Mazda has created some iconic sports cars over the years powered by their unique rotary engines. The RX7 and RX8 are two prime examples spanning different eras. But how would an RX7 compare to the RX8 if it existed back then? RX7 vs RX8? Let’s take a look at the key differences.
The Mazda RX7
The legendary RX7 debuted for the 1979 model year and soon earned a reputation as an affordable yet potent sports car. What engine is in an RX7? Early models came equipped with a 1.1L 12A rotary engine producing 100-115 horsepower, revving freely up to a 7,000 rpm redline.
With a curb weight of around 2,300 lbs, performance was sprightly – it hit 60 mph in about 9 seconds and the top speed of the Mazda RX7 was around 115 mph. Strong brakes and a front MacPherson strut/rear Chapman strut suspension enabled nimble handling for the time. Overall, the RX7 delivered addictive rotary power in a small rear-drive package.
The RX7 was manufactured by Mazda from 1978 to 2002 over three generations, all featuring rotary engines and rear-wheel drive:
- First gen (SA/FB chassis): Produced 1978-1985 with 12A carbureted or 13B fuel-injected rotary engines
- Second gen (FC): 1985-1991 with 13B naturally aspirated or turbocharged engines, convertible option added
- Third gen (FD): 1992-2002 with twin turbo 13B-REW sequential turbo rotary engine, considered the most desirable and iconic RX7
The Mazda RX8
The Mazda RX8 entered the scene in 2003 sporting a larger yet refined 1.3L Renesis rotary pumping out 232 horsepower in base trim. With a 2,900 lb curb weight, the naturally aspirated sports car provided brisk acceleration reaching 60 mph in the mid-6-second range. The Mazda RX8’s top speed was up to 155 mph. Advanced suspension tuning and bigger brakes allowed it to match the RX7’s agility.
Key differences between the RX7 and the RX8:
- Large rear-hinged “freestyle” doors for easier rear seat access since it is a four-seater
- The Mazda RX8 engine: 1.3L Renesis naturally aspirated rotary, renamed from the 13B
- No turbocharger option unlike some past RX7s
- Front-mid engine, rear-wheel drive like the RX7
- Multi-link rear suspension rather than double wishbone for added comfort
The RX8 was meant to bring Mazda’s rotary engine to a wider audience through added practicality. It had a different character than the RX7 focused more on being a sports car coupe with usable rear seats.
Mazda RX7 vs RX8
So besides living in completely different automotive eras, how would these two icons vary?
The 12A rotary in the first-gen RX7 established the model’s performance pedigree. But output seems modest compared to the high-revving Renesis. However, with less weight to motivate, the RX7 still felt plenty quick by vintage standards.
Weight and Dimensions
As expected, safety additions necessitated more size for the RX8, making it about 10 inches longer than the RX7. More stringent emissions and noise regulations also added weight. Surprisingly both share an identical 95-inch wheelbase.
The base 1980 RX7 came equipped with a 4-speed manual while a 5-speed was optional. In contrast, the RX8 provided both 5 and 6-speed manuals depending on trim and market. A 4-speed automatic was available in 1980 vs a 6-speed automatic for the RX8.
Technology and Features
A huge factor separating these models is the giant technology gap between their introductions – over 20 years of innovation. The RX8 boasted many modern amenities absent in its predecessor like power windows/mirrors, keyless entry, traction control, ABS, and dual front airbags.
The back-to-basics RX7 remains engaging with instant throttle response and manual steering free of filtering. And vintage low weight promotes agile reflexes. But the RX8 delivers power more smoothly and handles with poise thanks to a tuned double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension.
Coverage for Your Classic or Modern Muscle
Besides living in completely different automotive eras, the RX7 laid the foundation as an analog driver’s car while the RX8 built upon its magic formula with more luxury and refinement. But both capture the essence of lightweight affordable rotary sports cars done right. Whether you’re drawn to the raw driving experience of the RX7 or the added luxury of the RX8, both models are a testament to Mazda’s commitment to automotive excellence.
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