A Faster Version of a Fast Car - RX7 - R2

Mar 1, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:

  • Handling And Control:

Pros:Looks, Speed, Handling, Value

Cons:Hard to find a mechanic, parts are expensive

The Bottom Line: This model was designed with a race track in mind


The Third Generation RX7 has it all! Looks, Speed and Handling!

Make no mistake. The Third Generation Mazda RX7 is truly a phenomenal sports car. Eleven years after they were introduced and nine years after the last one was sold in the U.S., the FD3S, RX7 is still able to handle almost all of the best sports cars out there!!

For those of you who happened to have perused my original review on the Mazda RX7, http://www.epinions.com/content_104220757636 , you may have noticed what I said in the bottom line, to wit: "Good outweighs the bad, A joy to behold and to drive. I wish I had two!! my auto and a stick."

Well my wish came true, I now have two. I bought a stick, a R2 with a thousand miles on the factory rebuilt engine.

For those of you that don't know what an R2 is let me explain. The third generation RX7 was sold in the United States from 1993 til 1995. It came in two distinct versions, the touring car in all three years and the racing versions called the R1 in 93 and the R2 in 94 & 95.
About twenty percent of the RX7 models sold were of the R1 and R2 varieties which make it an even rarer version of a rare car and of course as my title implies, a faster version of a fast car. Later I will compare the two cars but for now, here's a little background on both cars.

The eleven year old Third Generation Mazda RX7 is truly a glamorous car with a classic sports car design, that make most of todays cars look plain in comparison and an ingenious and unique propulsion system called a Rotary or Wankel engine, so named because it's inventor was named Dr. Felix Wankel.

The Rotary Powerplant

The rotary or Wankel engine, like standard automobile engines, is an internal combustion engine but it works on a totally different principle than a piston engine.

The piston engine uses the same chamber (the cylinder) alternately for four different jobs -- intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. The rotary engine does these same four jobs, but in its own part of the roughly oval shaped rotary motor housing. It's like having a dedicated cylinder for each of the four jobs, with the rounded triangle shaped rotar (piston) moving continually from one to the next.

The idea behind the rotary engine is quite simple, however the engineering to make the idea work is quite complex. If you would like to know more about this remarkable invention I recommend the following website: http://travel.howstuffworks.com/rotary-engine.htm

Advantages

Since there are less moving parts (3) and no loss of torque by transferring power from pistons to crankshaft as with piston engines, the rotary engine is lighter, smaller and more powerful than any comparable conventional engine in a similar car. For instance the 13B model rotary engine, which is the standard engine in the 93-95 RX7s, delivers a whopping 255 hp @ 6500 rpm. This from an engine, that is smaller than the larger street motorcycles, at a paltry 1308 cc or 1.3 liter engine displacement.

Part of the reason for this astonishing performance is that the engine's power is augmented by a sequential twin turbo system. One turbo is engaged @ 2000 rpm and the second @ 5000 rpm. Also this car weighs only 2840#s, which gives it the biggest horsepower to weight ratio of all cars except the $300,000 Farrari.

Performance

Handling The 3rd Generation R1 & R2's performance is legendary. Because of the low center of gravity (48.8" high)and the fabled 50/50 equal front and rear weight distribution, both models have excellent handling but the R1/R2 has a stiffer suspension and non slip seats for superior cornering. In tests against the Corvette LT1, Supra, 300ZX, 3000GT VR4 and the Porsch 968, the RX7 came out on top.

Acceleration Hows 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds sound, or a quarter mile in 13.9 seconds @ 100mph? For the real speed enthusiasts, these times can be increased dramatically without too much trouble. Ten second RX7s are not that uncommon for an uncommon car.

Top Speed and Braking The stock RX7 tops out at about 160mph and keeping with the excellent handling, brakes 70-0mph in 156 feet.

Reliability

I'm afraid I have a problem talking about the reliability considering I've only had this car three weeks and have less than a thousand miles, so I'm going to draw from my experience related to my 94, automatic touring car model.

First let me say that I will have had this car three years this April and have put on about 39,000 miles. The biggest fault I can find with this car is it doesn't like the heat and I live in Arizona. I try not to drive it far and avoid lines in the daytime in the summer. It's not that it overheats or anything in the heat but it will stall and is difficult to get restarted. I suppose it's some form of vapor lock. It's annoying but you work around it.

