As Autocar put it: “The company has apparently persevered and flourished because of a blend of piston-engined caution and Wankel-engined enterprise.
“The enterprise has been sensibly aimed. The Wankel is not noted for good low-speed power, so they put their new-generation rotary in a sports car, where bottom-end power, though still very desirable, is not essential.”
Power for the RX-7 came from a
twin-rotor engine that offered four times its single-rotor displacement (573cc) to give an effective 2292cc capacity. It produced a claimed 105bhp at 6000rpm and 106lb ft torque at 4000rpm.
Autocar reckoned the RX-7 was aimed squarely at the Porsche 924, with other rivals including the BMW 323i, Lotus Eclat 523, Ford Capri 3000S and Triumph TR7.
“Mazda claims to have improved on the Wankel’s other great failing, poor fuel consumption – but to what extent remains arguable. Our tests show that in both steady-speed and general respects the car is thirstier than its rivals, but again, economy is less important in the sporting market,” our testers wrote
The RX-7 won favour for its attractive shape. “The body, greatly admired by most onlookers for its apparently good aerodynamics (Mazda claims a 0.36 drag coefficient) and – unusual for a Japanese car – exemplary lack of unnecessary ornamentation, sits on an independent front end – MacPherson strut – and a live-axle rear,” said Autocar.
Less impressive was the car’s outright performance. The RX-7 recorded a top speed of 113mph but was left trailing its rivals in the 0-60mph acceleration test. Whereas the fastest car, the Lotus Eclat, set a time of 7.9sec, the RX-7 took 10.1sec.
It didn’t cover itself in glory in terms of fuel economy, either, recording 18.2mpg by Autocar’s reckoning, compared with the 27.8mpg of the most fuel-efficient rival, the Porsche 924.
“The Mazda appeals strongly to
many people with its looks and holds the road well, but it could do with better steering. The question mark over its engine is today a faint one, but one wishes that its mechanical refinement was matched by better sound reduction,” was Autocar’s conclusion.
Previous Throwback Thursdays
4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine?
26 June 1906 - The first French Grand Prix
9 July 1907 - The beginning of Brooklands
14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour
8 April 1916 - Making post-war predictions
25 March 1922 - Caterpillar tracks are the future
4 July 1925 - Citroën lights up the Eiffel Tower
28 September 1928 - Engine tech takes a great leap forwards
2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding
6 July 1934 - A tour of Cowley
1 June 1935 - Introduction of the driving test
22 June 1945 - Driving through post-WW2 Europe
21 January 1949 - Tidier tails
25 August 1950 - The evolution of transmissions
27 April 1951 - Frankfurt hosts its first motor show
24 April 1959 - Aston Martin enters Formula 1
16 September 1960 - The beginning of MOT tests
28 October 1960 - Economy driving 1960s style
27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test
17 November 1961 - TVR Grantura road test
10 September 1965 - The birth of modern Audi
19 August 1966 - Four-wheel drive on test
6 May 1971 - Driving Ford's Supervan
12 June 1976 - Cars for under £100
10 July 1976 - Land's End to John O'Groats on one tank
8 October 1977 - Music on the move
13 May 1978 - Ferrari 512 BB road test
19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test
13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm
17 April 1985 - Secrets of a lost British supercar
4 September 1985 - Ford's electronic test bed
15 August 1990 - Giugiaro's vision of a 1990s Jaguar
11 November 1992 - Green light for Jaguar's new E-Type
28 April 1993 - BL's unseen concepts
16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java
16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust
11 October 2000 - BMW X5 Le Mans
4 April 2001 - 0-260mph in 6.0 seconds
25 July 2001 - 180mph in a Chevrolet Corvette
9 November 1934 - What is a sports car?