March 26, 2023

Idolised and feared in equal measure on account of its rotary engine, the Mazda RX-7 is without doubt one of the most original sports activities vehicles to come back out of Japan. Right here’s our information to all three generations.

Mazda may not have been the primary automaker to implement rotary engines in its vehicles, however lately it’s by far the one most intently related to Wankel expertise.

As an alternative of pistons, rotary engines depend on – you guessed it – rotors to combust a gas combination. As there’s no reciprocating movement concerned, the dearth of engine vibration makes for a a lot smoother experience, and some great benefits of rotary energy don’t finish there.

We gained’t go too far into the nitty gritty tech stuff right here, however the headline is that you could get extra energy out of a smaller capability engine. Naturally, these attributes lend themselves completely to a compact, light-weight sportscar, therefore Mazda’s eagerness to make use of rotary energy in its most revered lineage of coupes.

It’s not all sunshine and roses although. Gas consumption in rotary engines is excessive and so they require much more upkeep on account of their in-built must burn by way of oil. This has caught many unaware drivers out up to now, leaving the rotary engine – and by affiliation, the Mazda RX-7 – with a infamous (and arguably fairly harsh) status for unreliability.

That apart, there’s so much to be stated for the dynamic attributes of those vehicles. In spite of everything, there’s a purpose why they’re shrouded in a sure mystique. So, with out additional ado, right here’s the complete story behind the Mazda RX-7…

Mazda RX-7 Information

Mazda RX-7 (SA22/FB)

The RX-7 story begins in 1978. Mazda had been dabbling round with rotary-powered autos because the Sixties, and after nigh-on twenty years of growth, Kenichi Yamamoto (Mazda’s Head of R&D on the time) had provide you with an iteration of the 12A rotary energy unit which boasted improved gas financial system and extra sturdy apex seals in comparison with Mazda’s earlier efforts.

So, with an engine now worthy of the worldwide market, Mazda’s workforce of engineers have been left with the uncommon job of designing the right automobile for it, and never the opposite means round. It was fairly apparent from the outset, nonetheless, {that a} powertrain with the traits of Mazda’s 12A unit could be greatest suited to a light-weight, zippy two-door coupe. Alas, the RX-7 was born.

The Sequence 1 (or SA22 as its recognized by some) was on sale between 1978-1980. Its 1.1-litre engine contributed to a kerb weight of lower than 1100kg, that means that the SA22 was good for a prime velocity of 115mph, and a 0-60mph time of simply 9.5 seconds. In 1978, these kinds of figures from a automobile with an engine capability that small have been merely extraordinary. Plus, over in Japan, the small engine meant that clients might purchase a sportscar whereas managing to swerve the tax positioned on the whole lot with a 1.5-litre displacement or greater. Naturally, this performed into Mazda’s fingers properly when it got here to gross sales.

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One other promoting level of the SA22 was its dealing with. That featherweight mass and 50:50 weight distribution was paired with a reliable multi-link dwell axle suspension set-up, and though it wasn’t essentially a world-beater, it gave the automobile a playful, spirited nature that gained over loads of followers.

The Sequence 2 arrived in 1981 and heralded calmly revised styling. The five-speed handbook gearbox turned commonplace (though automated choices remained), and the automobile additionally sprouted a brand new, shorter gearstick. In the meantime, if clients opted for the GSL trim stage, they’d profit from a rear LSD and disc brakes all-round. Relying on the place you’re on this planet, you may refer to those later Mk1 RX-7s as ‘FBs’.

The identical is true for the Sequence 3 which debuted in 1984. Once more, higher-end GSL specification was supplied, as was a brand new engine known as the 13B (albeit just for the American market). This upped capability to 1.3 litres, and in consequence, the RX-7’s energy figures now peaked at 135hp. JDM-spec Sequence 3s may very well be bought with a turbocharged variant of the 12A although, guaranteeing that the home market additionally had a stronger model of the automobile to get pleasure from.

Nevertheless, for a efficiency car to have a very glowing status, it must have some form of prominence within the realm of motorsport. Fortunately, the SA22/FB made its presence recognized on each the road and the circuit. Within the fingers of Win Percy, the automobile gained the 1980 & 1981 British Saloon Automobile Championship titles, and it even took outright victory on the prestigious-yet-gruelling 24 Hours of Spa. How’s that for proof of rotary reliability?

By most measures, the Mk1 RX-7 was a convincing success, and that’s confirmed within the numbers behind its forecourt reputation. Regardless of the weird tech that lied inside it, Mazda managed to shift 470,000 Mk1 RX-7s, that means that to today it stays the all-time best-selling rotary-powered automobile.

Mazda RX-7 FC rear shot

Mazda RX-7 (FC)

Given the optimistic status of the SA22/FB, you’d be forgiven for considering that Mazda would stick with the same recipe when designing its successor. Nevertheless, that wasn’t fairly the case.

Certain, it retained rotary energy and caught to the two-door silhouette, however the Mk2 RX-7 (FC) wasn’t an all-out sportscar just like the car that got here earlier than it. As an alternative, the FC was a automobile constructed for lengthy distance cruising, reasonably than tight and twisty touge runs.

The rationale behind this was the truth that Mazda had its sights set on interesting to America, and after a stringent analysis programme, it was determined that the eighties US buyer base would favor a softer – however extra highly effective – coupe.

Because of this, the FC obtained a lot of key adjustments to its underpinnings. The SA22 was recognized for its playful oversteer, however for the RX-7’s new touring design temporary, Mazda wished to introduce an additional factor of stability to the way in which that the automobile drove. To do that, they swapped out the outdated dwell axle on the rear for an unbiased suspension set-up and launched a bespoke little bit of expertise often known as the Dynamic Monitoring Suspension System, or DTSS. In apply, DTSS adjusts the toe angle of every wheel relying on the cornering pressure and route that the automobile is being subjected to.

