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Mazda RX7

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Mazda RX7

Some people say that if you are interested in cars you have to own a rotary at some point! I had a 1986 series 3 Mazda RX7 for a few years, and it was an interesting car to own. Unfortunately my overall experience was very negative, but I think a lot of the problems I had were due to my own lack of knowledge and the fact that I couldn't find anyone locally who knew enough to service it. I had two replacement engines because of problems with the apex seals - the big weakness of rotaries - but in hindsight the original engine was probably fine. Also the automatic transmission had problems (skipping from 2nd to 4th) and starting was sometimes almost impossible. Sounds like a disaster, doesn't it!

The RX7 is powered by a 1.3 litre 13B intercooled turbo, twin rotor, rotary engine producing around 200 horse power. Mine had a 4 speed (4th was overdrive) automatic transmission. RX7s are rear wheel drive. Performance was quite impressive: around 6.5 - 7 seconds to get to 100 km/h (60 mph) and a top speed of about 240 Km/h (145 mph). Because mine was a Japanese import the speedo only went up to 180 but I managed to wind it off the end of that pretty easily! Handling was nice too - the suspension was quite hard and cornering was solid and predictable.

The automatic wasn't ideal though - first gear was too high and getting away from stopped was a bit slow until the revs built up and the turbo kicked in. I'm sure a 5 speed manual would have been a big improvement. On the other hand, overtaking near the speed limit (100 km/h or 60 mph in New Zealand) was fun. When cruising in overdrive it was just a matter of flicking off the overdrive switch and hitting the gas - up near the 7000 rpm red line this thing would really go, and you could overtake like the vehicle you were passing was standing still!

Ths styling of the RX7 was quite impressive. It looked mean with the big air scoop for the intercooler on the front, the twin exhausts either side at the back, and it was low and streamlined. It felt big and heavy when being driven though - not like the Cordia Turbo or Prelude VTEC I owned before and after, which felt much lighter and "sportier".

Overall, owning an RX7 was an interesting experience, but not one I would want to repeat. The general tone of comments from other owners on the Internet discussion lists was also quite negative. While the rotary engine is a nice, elegant concept the progress in conventional engines has made it a bit of a dead-end, I guess.


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