COTY - 911RSR GR.3
BOTY - PAGANI ZONDA R
BEST LOOKING - 330 P4
WORST LOOKING - XR-PHEV EVO
AMERICAN - CHALLENGER 1970
MEMBERS AWARD - XSQUARE
HIGH ROLLER - 330 P4
LIVERY DESIGNER - NISMO
MOST IMPROVED - RACER 2833
DRIVER OF THE YEAR - VIC
Thank for the kind words XSquare, I really enjoy making my COTW liveries each week. But, I hope to improve on my driving next year.
Have to admit, that coffee mate livery was my favorite of the year. I love to do the liverys every week, I spend about an hour on them as to avoid any anti GTS vibes from the fam. They might find it a bit boring to watch...
I would also like to say thank you for the kind words from Square, I have a new wheel and pedals coming this next week, so might be a bit off pace while getting used to them, going from a t150 to a g29. Look forward to the scrap on Tuesday!
The car is fast because it has 768hp and the acceleration from its narrow envelope (ie. 0-265) is insane. Further I think the brakes are better than I give them credit for because it has carbon (I believe) and regen and something stupid like 8 piston.
Also the corner speeds can be fine as long as you're by yourself and you place the car well as its large and it can feel ponderous... ie. make wide turns, hit the apex, take all the track to exit wide. A car like this feels artificial because all the weight is unusually low and you rely on tyres.... also tyre wear can be silly with 2.5 ton onboard.
Racing is dumb, with 16 cars every track feels too crowded. Further the AI sucks. I think in a 7 lap test race at Bathurst I finished with a 2'10" and something like 1'30" margin to #2. On a narrow track like Bathurst you will have issues making enough overtake room in your Porsche electric spa bath sized car.
One other thing I noticed is that how the car forces power to the front and back is a mystery. It does feel RWD mostly but there is some times when I get the car to misbehave I can see the front get power for some odd reason. I think the car in real life uses mystery "Kraut Space Magic" to keep 768hp on the road.
The third, FD generation of the Mazda RX-7 is my childhood dream car. It is the car that introduced me to video games and made me into a petrolhead. It has shaped me from a young age, and thus I am very biased towards it. This is not a review — this is me gushing about my childhood hero, my be all end all dream car, and it is going to be long, dry, perhaps a bit too personal and maybe even a bit cringe. You've been warned.
Mazda has always been largely synonymous with the Wankel Engine, even in the company's early years as an automobile manufacturer. Post WWII, the Japanese government was looking to consolidate part manufacturers to cut down on competition and reduce costs, and Mazda had to carve out a niche for itself as a company to avoid being consolidated into Toyota and Nissan, and thus turned to Germany, where Felix Wankel had been pioneering a revolutionary new engine. While Mazda was neither the first to the party, nor made the most power out of the curious contraption, it was the only one that achieved any sort of longevity with the novel engine, with the 1967 Cosmo Sport being an instant classic in the showrooms. To prove that they have solved the riddle of the Wankel Engine's inherent problems that had plagued all other adopters of this new technology, Mazda entered two Cosmo Sports into the grueling 84-hour Marathon de la Route held at the daunting Nürburgring, with one car failing at the 82nd hour due to axle failure, and the other car going the full 84 Hours, finishing fourth overall — not bad for a conceptually fresh and unproven engine.
Owing to this breakout success, Mazda managed to remain independent as a manufacturer, but more exciting perhaps is how the newly proven Wankel Engine seemed to be the logical next step to replace the traditional Internal Combustion Engine, just as EVs are now threatening the same. The Wankel Engine is more compact, lighter, ran quieter, and was smoother than a traditional piston engine of equivalent power output, but still had reliability issues any new tech is expected to have despite Mazda's success with it, and was notoriously thirsty. That last point relegated the Wankel Engine mostly to sports car applications when the 1970s oil crisis hit — an application where it felt most at home, being a lightweight, rev happy engine that needed to be wrung out to produce power — though it didn't stop Mazda from sticking it into all sorts of other vehicles such as a Familia Sedan, a 3 Rotor Cosmo luxury coupé, a pickup truck of all things, and even a freaking bus!
The first generation Mazda RX-7, chassis code SA22C and later FB3S, bowed in 1978 with the worldwide market in mind. Cheap, light, and fun-to-drive Japanese sports cars were just starting to gain traction in the US thanks to the 240Z, and even though the RX-7 was late to the party, it provided an exciting alternative to its already bloating rivals, characterised by, of course, its unique Wankel Engine. Then the second generation FC3S happened, and I don't want to talk about it more than I already have. In my review of the FC, I said that the third generation, FD3S RX-7 "is leaps and bounds better than the FC in every respect, objective and subjective", and that "It elevated the standards and definition of what a sports car should be and can be". And now it is finally time for me to back up and explain those claims.