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On prime of that, the FC received a brand new damping system too. Known as Auto Adjusting Suspension (or AAS), this engineering answer would alter the dampers on the fly to conform greatest with the highway floor beneath the automobile’s tyres. Just like the DTSS, this actually improved the FC’s stability and experience consolation, however eager drivers have been disillusioned by the way in which that it numbed the suggestions that the automobile might offer you.

Anyway, so far as Mazda was involved, the dealing with of the reborn RX-7 was precisely how they wished it to be. Now it was time to deal with the second a part of the automobile’s reinvention: energy.

This time, the core 13B construction utilized in US-spec SA22s would turn out to be the usual engine supplied throughout all worldwide markets. Nevertheless, the unit positioned into the FC’s engine bay wasn’t an identical to those discovered within the outgoing automobile.

Upon launch in 1985, the FC was fitted with a naturally aspirated 13B that featured new variable consumption expertise, however a 12 months later in 1986, a turbocharged variant emerged. The newly fettled engine had already been uprated to round 150hp, however the addition of pressured induction would elevate that determine to the 180hp-mark. By 1989, a revised twin-scroll turbo and enhanced compression ratio meant that the RX-7 FC was pushing 200hp: fairly the development over the little 1.1-litre SA22.

Weight had additionally been stored right down to a decent 1200kg or thereabouts, which when coupled with the automobile’s newfound energy, gave the RX-7 a 0-60mph time of simply 6.7 seconds. The highest velocity was now inside touching distance of 150mph too. Efficiency figures like these have been essential to the FC capturing the premium really feel that Mazda have been striving for, whereas the introduction of a convertible model added an additional luxurious twist.

So, when you like the thought of refined rotary energy with an emphasis on magnificence, try our Mazda RX-7 FC purchaser’s information earlier than you go looking round for one your self. Likewise, extra tuning-oriented drivers shouldn’t be postpone by the FC’s calmer pure angle. As this instance proves, the second-gen RX-7 is a canvas which may nonetheless make for a incredible mission.

Mazda RX-7 Bathurst Type R

Mazda RX-7 (FD)

Regardless of doing what they thought their audience wished, the second-gen FC RX-7 offered at roughly half the speed of the unique automobile. So, for Mazda’s third instalment of the now-revered RX-7 nameplate, they determined to ditch the GT cruiser vibe in a giant means.

Debuting in 1992, the Mk3 – or FD as its extra generally recognized – signalled a step again in direction of all-out agility and efficiency. In reality, it went additional down that route than even the unique SA22.

The FC’s boxy Porsche 924-inspired styling made means for a refreshing curved design which actually stood out amongst a lot of its extra subdued rivals (assume 300ZX, for instance). The automobile’s sleeker stance was matched by what lay beneath the pores and skin too. Though retaining the extra superior unbiased rear suspension system, the general set-up of the automobile was a way more rewarding one than that of the FC. The experience was slightly firmer, however not so agency that it was uncomfortable. Equally, the steering had some additional weight to it. In these two alterations alone, the FD had turn out to be a much more communicative automobile than its predecessor.

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With the RX-7’s dealing with now restored to maybe what it ought to’ve been all alongside, additional evolutions wanted to be made to the engine to essentially get the most effective out of these revisions. In addition to, with the onset of the nineties, the horsepower wars had kicked up a gear. The aforementioned 300ZX was churning out round 280hp from its V6, whereas the turbocharged variant of Toyota’s Mk4 Supra boasted 320hp in its Euro/American export guise. Towards rivals like these, the engine used within the FC merely wasn’t going to chop it anymore.

To get round this, Mazda launched a brand new sequential twin-turbocharger, whereby the second turbo kicks in at 4000rpm for an additional splash of increase. Consequently, the FD’s peak energy output was raised to 236hp, or 250hp in Japan. Admittedly, this was nonetheless a good distance away from the form of energy the Nissan and Toyota have been providing, however in opposition to these vehicles the RX-7 had weight (or reasonably, a scarcity thereof) on its facet. The Supra tipped the scales at 1500kg, as did the 300ZX. Nevertheless, the FD RX-7 was 200-300kg lighter relying upon spec. Because of this, the rotary-powered automobile reached 60mph faster than the Nissan, and on a monitor felt just like the extra agile one of many bunch.

On paper then, there was a lot to love in regards to the FD, however sadly, overambitious pricing put potential patrons off. Upon launch, the third-gen RX-7 was positioned inside Porsche territory, and that was a battle that it was by no means going to win. Consequently, Mazda shaved a giant chunk off of its asking value a 12 months or two down the road, however by then the harm had already been carried out. The FD soldiered on within the UK up till 1998, however had bowed out from the remainder of Europe lengthy earlier than then.

That didn’t outcome within the automobile’s demise although. As an alternative, Mazda reverted again to its roots, and transitioned the RX-7 into being a Japanese market-only particular. As such, the top quality Sequence 8 vehicles (constructed between 1998-2002) can solely be sourced as an import when you dwell within the West.

Whichever particular person age & trim stage appeals to you essentially the most although, the FD is maybe the final word expression of the RX-7. In reality, we’d go a step additional and say that it’s the final word expression of rotary energy as an entire.

Enticed by the prospect? Then be at liberty to take a look at our FD purchaser’s information. There’s additionally loads of FD characteristic vehicles on the positioning to offer you a little bit of inspiration. Or, for an excellent nearer have a look at the third-gen RX-7, try our evaluate of the ‘Bathurst R’ version.