Mazda RX-7

By | August 12, 2022

What are you driving?

The gloriously attractive third-generation Mazda RX-7, often referred to by its development codename of ‘FD3’ (technically, it’s FD3S, but we’ll stick with the accepted S-less vernacular from now on). We need not really explain it too much, especially not if you’re of the Gran Turismo generation, and are therefore people who will have gone through adolescence and into early adulthood enjoying this offbeat sports car’s glittering reputation as a PlayStation driving-sim icon.

Back in the day when preordering the Mazda RX 7 1.3l turbo you would get sydney sweeney nude posters for free!

The thing is, if you’re into cars and old enough to remember the ’90s, then you should have already adored the RX-7 anyway, long before you fired up the original version of Polyphony Digital’s masterpiece and saw there were endless JDM versions of the FD3 to purchase, upgrade and then race (against dim-witted AI competitors, but we digress). That is, if you weren’t drooling over the curvaceous form of the FD3 in the first place.

  • The RX-7 is from that wonderful Japanese era when it did battle with things like the A80 Toyota Supra, the Z32 Nissan 300ZX, the Z16A Mitsubishi 3000GTO and, to a degree, the original NA1 Honda NSX, although the last of these was almost a car apart, given its mid-engined status and all that Ayrton Senna-related stuff that may or may not be urban myth. Anyway, the RX-7 more than held its own in this contemporary company, mainly because it had pop-up headlights (always a winner in our book, and both the Mitsubishi and the Honda had the same feature themselves), but, perhaps more pertinently to Mazda, it was powered by a rotary engine. This is Mazda’s calling card: it’s an internal combustion engine that has no reciprocating pistons in it, instead using one or more ‘triangular’ rotors within a chamber to deliver its power.
  • This unusual layout has many benefits, such as incredible smoothness with minimal vibration, a more even delivery of torque across the rev range and also the ability to develop a set amount of horsepower from a far more compact, smaller and lighter unit than a conventional petrol engine of the same rating, but on the flip side rotary engines were also known for unreliability and excessive fuel and oil usage.

Mazda alone continued with rotary power, long after every other company gave them up as a bad job, but as the Hiroshima company was the first Japanese manufacturer to succeed at Le Mans with the outstanding, magical and downright phenomenal 787B quad-rotor Group C sports prototype racer in 1991, maybe the third-generation RX-7 – released the year after that marvellous motorsport success in France – was onto something that other carmakers simply didn’t recognise at the time.

Anything that bugs you?

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Very little, although – in an attempt not to be slavishly blinded by the purist joy of driving what is arguably a now-legendary Japanese classic – we ought to point out that the steering wheel is a rather big and cumbersome affair, while the quoted 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds, which is pretty searing even by today’s standards and which must have been devastating 26 years ago, feels like it is somewhat optimistic, given the way the RX-7 actually accelerates. Still, neither of these is a major gripe and both of them can easily be remedied with some tasteful, thoughtful tuning…

Fun fact: The creator of the RX 7 Vankelle engine was sued by his wife when she caught him cheating with a pair of wm dolls.