The third generation RX-7, chassis code FD3S, was launched in October 1991 in its home market of Japan. While sharing the same name and a familiar chassis code, the FD is such a far leap from the FC that it's very difficult to think of the two as even related. While the FC is a soft, bloated, and boxy knockoff 928, the FD is a low, sleek, curvaceous and seductive beast unlike anything on the road, before or since. Even though the overall length, height, and wheelbase of the FD are all shorter than the FC, the increased width of the FD put the RX-7 for the first time in Japan's larger Class 3 category, to give you an idea of how serious Mazda were about designing the ultimate corner carving machine. Fully capitalising on the Wankel Engine's unique compactness and light weight, the entirety of the 255PS capable powerplant (251HP, 187kW) is situated aft the front axle to finally achieve the perfect 50:50 weight distribution, allowing the stiffer sprung 1,260kg (2,778lbs) package to gracefully dance through corners in conjunction with the precision offered by the Double Wishbones on all four corners (1991 Type R specs, taken from Gran Turismo 6). Tyres were also upsized to 225/50ZR16 front and rear, up from the 205/60VR15 shoeing the top of the line Turbo FC. Standing at only 1,230mm (48.4in) tall, the low, organic, and curvaceous body cuts through opposing air at only 0.31cd, which when coupled with the low frontal area of the sleek FD, puts the bloated and heavy cars of today to shame, as unfair a comparison as that may be to make.
The FD is a very pure, raw, and honest vehicle, if one can make such an assertion without sounding like a moron, and how it looked on the outside is a statement of intent, wholly representative of what lies underneath that immaculately curvaceous sheet metal. In fact, I daresay that the design of the FD is peak sports car design; never again will we be able to have a sports car as light, low and curvaceous as this, due to consumers now wanting everything in their cars, and how lawmakers feel the need to protect people who don't look left right left before crossing from idiots that drive when they shouldn't. Unlike the cars of today, nothing on the FD is fake, or are there only for aesthetic purposes; there are no fake vents, no fake exhaust pipes, no bogus audio piped into the cabin, no pretentious stamped in creases or chiseled out "character lines" that today's mundane and samey cars need to resort to to stand out. Everything on it is functional, and they all blend together so flawlessly, cohesively, and "flow" so well, it leads your eyes around it endlessly, without ever once feeling pretentious or ingenuine. It's like a girl that doesn't need a loud crop top, short skirts, or 10kg of makeup products to stand out; she's just pretty, as-is. As hard as it is for me to pick a favourite angle of the FD, the Series 8 (1998–2002) FD dead on from the rear is probably my favourite. The wraparound light cover with three circular lights on each side almost resembles a weighing scale indicating balance, binding the left and right sides together to also create a sense of cohesion. The four rounded red lights on the unified rear light cluster gives the car a very buttoned-down look, and the adjustable rear wing gives a very real sense of weight visually, suggesting a well put together drive. Coupled with the low and organic looking body of the FD, the unified rear light cluster gives the FD an unmistakable visage that is instantly recogniseable even from a distance.
Impressively (to me at least), the Series 8 RX-7's stock rear wing is an adjustable unit that actually produces downforce! It is possible to change between four angles of attack with the stock wing, at 1, 5, 10, and 14.5 degrees by removing the wedge shaped piece on each wing stand manually, which has four keyholes on the inside leading edge to accommodate the four preset angles of attack. Unfortunately in the Gran Turismo series, the wing doesn't change in appearance even if you change the downforce value, and the keyholes aren't modeled in in the game.
Because the engine is so compact, and because this is 1991 and there hadn't yet been a law that states you need a bit of a "cushion bubble zone" between your bonnet and the engine header, the bonnet line of the FD is set super low, thanks in no small part to the compact Wankel Engine. This in turn necessitated the pop up headlights, since laws at the time at least did require headlights to be a certain height off the ground, meaning that even the flamboyant pop up headlights are actually functional and not just vanity items. Personally speaking, I ADORE pop up and hidden headlights. I can't really explain why. Seeing them just connects my jaded adult self to the 8 year old kid inside me, and it just fills me with such unconditional joy every time I see a set. I love how sleek and cheekily stealthy they look, how they seemingly promise an imminent transformation, and even just tracing the panel gap lines to the beautiful headlight covers fill me with an inexplicable joy. In fact, you could say the same about the entirety of the FD RX-7's body.
Other stylistic standouts are the front bumper of the JDM only Series 8, which have the opened up light cluster below the pop ups. These position lights and turn signals have a mirror finish inside the cylinders, which make the "eyes" glisten in the daylight even when they're off. The car always has a confident, yet gentle look, almost as if it were smiling, without being too in-your-face about it like mid to late 2000s Mazda cars.
