We enjoy the Mazda RX-7 and put it fully to the test
1 DAILY DRIVING
A properly maintained RX-7 would be good to drive every day. It goes from 0-60mph in just under 10 seconds on its way to a 115mph top speed – more than enough to keep up with modern traffic. The steering and clutch are light and the five-speed gearbox is a pleasure to use. Despite our ( good-natured) jibes about its oh-so period interior, the RX-7 is extremely comfortable and visibility is excellent front and rear, so it’s very easy to park. If there’s a major downside, it’s that the Wankel engine was never known for its economy; you’ll be lucky to get much more than 25mpg from this car – rather less if you stretch that wonderful engine.
2 IN THE SERVICE BAY
If it’s looked after properly, the RX-7’s strong and simple rotary engine can last for thousands of miles, but neglect it and regularly floor the throttle before everything has had a chance to warm through and you can easily end up with a blown engine. A professional engine rebuild costs in the region of £3000, so make sure that the oil is changed every 3000 miles or so and that the car has high quality coolant.
Few parts are available off the shelf for these first generation RX-7s but club and specialist support is excellent and there’s a great sense of camaraderie among owners. Owning one of these cars is, in many ways, a way of life.
3 ON THE SHOW CIRCUIT
These cars were well-received by the motoring press when they were new and are still regarded as the stuff of legend by many. All you need to do to attract enthusiastic crowds at a classic car show is to open the bonnet and wait for many curious heads to disappear into the engine bay. A teasingly brief demonstration of the car’s individualistic engine note will serve to both generate endless interest, and hopefully silence tediously uninformed comments about unreliability, lousy economy and high oil consumption. But an early RX-7 will still draw the crowds, even with the bonnet closed. After all, when did you last see one?
4 THE LONG WEEKEND
We can think of few better classics to load up with luggage and passengers and set off on a trek. Providing, that is, that you carefully plot the location of filling stations on your route and ensure that your rear seat passengers are children – adults will feel quite hemmedin. The RX-7 is relaxing to drive, with plenty of smooth, unruffled power and a fifth gear to make motorway driving a pleasure. Acceleration is smooth and unruffled and interior comfort superb. It’s well-equipped, too, with little things like a remote release for the tailgate and a coin holder reducing driving stresses in their own little way.
5 THE B-ROAD BLAST
It may be relaxed and comforting when you need it to be, but the RX-7 has a lairy side, too. Wringing the absolute maximum out of all those revs is a real eye-opener in a car with such a remarkable power-to-weight ratio and it will take virtually any driving abuse. But it isn’t the sort of car you’d want to throw in to corners – that rear spoiler keeps everything so well pinned down that it’s more grippy than playful. Some will like it that way, of course, but others may prefer a little more slip.
The steering is good, too – if not quite as fluid as the rest of the car – and easily mastered. For rapid, grippy progress, then, it has few peers.