after a short period having failed to achieve significant sales. Top speed was about 112 m.p.h (179 km/h). Designed as a comfortable touring machine it was never intended to challenge other Japanese superbikes with their high power to weight ratios. It appears the motorcycling world was not ready for such a complex rotary-engined machine.