The doors too, look like teardrops pulled and stretched back, to give that sense of built up power. The window glass is properly framed, too, unlike those nonsensical frameless windows that need to pop up and down with each door opening. The door handles are flush with the car's body, which was almost unheard of back in the '90s, and it took about twenty years before other manufacturers started to adopt flush door handles in their performance cars and mileage conscious EVs.
It is always such a delight to watch light dance across the subtle curves of the clean, widespread front bonnet of an FD as you move around it or as it moves, giving it a surreal sense of motion even if it's standing perfectly still.
The FD RX-7 is so beautiful that I simply cannot find an angle that isn't drop dead gorgeous and just somehow soothing to look at. It's the sort of car that is so charismatic and photogenic that you could point a phone camera at and just shoot for a great photo. While the SA, FB and FC generations that preceded the FD look very much like products of their time, the FD I maintain is the single best looking car to ever be mass produced, in my obviously biased opinion. Even though it was penned in the late 80s to early 90s, it never looks its age. It has an implicit, visceral feel to it that just appeals to something innate in all of us, which is perhaps why it still looks modern today. When I show photos of the car to my non petrolhead friends and family, they are all surprised to learn that the design is older than I am!
It may surprise some to learn that the FD RX-7 is technically a hatchback! Almost the entire width of the car lifts from wing to the rear greenhouse glass. Even though it has a wide opening and surface area, it's lacking in depth, resulting in a boot that's almost like a kiddy pool in appearance. I think most will still be surprised by how much stuff the FD can carry, however.
Now, I want to know what is up with the discrimination against my FD RX-7 Gran Turismo Sport has, not letting it enter the Hot Hatch Challenge in GT League!
The stylistic theme continues on the interior of the FD: curvaceous, genuine, pleasing to look at, but never obnoxious or distracting. One might find the interior to be rather bland, admittedly, given that the interior is typical 90s Japanese sports car: swathe with nothing more than soulless, black plastic parts typical of cars of its era and price point, with the only reprieve from the monotony being special, limited edition cars with glaring red seats and complementary red stitching.
While lacking in any fanciful materials of today's cars like Alcantara or Carbon Fibre, its appeal being a focused, pure driving machine carries over from the exterior, continuing that sense of cohesion and purity of purpose in design; the dash wraps around the driver, with everything within easy reach and glance, bringing focus naturally to the big, clear gauges on the instrument panel while creating a sense of coddling the driver. The tachometer sits dead centre in the dash and is the largest of the dials, with redline being at about 2 o'clock for easier viewing in the Series 8. Next to the dominating tachometer is the equally sized speedometer, which maxes out at 180km/h (~112mph), where the car is electronically limited to as per the weird jishu-kisei, or "mutual self-restraint" gentlemen's agreement between Japanese manufacturers at the time. The speedometer maxing out at mid 4th gear really makes me feel like a superhero doing insane speeds when in reality, I'm puttering along quite slowly, because of how much it travels in a small speed range, which I'd go as far as argue makes it easier to tell at a glance what sort of speed you're doing without having to read the numbers, though it admittedly is useless past mid fourth gear, and is probably on the top of the list to change for anyone looking to modify their cars. The only button on the steering wheel is the horn, and nothing else to distract you when you're driving, which is something I personally wish more car manufacturers had the sense to do. Amenities and creature comfort include air con, stereo, a cigarette lighter, a few pockets of cubby holes aaaand... that's about it. Anything else would be extra mass, y'know!
Despite the cramped dimensions, the car does feature a double bubble roof design, originally intended to accommodate racing helmets, meaning that, comfort and dignity notwithstanding, even slightly larger Westerners should be able to fit into the car. Once in, the car does an astounding job of lending its occupants an airy, wide open feeling, offering a panoramic view that's almost not an exaggeration to say. There really is a lovely sense of light in the cabin of the FD — even in models not equipped with a sunroof — no doubt helped greatly by the toothpick thin A pillars that could've only been possible in the yesteryear, along with the gigantic rear greenhouse glass that, while beautiful inside and out, probably hurts the chassis rigidity, and I imagine also a manufacturing nightmare, hence why they've become just about nonexistent today. Still, I ADORE the rear greenhouse glass. It gives off such a fighter jet inspired look, affording such a freeing sense of light, and it minimises blind spots and makes parking a breeze.
Lastly, because the later models of the FD RX-7 were never meant for export outside Japan, the car's interior has some... shall we say, quirks and features.
