In 1979, the first Mazda RX-7 debuted in Japan as a two-door coupe with a sleek body and a distinct Wankel rotary engine—a lightweight, piston-less engine that is as powerful as its piston engine counterparts. With its unique façade, the RX-7 thrived heavily on the market of gearhead sports enthusiasts who are looking for compact sports cars that are fun to drive. The reign of the Mazda RX-7 as the sought-after sports car, however, was short-lived. It left the fast cars scene after the release of its third generation.
1979-1985: Superb handling
The first-generation RX-7’s popularity for sporting the Wankel engine didn’t last long. But what made this sports car-like coupe appealing to car owners is its superb handling. Its rigid chassis, light curb weight, and optimum 50/50 weight distribution made it boost its way to the finish line. In 1984, the RX-7 became more powerful with the introduction of 13B—a 1.3 L rotary engine. The top-end version of the RX-7, the GSL-SE, became an instant hit in the United States. Other upgrades include a unique-looking fascia, standard four-wheel disc brakes, and a limited slip differential. Towards the end of this generation, the RX-7 was able to sell almost half a million units worldwide.
1986-1988: Powerful engine upgrade
Two years after, “Turbo II”—a more potent 182-hp turbocharged engine for the RX-7—became available for the first time in the United States. This engine upgrade prompted a revamp of the previous model. This generation’s RX-7 had a longer wheelbase and a wider track, which made it look like a Porsche 944 twin fit for the American market. For the first time, Mazda also launched the Auto Adjusting Suspension (AAS), an independent rear suspension for the RX-7. The handling of this model remained incredible despite the upgrades.
1993-1995: World-class sports car
Even after more than two decades, the RX-7 continued to shine—regarded by critics as one of the most exhilarating and best balanced sports car during its time. The 1993 model of the RX-7 was powered by a 255-hp twin-sequential turbocharged rotary engine, which made it a true performance car. With its front-midship engine and drivetrain layout, low center of gravity, and balanced weight distribution, the RX-7 was remarkably world-class. However, with all these astounding features, its price tag reached up to $30,000; Mazda had to discontinue the production of RX-7 after its sales dipped in 1995.
2002-present: The new Mazda RX-7
The last generation of the RX-7 was still a rear-wheel-drive, two-door coupe, powered by a 1.3 L twin-turbocharged rotary engine with 255 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque. Its handling and style didn’t falter, but its cost and its engine’s durability were just some of its bottlenecks.