The drive train is perfect and with the auto you have the option of holding any gear you want. As Car and Driver determined this car has fabulous brakes. I may have had the brakes replaced once, I'm not sure. When I bought the car it had 52,000 miles and now about 91,000, I replaced the tires at 65,000 with a street racing tire at about $125 each. They weren't in stock, they had to be ordered.

Perhaps, I've been lucky but I don't think so. Many other enthusiasts have said, on websites, that with proper routine maintenance, the cars last quite a while . the most important thing is to keep the vehicle from overheating. RX7s cannot take overheating. thats where mosts of the blown engines come from. So I've replaced all belts and hoses and will probably continue to do so every three or so years.

Hints Knowing that other people have had trouble with this car I consider myself fortunate. Of course because of the nature of the beast, one has to wonder if the trouble occurs naturally or whether the car is being abused. Be aware, this car cannot take abuse! The oil and filter needs to be be changed every 3000 miles religiously and The fuel filter should be changed every 15000 miles. This type of engine naturally burns a small portion of oil so this is important. The car performs better in cooler climes but I live in Arizona so with care it works here too. An overheated engine can mean a new engine. Because of it's high performance it's obviously a temptation to drive with your foot in throttle. I do it myself and It's probably good for the car but watch the temperature and oil gages closely, the engine is not forgiving. Another thing, let the car warm up upon starting and cool down after stopping, especially if you have been going fast enough to engage the turbos.m This can save your turbos, the pre-cat and possibly your engine.

Whats good about the R1/R2

If you think you might want to take your car out to the track and race against either a clock or other cars this, spartan, true, sports car, is your baby. It corners better than the touring model and weighs a little less, therefore accelerates about a tenth of a second faster 0-60 and two tenths in a quarter mile for the stick and seven and nine tenths for the automatic. It also comes with a nice air foil in front and a factory spoiler that gives it a faster sportier look. In addition my R2 has a turbo boost gage, an engine stabilizer bar, a catback dual exhaust, a cold air box and an intercooler.

How does this car compare with the touring car? Well, while the touring version is scary fast, the R2 is BLAZING fast!

In addition, while I thought the Touring car cornered well, it doesn't hold a candle to the R2. No wonder the Porsches and other hot cars can't keep up with this on a track.

What do you Give Up

As I said earlier, the R1/R2 is a spartan car. Nothing fancy, just performance! The touring car has lots of great features though, so here are some of the comforts you give up for that little edge in performance. Fog lights, cruise control, leather seats, moon roof, a smoother ride, a little more storage and a very nice custom Bose sound system.

Should I Buy One

I'm afraid you're going to have to judge that for yourself. If it were up to me I'd say yes to either model. I think the upside is greater than the downside.

What's the upside? Well, for starters, there were less than 14,000 of these rockets sold in the U.S. and through hard driving and accidents through the last ten or so years, I'll bet we've attrited half of those. That means if you can find one to buy, you've got an instant classic. I imagine that there were something like fifty thousand 57 Birds sold and yet a vintage Bird will bring upwards of thirty grand. Second, driving one of these babys makes you feel good, they're a thrill to drive. Third I bought my 94 touring car in 2001 for $14,000. Today, I could sell it for at least that. How many cars can you buy, that after three years, you could sell for even half of what you paid for it?

What's the Downside? You have to realize you will be buying a car at least nine years old. In addition, low mileage RX7 are scarce and getting scarcer. some of them may have been driven hard and be on the verge of needing expensive work done. A rebuilt or new engine can cost five to eight thousand, unless you can do the work yourself. I've seen rebuilt engines on E-Bay starting @ $2,000. But worse case, say you buy a Seven with a clean chassis but with an iffy engine. Chances are you can get something like that for the nine to ten thousand range. You get a rebuilt engine put in for five grand. You're in fourteen to fifteen thousand. Not too bad and you have a motor that with proper care should last 100K.

One thing, if you decide to buy a Seven, most enthusiasts, me included, think that the 94s and 95s are more reliable than the 93s. Good Hunting.


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