The FD RX-7 is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Mazda sports cars. It is, at the very least to me, the pinnacle of creative liberty for Mazda. It was born when technology was adequate, but regulations weren't nearly as strict. It was only with the backing of a rapidly inflating, yet ill-fated economic bubble could a relatively small and independent car company like Mazda finance the development of something to really challenge the larger automotive giants of Honda, Nissan, and Toyota, and perhaps even established brands worldwide. It is often said that the FD RX-7 was designed by a team of passionate engineers when all the accountants and marketing department were away on a vacation, and somehow got greenlit for production. That is what I mean by the car being very "honest". It just oozes and shouts purity of purpose, perhaps even to a fault, so focused on being an engaging, exciting drive, and so little else. It felt like no one but the engineers had a say in the car. It was never offered with any engine other than the Inline 2 Rotor 13B-REW, even when there was a bigger, more powerful 3 Rotor Mazda could've dumped into it, but would've upset the perfect weight balance of the FD. It never came with a convertible, despite the FC's success with it, because that adds extra mass and takes away from chassis rigidity. It was only offered with a 5 Speed Manual, with only two exceptions that I don't want to acknowledge the existence of, let alone talk about. It is a car that knows what it is and what it wants to do, and doesn't bother to try to be anything else, and I love it for that. Cars nowadays simply aren't built with this sort of purity of purpose, this cohesion of a big picture dreamt up by a small team of passionate engineers anymore. It isn't a product separated into tiers based on cost and market trends and demand; rather, it is a sports car, pure, plain and simple. The best that Mazda can give you at the time. And I love it for that.
Powering the flagship sports car of Mazda in the early 90s is of course the company's pièce de résistance: the Wankel Engine, better known by its fans by its in-house name, the Rotary Engine. A close relative to the R26B engine used in the legendary 787B racecar, the Inline 2 Rotor engine in the FD quoted at 1,308cc redlining at a stratospheric 8,000rpm may sound exactly the same to those who are familiar with the FC, but in the FD, they are all sequentially twin turbocharged; only the third production car to feature such a system, after the Porsche 959 and Mazda's own JC Cosmo. A smaller turbocharger with less inertia and less power would come online from near idle to 4,500rpm, and from there, the system would seamlessly switch to the bigger, more powerful turbo once the exhaust gases start seriously flowing, all the way to the redline of 8k. It is a massively complicated system, and as with everything on the FD, was prone to breaking. Diagnosis of the engine, with its miles upon miles of pipes from the twin sequential turbo system, was and still is a nightmare for many owners, with many opting to swap for a much simplified single turbo setup, sacrificing low end torque for reliable top end power. While many Rotary fans are quick to defend the reliability of their engines, saying things like, "they're reliable if you know how to take care of them, bruh", and "well the 787B's engine went full tilt 24 hours straight with no issues", the twin sequential turbo system is perhaps a bit too complicated for its own good, and has been cited to kick the rear end of the car out when the bigger turbo comes online mid corner, which can catch out the inexperienced or unprepared.
Photo: Mazda Japan Facebook Page
But that is not to say that the turbos are bad, per se. Me personally, I love the twin sequential turbo setup of the FD, and wouldn't swap it for anything else. As is the theme of the rest of the car, they are brilliant when they do work. While Rotary Engines are traditionally known to be very peaky engines with pathetic torque figures, the twin sequential turbos give the 13B-REW some semblance of life in the low range, and enough of a kick in the mid range to bring the rear end outwards, especially in the models with the way too slim 225 section tyres at all four corners. Peak power and peak torque comes at 6,500rpm and 5,000rpm respectively. Yes, these figures still suggest a peaky engine. Yes, you will still need to wring the crap out of it to get it to give you the magic. Unlike the turbochargers of today, they aren't designed to compensate for a downsized engine, or to make torque down low so lazy drivers can pass cars without having to downshift in their automatic gearbox SUVs; but rather, they're here to make a very lopsided engine more well rounded for the racetrack. The end result is a car that is never caught unprepared on the track, with adequate revs and torque to propel the featherweight FD out of any complex of corners, even low 2nd gear corners of a tightly wound mountain pass, with the Rotary Engine's natural peakiness taking care of the upper rev range.
Of course, the numbers don't sound like anything special today; a modern FWD hot hatch makes more than what this highly ornate setup does. But I personally find that the FD's torque curve is a very natural fit to the car, as it makes it possible to lug the car out of apexes from as middling as 5,000rpm, and the torque is never surprising or disruptive, just a natural feeling surge that climbs with engine speed, giving you power just as you're ready and able to use it, making for a very cohesive, balanced, and easy car to drive fast. Throttle management out of apexes of corners in the dry is more for ensuring you don't understeer off the track rather than keeping the rear from peeking out in the 255 section rear tyre equipped FDs, which I find difficult to break loose with power alone in any gear higher than 2nd. The sequential twin turbo setup is, to me, an oft neglected aspect — yet a big core component nonetheless I feel — of the FD's central theme: balance and cohesion. It's an especially big help in Gran Turismo Sport, as manual gearboxes shift criminally slowly and awkwardly in this game, and being able to minimise shifting by lugging the car is a godsend.
