Mazda’s history has been marked by the RX nomenclature. Historically, any Mazda vehicle bearing this name had a rotary motor, but the RX7 had more flair than the RX6. UK car buyers are most familiar with the RX-7 in FD form. This is the third and last generation of the RX-7, which was produced over a period of 10 years between 1992 and 2002.
The FD RX-7 was imported in low numbers to the UK. Its main feature was the twin-turbocharged, twin-rotor 13B -REW engine. The RX7 was released in the UK with 237bhp. However, the RX7’s performance was not inferior to more powerful competitors like the Toyota Supra and Honda NSX.
The RX-7 is rare today, particularly if it has not been touched by backyard tuners. However, if you can find one with a history and responsible previous owners, the rewards are great. The RX-7 has a problem. As with all rotary-engined Mazdas, it requires a lot of TLC in order to keep it healthy. Also, due to the degeneration of the rotor seals, the engine will need to be rebuilt cyclically.
RX7 in detail
In 1978, the original RX7 was introduced. Its compact and fastback design and rotary engines were a huge hit with buyers. Mazda launched the FC model, a larger, heavier version of the RX7, in 1986, buoyed by a strong Japanese economy. However, it was not entertaining like the previous car. This led to Mazda’s decision that the third generation FD would be lighter.
This 1992 model was undoubtedly one of the most striking Japanese designs. Its low-slung, shrinkwrapped bodywork made a stark contrast to the tall FC. The RX-7 was exclusively launched with the 13B-REW twin turbo engine. It was available in both manual and automatic modes.
The engine was inspired by the Mazda Cosmo coupe, a Japanese four-seater GT with turbocharging and an engine rotary. It also featured digital sat-nav for the first time.
The RX7 featured a sequential twin-turbo configuration. It used only one turbo at lower engine speeds to improve response. The second turbo was only available above 4000rpm. The turbo-lag was reduced, but the RX-7’s rotary motor still had a lot of problems. This was mainly due to the engine’s lack of torque. Another compromise was the removal of the dizzying rev limits of the RX-7. This time, the motor was restricted to an average 8000rpm.
The RX7 was launched in the UK with a single, high-spec specification to compete with the Porsche 911. It cost PS32,000 in 1992. However, after slow sales for a year, Mazda reduced it to PS25,000. The RX7 was designed for the UK with stiffer suspensions and strut braces than the Japanese R model. However, the second-hand car market has been overrun with private imports of Japanese models making it difficult to pinpoint the exact specifications.
We were able to test drive a car of standard UK specification. Continue scrolling for Richard Meaden’s full review
Mazda RX-7 Review
I still have a vivid memory of the last time I drove a third generation, ‘FD RX-7. It was the first time. It was 1993, back when the car was brand new and making a lot of noise in the UK. It created a lot of buzz, and that was not just because of its audible rev limiter. Even people who wouldn’t normally be attracted to Japanese performance cars found it difficult to ignore the rotary-powered Mazda.
Same was true for Toyota’s A80 twin-turbo Toyota Supra, and Nissan’s more discrete, but equally appealing, 300ZX. This was also the heyday of Honda’s NSX, which shows how strong Japanese brands were in early and mid ’90s. This was a golden age for those who loved rear-drive, fast, affordable coupes with front engines.
The RX-7, as you would expect from Mazda, was the most unusual of all the Mazda models, thanks to its twin-turbo 13B/REW Wankel engine. The RX-7’s motor was deemed to be 2.6-litre due to its twin rotor chambers (654cc each) and turbo equivalency. Because of its compact size and light weight, the unit was easy to pack behind the front axle line. It is also low in the chassis, allowing for a 50/50 weight distribution and low centre gravity.
Mazda RX-7: Twin-turbo Wankel Rotary Engine
It used twin sequential turbos, which was unusual. It was indeed the first engine of its type. It was a simple concept. The first turbo boost started at 2000rpm. Exhaust gases were then sent directly to the second turbo, which is identical in size, to reduce lag. The system was complex, but effective and relied on electronic control to ensure that boost pressures were maintained at the right levels.