First displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1991, and put on sale in Australia from April 1992, the third generation RX-7 was a revelation. Not only did the radically-styled twin-turbo newcomer represent a return to sports car origins for a model that had become progressively bigger and heavier since its launch in 1978. But at $73000, it was one of the performance bargains of the decade.
Not an easy car to drive smoothly, it has been described as a fairly demanding car to drive fast, requiring plenty of steering input and can be prone to bounce around on bumps and corrugations. The ride is extremely firm, which gives it a racecar feel but makes it harsh under many conditions typical of Australian roads. The RX-7 handles like a raunchy rear drive muscle car, rather than a refined computer controlled four wheel drive machine such as Nissan's Skyline GT-R. There's no questioning its speed and agility. Whether starting off the line, or point to point through a twisty course, there are few cars of any price or origin as quick.
In spite of the new sports image, luxury has not been sacrificed. Standard fittings include things like cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, leather trim, air conditioning, central locking and security alarm system. Although in America and Japan there were different specifications of the RX-7, Australia only received the one model.
The svelte coupe was a cornerstone of a major assault on the Australian Bathurst 12 Hour production race in 1992 and won convincingly in the hands of Charlie O'Brien, Garry Waldon and Mark Gibbs. It was the first time the model had been raced anywhere in the world, making the victory even more remarkable. The RX-7 remains the world's only rotary-powered sports car. Power for the latest model comes from a revised version of the familiar 13B rotary engine now called the 13B REW (The RE is for rotary engine obviously but the W stands for the 'double' or twin turbo system) which is now fitted with twin sequential turbochargers. The turbochargers work in unison. The first is activated from the time the engine starts, the second unit cuts in at mid and high engine speeds, giving a smooth surge of power right through the rev range. The engine in the Series 6 model pumps out 176kW at 6500rpm, representing a 21 per cent power lift. The torque figure - 295Nm at 5000rpm - is also impressive. The Series 7 upgrade raised the power output to 198kw. The gearbox is a five-speed manual unit. No automatic transmission option was available to Australian cars according to Mazda.
One reason the performance has improved to such an extent is that Mazda engineers have gone to great lengths to reduce the weight. The car tips the scales at 1310 kg, making it 80kg less than the previous model in spite of the additional luxury, safety and mechanical equipment. Every component in the car was the subject of an intense weight reduction campaign with the object of pulling mass out of the car without compromising rigidity or safety. Few exotic materials have been used, however. Most components are made from steel, with aluminum used for some suspension parts and the bonnet. The engine has been set further back and lower, giving better handling and an optimum weight distribution of 50:50.
The new chassis has a sophisticated but conventional suspension system with double wishbones at each corner. Aluminum construction has been used to reduce weight and the rear end incorporates a refined version of the last RX-7 model's 'toe control' setup. This makes the rear wheels angle slightly during cornering without the added weight and complexity of a true 4WS system. ABS brakes ensure the wheels will not lock under heavy breaking.
The exterior sheet metal is a showpiece of the late 80's/early 90's Mazda design team. It displays some of the most intricately curved surfaces yet seen on a production car. The profile was inspired by the stance of a puma crouching to attack. Even the roof is curvaceous, having a subtle 'double bubble' surface claimed to aid aerodynamics. It can be considered a time-less design, as it still looks as good now as when it was released, especially in the final Series 8 version. The design of the car hasn't seemed to age as much as other cars of the era, such as the R33 Skyline GT-R, Honda NSX, Mitsubishi 3000GT (GTO) and even the Toyota Supra.
The standard RX-7 could go from 0 to 100 km/h in around 6.3 seconds with a quarter mile time of around 14.5 seconds.
A limited edition race-style SP version was also sold in Australia so that Mazda could compete in production car racing. Only 35 were produced. It featured more race-style materials, lowering weight and improving power as well as larger front and rear spoilers and 17 inch wheels. It could sprint to 100km/h in around 5.3 seconds on its way to a 13.6 second quarter mile.
Only the Series 6 and 7 versions were sold here in Australia, before Mazda dropped the model due to low sales around 1998/1999. A Series 8 version was available in Japan (with the 13B now making 208kw). One of the great supercars available in Australia at the time, but when the Japanese Yen began to rise, it forced prices to increase, and unfortunately lowered sales. This is evident in the way the model began at $73000 AUD in 1992 and rising to $89505 AUD by 1997. The SP was priced at $101610 AUD.
Years Available: 1992 to 2003 Engine: 13B (1308cc) twin rotor (2 x 654cc) EFI Twin Sequential Turbos with Intercooler Transmission: 5 Speed Manual and optional 4 Speed Auto Power (Approx.): 236hp (176kw) (Standard, later rising to 265.5hp (194kw)), 273.5hp (204kw) (SP Version)
Torque (Approx.): 216 Lb/Ft (294Nm) (Standard), 263 Lb/Ft (357Nm) (SP Version) Weight (Approx.) Series 4: 1310 kg (Standard) 1218 kg (SP Version)
Chassis Prefix: FD3S Specification: - Original Cost (Approx): $73000 AUD in 1992, rising to $89505 AUD by 1997. The SP was priced at $101610 AUD