For comparison to NA Rotary Engines, the NA FC RX-7s made peak power at 7,000 and peak torque at 4,000, redlining at 8,000. The RX-8 made peak power at 8,200 and peak torque at 5,500, of 9,000. As a result of the sequential twin turbos, the FD RX-7 actually goes faster if you short shifted it a little at around 7,500rpm, as heretic as it must sound. Me personally, I wouldn't forgo that sweet sound of revving it out completely, though, as it's not a very perceptible loss without the instantaneous deltas of a racing game, and the car is certainly capable of holding onto a lower gear if approaching a braking point. As was already tradition by that point, Mazda fitted a beeper that was programmed to come on 500rpm before redline, at the magical 7,500rpm. I've personally never found a need for the beeper, as I think the engine is communicative enough without it in the previous games when the beeper wasn't replicated. I can sort of understand why it's there, though, as the engine revs so silky smooth, it's hard to not get lulled into thinking it could go on forever. The beeper does keep the car in tradition and gives it character, so I'm glad it's still there, especially because it doesn't sound like a 1980s alarm clock passing gas into a soiled diaper like the one in the FC.
Photo: Mazda Japan Facebook Page
What's infuriating to me isn't the beeping, but rather, that the turbo gauge is bugged in Gran Turismo Sport: it only toggles instantly between no boost, almost full boost, and full boost, which is most evident when you're launching the car from a standstill like we do in our weekly races. It's so unresponsive that it doesn't even blip at all on downshifts, and it's just an eyesore in what should've been a perfect cockpit experience.
The early 90s in the Japanese sports car scene was truly magical, as every automaker, backed by a short lived economic bubble, vied to claim dominance with their equally daring and innovative flagship sports cars. Nissan had their "Godzilla", three generations of the GT-R. Honda had the now legendary and much revered NSX. Toyota would soon drop a bombshell with the A80 Supra. Mitsubishi and Subaru would go on to have the rivalry of a lifetime with their Evos and Imprezas. The comparatively small, independent automaker in Mazda swam with these sharks and not only survived, but thrived. The debuting FD, when tested and raced in the professional hands of Best Motoring, set the fastest lap both in the race and time attack around Tsukuba, beating out Godzilla and the NSX, both of which costing more. It only gets beat by the AWD Godzilla and the Mid Engined NSX in the 0-400m dash, and took top time in a slalom test. It even took Bathurst 12 Hours 3 years in a row, from 1992 to 1994. In the hands of private customers, the FD was truly the Swiss Army Knife of sports cars, a testament to how well its base design catered to anything motorsports. It partook in and excelled at multiple disciplines of motorsports, from D1GP, Touge runs, Bonneville Salt Plane top speed runs, and even won Super GT in the GT300 class in 2006. It was truly the Jack of All Trades, and even master of some, which is why the FD RX-7 is such a respected household name in the aftermarket, with support for the car is still thriving today. As brilliant as the car already is fresh out of the factory, the combination of a lightweight, low slung, low drag, wide spread 2 door body with a perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a rev happy, compact engine up front driving the rear wheels proves to be an irresistible and highly capable base upon which many tuners still choose to build upon even today, such as Fujita Engineering, Knight Sports, Pan Speed, R Magic, Racing Beat, and RE Amemiya.
While it debuted strong, I struggle to make a case for it having bowed out the same. Owing to lacklustre sales figures in export markets, the FD RX-7 pulled out of America and Europe with just four years, from 1992 to 1995. That means that the more refined, further improved FD RX-7s were JDM exclusives. And if you know how quickly Japanese cars in the 90s evolved, you'd know that this is a big deal.
In the 90s, Japanese car manufacturers were limited by the aforementioned gentlemen's agreement to advertise no more than 280PS for their cars. This meant that, instead of using raw power as a crush, manufacturers had to look to other means to better and improve their cars, resulting in frantic, almost yearly small updates that often decided which car had an edge over its rivals. Due to lacklustre sales figures in export markets and Mazda's rapidly worsening financial situation in the 90s, updates for the RX-7 were minor compared to its contemporary rivals. Mazda's financial situation was such that it had to turn to Ford for help, who in 1996 owned as much as a 33.4% stake in Mazda. Along with Ford came a frantic restructuring of the company to increase profitability, and it was clear then, even in the mid 90s, that the RX-7 — and Rotary Engines in general — were in the proverbial back seats as crummy as the ones some FDs came with; there more for formalities and insurance than actually being used to accommodate anything of value. In the 12-year lifespan of the FD in the Japanese Domestic Market, the GT-R spanned three generations with leaps in its ATTESA AWD and Super HICAS rear wheel steering systems, getting a 6 speed in 1998. The NSX got a "big minor change" in 1997 (yes, Japanese expressions are weird) that saw its engine bored out and paired with a six speed gearbox, and then a major facelift with much improved aerodynamics in 2000. The Evo and Impreza each had seven or so versions since their inception up to 2002, but honestly, who can really keep track of those two in the 90s? The RX-7 in comparison, had its power slightly bumped a few times and went through three different rear wing and badge designs, I guess?
