The RX moniker has been colossal in Mazda’s history and while there have been many venerable RX’s over the years; the most famous of them all is certainly the RX-7. Three generations have been produced from 1978 to 2002, with sales of over 800,000 cars built in 20+ years.
Launched in March 1978, the Mazda RX-7 replaced the Savanna RX-3. The RX-7 is a 2-door rear-wheel-drive, front-mid rotary engine powered sports coupe that was manufactured by Mazda.
The Interior & Exterior
The RX-7 has a nice and well-designed interior with the driver afforded a good driving position and the steering wheel is fairly big in diameter with some nice stitching which is also evident on the gear knob and handbrake. Equipment levels are beautiful by today’s standards a pair of plastic luggage bins, leather upholstery, air conditioning, powered mirrors, electric windows, and an AM/FM stereo cassette player.
The instruments are simple, good, and feature a bold typeface. The tachometer can read up to 9000 rpm, and the speedometer has a maximum speed of 180 mph. Gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure, and fuel level sit to the left of the tachometer to complete a well-designed analog binnacle.
Looking ahead via the windscreen your eyesight is caught by the bends, the rising line of each edge plunging up towards you while each door mirror captures a reflection of the long arc of the door tops that flow into the back wheel arches.
First Generation RX-7
The first series RX-7 commonly referred to as the “SA22C” was powered by a Wankel engine positioned behind the front axle. This version came with two engines, one producing 105 HP and the other 115 HP. The drive option was rear-wheel-drive and the 5-speed manual transmission was standard, although there were also 4-speed manual/automatic and 3-speed automatic as options. Underneath the RX-7 featured 4-link rear suspension at the rear with Watt linkage and 50/50 weight ratio.
Mazda went on to release series 2 between 1981 and 1983, and series 3 between 1984 and 1985. All these series came with some engine tune-ups and bodies as well.
Mazda boosted sales of 470,000 cars on this first model.
Second Generation RX-7 (FC series)
The 4th series RX-7 was launched in 1985; it went down the same path as the first generation but with some minor differences. This series was more of a softer sport-tourer compared to the previous which was considered a pure sports car.
To improve the handling and reduce oversteering Mazda upgraded the rear suspension by fitting an independent rear suspension setup. On the steering part, Mazda opted to use rack and pinion, replacing the recirculating ball used in the previous model which improved the steering precision.
Mazda also made disc brakes as standard, with the introduction of the Dynamic Tracking Suspension System (DTSS) as well. The rear suspensions were revised, Mazda incorporated the special toe control hubs that were capable of introducing a certain degree of passive rear steering under cornering loads.
Under the hood, Mazda introduced the fuel-injected 13B-VDEI engine. It was a naturally aspirated engine that produced 146 HP and later a turbocharged model was introduced in 1987 which produced 182 HP and clocked 7.0 seconds from 0-100 KPH (0-60 MPH) time. These engines were coupled to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The 5th series saw an increase in power for both the naturally aspirated and turbocharged RX-7 models. The naturally aspirated produced 160 HP, while the turbocharged model produced 200 HP with some exceptions reaching 215 HP.
In 1988 Mazda introduced the RX-7 convertible which came with either a naturally aspirated or turbocharged engine. The convertible featured a removable stiff section over the passenger’s head and a rear folding textile section with a heat-able rear glass window. The folding part of the convertible was very well-engineered as it folds into the body assembly as a complete unit.
Third Generation RX-7 (FD Series)
In 1992 Mazda released the Series 6 of the RX-7. It was strikingly one of the best-designed cars from Japan at the time of release. It had a small ground clearance, the bodywork was curvy, flawless, and featured an elegantly organic style, unlike the previous boxy FC series. The total weight of the Series 6 RX-7 was significantly reduced to under 1300kg compared to the FC series whose weight was 1500kg, the center of gravity was lowered, power increased, and improved driving dynamics made this FD series RX-7 the best car on the market at the time.
Under the hood, this Series 6 RX-7 came with a 1.3-liter 13B-REW twin-turbocharged and twin-rotor engine that produced 255 HP. This RX-7 had very little turbo lag and due to that, it clocked 0-100 KPH (0-60 MPH) in 5.0 seconds.
In 1996 Series 7 of the RX-7 was released with some slight modifications. Some of the changes were an improved intake system, a simplified vacuum routing manifold that gave rise to a 10 HP increase in power, and a 16-bit ECU. This power increase was only evident on the manual transmission model as it came to effect at above 7000 rpm which was the redline for automatic RX-7. The RZ trim came with 17 inch BBS wheels and larger brake rotors.
In 1998 the Series 8 RX-7 was released as the final model. In this final series, Mazda improved the intercooler, radiator cooling performance by fitting a new front panel and installed more efficient turbos. The interior didn’t go untouched as the seats, instrument cluster, and steering wheel were changed. Some models were also fitted with an adjustable rear spoiler and the antilock braking system also received some improvements to improve cornering ability while braking.
The automatic transmission Series 8 RX-7 model was fitted with an engine that produced 251 HP, while the RB trim came with an engine that produced 261 HP and the high-end trims had an engine that produced 276 HP. The RS trim came fitted with 17-inch wheels and Bilstein suspension, while the RZ trim was almost similar to the RS, the major difference being curb weight, but also came with BBS wheels and featured custom red racing-themed interior.
If you are all about performance and some luxury interior features, Mazda RX should be the automatic choice. The Mazda RX is more versatile when it comes to driving performance, able to deliver everything from a sporty ride to a relaxing driving experience. Looking for a Mazda brand? Just visit our website BE FORWARD.
Originally published Jul 7, 2020, updated Sept 14, 2021
Written by: Josephat Lukaza