The Rotary Revolution: Should You Own a Mazda RX-7 FD?

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The Mazda RX-7 FD, the third and final generation of the iconic RX-7, is the most coveted iteration of the rotary-powered legend. With its timeless, flowing design, twin-turbocharged rotary powerplant, and sublime handling, the FD cemented its place as a pinnacle of Japanese sports car engineering. This car isn’t just transport; it’s a pure driving machine etched into automotive history. Whether you’re a rotary enthusiast, a JDM aficionado, or simply admire the pursuit of performance, this in-depth guide to the RX-7 FD will delve into everything that makes this sports car an enduring object of desire.

For the 1st Generation Mazda RX-7, click here

For the 2nd Generation Mazda RX-7, click here

 

Mazda RX-7 FD Overview

Mazda RX-7 FD

The Mazda RX-7 FD, produced from 1992 to 2002, represents the pinnacle of Mazda’s RX-7 development. This third generation further refined the formula, boasting a more dramatic design language than its predecessor. Its hallmark features include a sleek, aerodynamic silhouette and sequential twin-turbochargers that elevated the rotary’s performance to new heights. The RX-7 FD earned a reputation as one of the best-handling sports cars of its era, remaining highly sought-after by enthusiasts today for its thrilling driving experience and pure sports car focus.

 

Mazda RX-7 FD History

Mazda RX-7 FD

The Mazda RX-7 FD (internally known as the FD3S) arrived in 1992, aiming to build upon the strengths of its predecessors while addressing their shortcomings. Mazda engineers sought enhanced performance, improved refinement, and even more striking visuals. Its development was heavily focused on weight reduction and boosting the rotary engine’s power output. The introduction of sequential twin-turbochargers became a defining feature, transforming the FD into a serious performance contender. While still committed to the unconventional rotary powerplant, the RX-7 FD represented a significant evolution in Mazda’s pursuit of sports car excellence.

 

Mazda RX-7 FD Variants

The Mazda RX-7 FD was offered in several trim levels and special editions throughout its production run, catering to varying performance preferences and budgets. Here’s a basic overview:

Base Model:

The purest expression of the FD, focused on lightweight agility and a high-revving rotary experience.

R1 / R2:

Performance-oriented trims with stiffer suspension, upgraded brakes, and additional weight-saving measures.

Type RS:

A track-focused variant with even stiffer suspension, a limited-slip differential, and further weight reduction.

Special Editions:

Mazda offered various limited-run special editions over the FD’s lifespan, often featuring unique cosmetic touches, commemorative badging, and sometimes performance enhancements. Notable examples include the Bathurst R and Spirit R trims.

Important Note:

JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) RX-7 FDs often had different trim designations and equipment variations compared to models sold in other regions.

FeatureBase ModelR1/R2Type RSSpecial Editions
FocusLightweight, Pure Driving ExperienceEnhanced PerformanceTrack-FocusedUnique Appearance, Sometimes Performance Upgrades
SuspensionStandardStiffer SuspensionStiffer Suspension, Further TuningVaries
BrakesStandardUpgraded BrakesUpgraded BrakesVaries

 

Exterior

Mazda RX-7 FD

The Mazda RX-7 FD’s design is a masterclass in flowing forms and subtle aggression. It departs from the sharper lines of ’80s sports cars, embracing a more organic, biomorphic design language inspired by forms found in nature. Its long hood, flowing roofline, and wide stance exude a sense of muscular elegance.

The FD retains the iconic retractable headlights but integrates them more seamlessly into its smooth front fascia. The absence of sharp creases or unnecessary lines lends the design a timeless quality. Subtle details, like the slight flares over the wheel arches and the sculpted side air intakes, add visual interest and hint at the performance beneath the surface.

The greenhouse, with its generous use of glass, provides excellent outward visibility and a sense of airiness. Depending on the trim level, the RX-7 FD could be equipped with a prominent rear wing, adding a touch of sporty aggression to its profile. Throughout its production, Mazda offered various body kits and spoilers for owners seeking to personalize their FD’s appearance even further.

 

Interior

Mazda RX-7 FD Interior

Like its exterior, the RX-7 FD’s interior prioritizes a driver-centric experience. The dashboard wraps around the driver, featuring large, clear gauges for essential information. The seating position is low and sporty, enhancing the connection to the car. While focused on functionality, the FD’s interior offers improved materials and a more refined design aesthetic compared to its predecessor.

Supportive seats provide a good balance of comfort and lateral support during spirited driving. Depending on the trim level, upholstery choices ranged from cloth to leather. The rear seats remain best suited for occasional use, a common trait of 2+2 sports cars. Cargo space is surprisingly decent for the car’s size, though the opening can be somewhat narrow.

 

Engine

Mazda RX-7 FD Engine

The Mazda RX-7 FD’s defining feature remains the 13B rotary engine. However, this generation introduced a significant evolution – sequential twin-turbocharging. This system utilizes two turbochargers of different sizes, working in stages to deliver a broader powerband, minimizing lag and maximizing high-end power. This transformation boosted the FD’s performance significantly over its predecessors.

Like the FC, the rotary engine offers inherent advantages like compact size, smoothness, and a high-revving nature. The FD’s unique exhaust note, now with the added complexity of the turbochargers, is a symphony of mechanical fury that delights enthusiasts.