While pale in comparison to its rivals' evolution, the RX-7 did get some very important changes, in addition to the aforementioned power bump. Most important and impactful of these I believe are the upsizing of tyres from 225mm sections on all four corners to 235/45ZR17 up front and 255/40ZR17 in the rear for the top of the line Type RS model and special editions, which were previously exclusive to the excruciatingly limited Type RZ. This finally gave the "normal" RX-7s the driving characteristics of a proper FR cornering machine. In addition to this, chassis rigidity was also strengthened, resulting in a car that not only approaches its limits more linearly, but also makes it less nervous at and past its limits. Perhaps to compensate for not getting a 6 speed manual, the shortened fifth and final gear ratios that were also originally exclusive to the Type RZ has been made standard across the 5MT range (except for the oddball Bathurst R), which, when coupled with the slight power bumps the FD received over the years, means you'll actually see fifth on Suzuka's home straight in a late model FD. Lastly, the single most beautiful colour in all of recorded human history, Innocent Blue Mica, was made available for the final facelift on almost all models, replacing the very, very odd Montego Blue Mica. Not that the endless creases and curves of the FD really needed fancy paint to show it off, but with these high contrast paintjobs like Innocent Blue Mica and the Spirit R exclusive Titanium Gray Metallic to further accentuate it, the FD becomes almost dangerously addictive to stare at on the road.
The Spirit R that's in most modern racing games, such as Gran Turismo Sport, is the final model of the RX-7, meant to commemorate the end of its 25-year production run. Because the FD was on life support for the latter half of its life however, the Spirit R is simply a top of the line Type RS model with some mostly aesthetic bits thrown into it. However, one look at that list of special bits, and it's impossible to not salivate, as they're all from the best in the industry: Brakes are drilled rotors from Brembo, with special red paint and Mazda lettering on the calipers. Wheels are upsized to 17 inches, of immaculate BBS design. Seats are full on, bare Kevlar backed, thin buckets from Recaro in the Type A, in an attention commanding red, accompanied by red stitching in the steering wheel, shift knob, and parking brake lever. The steering wheel on all Series 8 RX-7s are Nardi items. And while not advertised, I'm sure Mazda fiddled with the breathing of the engine in the Spirit R, as not only is it ever so slightly faster, it also sounds distinctly different from the rest of its brethren, with its otherwise defining Rotary whine almost inaudible in the cockpit, offering only a generic, muffled exhaust noise to go along with your drive. The end result of all this produces what Gran Turismo Sport claims to be 296PS (292HP, 217kW) @ 6,500rpm and 332Nm (245.3lb-ft) @ 5,500rpm for the sportiest variant of the Spirit R, the Type A.
While extensive, the list of changes doesn't add up to a radically different driving experience in the Spirit R. The changes aren't as transformative as a Honda Type R or a Subaru 22B, but one look at a Spirit R, and everything just feels so... special, yet so naturally fitting. Nothing screams "90s special limited edition" like BBS wheels, and the red Recaro bucket seats make the regular ones look ghastly, so much so I almost wonder why they were locked behind special edition models. They seem to contrast and complement the body colours of the FD so well, though it does have the unfortunate side effect of making a red FD look... overwhelmingly red. Even though this is a limited edition model, these parts just look so right on the FD I wouldn't have the car any other way.
So here we are. I've bored you to death and back with the entire history of the FD RX-7. Now the question is, "how does it drive?"
It's worth noting that, as with most production cars in Gran Turismo Sport, the RX-7's stock settings are... very off. The spring rates are inconsistent across Gran Turismo 5, 6, and Sport, and the game defaults to -0.5° Camber for the front and -1.5° for the rear on almost all road cars, along with 0° toe up front and +0.6° for the rear toe. Gran Turismo 6 and the car's brochure both state the RX-7 has a 135mm (5.31in) ground clearance both front and rear, but Gran Turismo Sport instead mucks that up by giving the FD 120mm front (4.72in) and 130mm (5.12in) in the rear, throwing off the perfect weight balance of the FD. I've tried my best to look up the original alignment of the FD to no avail, and with the game's ambiguous units for damping, it's impossible to really replicate what the car would handle like if it were truer to real life. All of my driving impressions therefore are formed within the game, using the game's botched stock settings.