Engine Specs:

SpecificationValue
Engine type13B twin-rotor rotary
Displacement1.3 liters
AspirationSequential Twin-Turbocharged
Power (Early Models)~255 horsepower
Power (Later Models)~280 horsepower
Torque (Early Models)~217 lb-ft
Torque (Later Models)~295 lb-ft

 

Mazda RX-7 FD Driving Experience

Mazda RX-7 FD

The Mazda RX-7 FD delivers one of the most visceral and engaging driving experiences of its era, and arguably, of all time. It epitomizes the Japanese philosophy of “Jinba Ittai” – the unity between horse and rider – translating to a seamless connection between driver and machine.

Overall Feel

The FD feels remarkably light and agile. Its near-perfect weight distribution and communicative chassis provide an intimate connection with the road. Every input is met with precise and predictable feedback.

Acceleration

The sequential twin-turbos deliver a unique power delivery. There’s a slight pause as the first turbo spools, followed by a satisfying rush of power as the second turbo kicks in. This surge builds relentlessly towards the engine’s lofty redline.

Steering

Steering is incredibly precise and offers excellent feedback. The FD responds eagerly to inputs, allowing the driver to place the car with pinpoint accuracy on the road.

Handling

The FD’s handling is a benchmark of sports car balance. It exhibits minimal body roll, inspiring confidence through corners while remaining playful when pushed to the limits. The well-sorted suspension provides a firm but surprisingly compliant ride on most road surfaces.

Braking

Braking performance was adequate for its time but might feel underpowered by modern standards, especially in later, more powerful FD variants. Upgrades are often recommended for those seeking maximum track performance.

Rotary Character

The high-revving rotary engine demands a unique driving style. Power builds smoothly towards the redline, rewarding those who explore the upper reaches of the rev range. The complex, high-pitched exhaust note is a thrilling soundtrack to the driving experience.

Maintenance Considerations

The FD’s complex engine technology necessitates meticulous maintenance to ensure reliability. Regular oil changes, monitoring oil consumption, and awareness of potential issues with turbo seals and apex seals are vital.

 

Driver Aids and Safety

Mazda RX-7 FD Dash

The Mazda RX-7 FD reflects the safety technology of the early 1990s. Compared to modern vehicles, its suite of safety systems is relatively basic.

Standard Features Often Included:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS): Prevents wheel lockup under hard braking, helping maintain steering control.
  • Driver and Passenger Airbags: A significant safety advancement for its era.

 

Features Notably Absent:

  • Electronic Stability Control: This technology wasn’t widely available in the FD’s era.
  • Advanced Airbag Systems: Side-impact airbags and curtain airbags were not yet common.

 

Important Note:

Potential buyers should approach the FD with the understanding that it lacks the comprehensive safety systems found in modern cars.  Driving an RX-7 FD requires heightened awareness and skill.

 

Should you buy a Mazda RX-7 FD?

Mazda RX-7 FD

The Mazda RX-7 FD is an incredibly captivating sports car, but ownership requires a realistic understanding of its unique demands. This car is best suited for:

  • Enthusiasts: Those with a passion for cars, especially the allure of rotary engines, will find the FD an endlessly rewarding machine.
  • Mechanically inclined: Rotary engines and their associated systems demand a higher level of knowledge and maintenance commitment. Being comfortable with DIY work or having a trusted rotary specialist is essential.
  • Those seeking a raw, analog driving experience: The FD offers a pure, connected driving experience increasingly rare in modern sports cars.

 

The RX-7 FD might not be the ideal choice for:

  • Daily commuting: While possible, the potential for less-than-stellar fuel economy and the FD’s complex maintenance needs might not be ideal for everyday driving.
  • Prioritizing practicality: The limited rear seats and modest cargo space make it less practical than other sports cars of its era.

 

Price Summary:

ConditionApproximate Price Range
Project Cars$20,000 – $40,000
Decent Condition Runners$40,000 – $70,000
Excellent/Highly Modified$70,000 +

 

Pros & Cons:

Pros:

Cons:

 

FAQs

The FD’s rotary engine and twin-turbo system demand a higher level of maintenance and knowledge compared to traditional piston engines. Reliability depends heavily on how well the car has been cared for over its life and whether any modifications have been done correctly. Potential trouble spots to be aware of include: the cooling system, which must be in top condition to handle the heat generated by the rotary and turbos; the turbochargers, which are complex and can be prone to wear and failure over time; and the apex seals, crucial for maintaining compression.

Meticulous maintenance is vital for prolonging the life of an RX-7 FD. The most important points include frequent oil changes using high-quality oil designed for rotary engines. It’s essential to monitor oil levels regularly. Ensure the cooling system is in excellent condition with no leaks, and use the correct type of coolant. The ignition system components like spark plugs, ignition coils, and wires tend to need more frequent replacement due to the high operating temperatures of the rotary engine. Find a reputable mechanic who specializes in rotary engines for regular servicing and especially any pre-purchase inspections.

Prices for RX-7 FDs have risen significantly due to their increasing popularity and collector status. Here’s a general guideline, but remember, condition, mileage, modifications, and specific variants will greatly influence the price: Project cars might cost between $20,000 – $40,000, but expect significant work to be needed. Decent condition runners could range from $40,000 – $70,000. Excellent or highly modified examples can easily sell for $70,000 or more, with pristine low-mileage cars or desirable limited editions commanding significantly higher prices.

 

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Written by: Motorcardata

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