Even with all the muck ups, the Spirit R drives freaking amazing in the game.
Owing to its front midship layout, the lightness of the Rotary Engine, the resulting impeccable balance, and its impossibly low dimensions of its body, the car stops on a dime and slices into corners so effortlessly yet intuitively, that I'm forced to use the cliché of "telepathic" to describe it. It is an absolute delight in its precision and communication with the driver. The turn-in of the FD RX-7 I daresay is better than most bonda-fide rear mid engine supercars of any era, as I find that they tend to have a lot of "grandma hand holding understeer" built into them from the factory — not so in the FD. On corner exits, the steering feel never stops tugging away at you as you feel the weight shift over the rear, making for a very neutral and communicative corner exit.
Whether by design or just a happy coincidence, the diminutive dimensions of the cockpit mean that you're sat so low to the ground, with the gear lever shockingly close to the steering wheel, lending themselves so well to creating a sense that you really are in a racing car, and it's endless encouragement, affirmation, and drama, and it somehow always feels so fresh, just so right, every drive. In addition to the low seating position, you as the driver sit dead centre lengthwise in the car, and the car gives you a wonderful sense of rotation right about your bum whenever you take the steering wheel off centre, an intuitive feel the likes of which not many cars can give. You know exactly where each tyre is at any given point because of where you're seated, and you're never left to guess or be caught by surprise. Coupled with the car's perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the centre seating position really does give a phenomenally tactile sensation that the car is pivoted right between your feet, in the palm of your hands. Every little twitch of your every extremity results in an immediate and proportional change in the car, and it is such a joy to have a dance partner as capable and always willing as the FD.
What I find truly amazing is not only how the car never once breaks character in the entire sequence from braking for a corner and powering out, exhibiting an unshakable sense of balance and predictability, but also how engaging and rewarding the whole experience is. You feel everything in the car, and everything is within your control entirely. The car is such a playful, charismatic thing, making you as the driver pay attention to and be mindful of Every. Single. Thing. that goes on with the car when you chuck it into a corner. Braking for a corner? Yes, the front tyres are naturally the limiting factor in how well you decelerate, but make sure you don't turn the wheel too much, or the car will lean and elongate your braking distances, or worse still, slide the rear end out. The rear end of the car feels a little too soft for my liking, and there's excessive roll in the rear, which can very quickly unstick the rear end despite the ample 255 section tyres. On corner exits, everything comes into play; the chassis rigidity, the suspension setup that is now considered soft, the engine revs, the rear tyre grip, the front tyre grip, steering feel, road surface, balance and weight of the car... you can take nothing for granted in the FD, and as a result, you have to be on top of everything at all times in the FD, and it delivers in spades on all fronts, which is such an excruciating rarity among cars of any nationality and era.
I get that it all sounds very intimidating, requiring the utmost skill and dedication to drive. While the FD demands everything from its driver, it is at the same time, overwhelmingly cooperative and always predictable, and therefore never intimidating. It just takes it upon itself to keep communicating to you how every component is doing at all times. It never does anything unexpected or even slightly rude if you treat it right, yet at the same time, will happily oblige you and kick up a mess if you ask it to. Slides can be held at whim and corrected just as quickly, because the core ingredients of a pure sports car, those being light weight, balance, and communication, all come together to ensure that the car behaves in a predictable fashion even when tyre grip is lost. There are no electronic nannies aside from ABS and a wholly unnoticeable EBD to yank control away from you when you most need it or least expect it — not even Traction Control. Everything is in your control and yours alone all the time. The car simply never betrays the trust it so instantaneously builds in its driver, and any accidental whoopsie is 100% my fault or overeager zest. I love that. That brings SUCH a huge smile to my face every time I go for a drive in my FD. And every time I do drive it, I never, ever want to stop. Not only is it capable and fun to drive, but it's so easy I could do it for hours on end, especially because the lightweight car is gentle on its tyres and brakes, though the heat from the transmission tunnel might cook you alive first before anything else, as these cars run notoriously hot even at responsible, sensible speeds.
THIS is what driving is all about. THIS is the engagement, neutrality, communication, predictability, specialness I'm looking for when I drive a sports car. THIS is why I have probably inadvertently mentioned the FD RX-7 in every review I've done up to this point, because this is the golden standard to which any and everything that wants to proclaim themselves to be sporty has to be held. A sports car is supposed to engage and enthrall me. It is supposed to reward me for performing an art form well, and punish me when I fail to pay it proper respect. It is an excellent car for the beginners to learn the basics of driving fast, as the FD is such a effective communicator, and also for the more experienced to play with and hone their skill.
While all that sounds amazing, I really struggle to make a case for why someone would buy a nearly 4 million Yen FD RX-7 in the early 2000s (trust me, you want at least a Type RS if you're keeping it stock, the upsized, staggered tyres totally transform the car). The R34 GT-R has more power, more gears, and is a lot easier to drive, even if they're excruciatingly close in lap times in my own testing. The Impreza is a lot more practical and cheaper in addition — even in Spec C trim — and any of these AWD machines will make mincemeat of the FD in adverse conditions. The S2000 may be down on power compared to the FD, but it has more gears, revs higher, is lighter, also cheaper, has a stiffer chassis, a bulletproof engine, has a retractable top, and even handles way better! The NSX-R will, in every measurable aspect, outperform the FD, weighing the same, having more gears, much more advanced aerodynamics, and has a rear-midship layout better suited for the track. And if one looks globally for competition and alternatives, the picture becomes even more bleak, as non Japanese manufacturers weren't subject to the weird gentlemen's agreement. The 996 911 GT3 is an all out track weapon that can give you the rawest of track experiences, and is a lot faster everywhere. As I previously mentioned, the FD was on life support in its later years, and its age really shows when you compare it to its contemporary sports car rivals. The suspension setup in the FD is also notably soft for a sports car, and I'm not really sure what Mazda was going for there, especially since the rest of the car seems to scream, "no compromise sports car". If you're not careful with it, you can very easily and quickly find yourself... becoming very busy with the Nardi steering wheel, shall we say. It's not a car you can abuse around a racetrack, but rather, something you have to come to understand and work with, more akin to a 993 Carrera Club Sport in that sense.
Despite its competitive shortcomings however, I urge anyone and everyone who loves cars and loves driving to try driving an FD RX-7 if they ever get the chance. Taken on its own, enjoyed for what it is and what it can bring to the table, it is still a fantastic sports car, one of the best ever produced in my mind. It is the standard to which I hold all sports and modern cars, which at first glance might seem unfair, given how I was just singing praises for the car's uncompromising and focused personality. But, if you can't deliver a driving experience today that is as good as a chassis that's older than I am, or out perform such a granddad that was on life support in his last years, then what business have you in saying your car is sporty, or that it's even a sports car?
The FD has shown me that a sports car is an ideology materialised. It is passionate intent. With today's technology and much more financially able manufacturers, I cannot imagine it being difficult to put into production a 2 door rear drive sports car that weighs around 1.3 tons with about 300HP and electronic nannies that can be turned completely off. The problem is, do you want to make me such a car? Do you think it will make you a profit? Do you think it fits your brand image? And that's why I'm always so harsh in my car reviews, and why I have probably inadvertently mentioned the FD RX-7 at least once in every review I've written so far. If you want to make a sports car, make it better than this, then we'll talk. Benchmark this sense of balance. Make sure your sports car is as involving, predictable, playful, and communicative as this. It's entirely irrelevant to me what your 0-100km/h times are, your 0-400m times, or how many gs you can pull around a skidpad. Time and technology will keep marching forward and make whatever numbers you can conjure up now seem pitiful. Can you make me something that never gets old? Can you give me a dynamic experience that constantly demands my everything to dance together? Can you make something that is unquantifiable, yet so magical? Can it make me feel the things that the FD can make me feel?
A sports car isn't supposed to make sense. It's something anyone of any age, from 7 to 77, takes one look at and think, "I want that!" Nobody needs a sports car, in the same way that nobody needs a 3000 dollar mechanical watch, a Van Gogh painting, to hit balls with bats, to design pixel art, or to practice Kendou with swords costing thousands of dollars. Rather, these are sports, these are art forms people pursue because they find meaning and satisfaction in doing them and doing them well. The acts and technology used may be outdated, but there still exists an appreciation for the workmanship of a watch, they can see the historic value in an old oil painting, and appreciate the technique required on display. I wholly believe that sports cars fit the description of all of the above and more. To draw upon the sword analogy (pun entirely unintentional), I don't want a sword that massages my hands and fires missiles and glows in the dark; that'd be missing the point of a sword entirely. I want a sword that is well weighted and balanced, is comfortable to hold, makes a "whoosh" sound when I angle a cut right, and is sharper than anything else. That's it. I don't want it to protect me, much less others. It is a weapon, I'll exercise the due caution and respect. I want to be careful about slicing my fingers off. I never want to be lackadaisical around it, because it should make me feel the exact opposite. It is much the same with cars. I just want it to drive well. I don't want it to help me keep lanes, brake for me, or be my phone... it is a weapon, I'll exercise the due caution and respect and be held responsible if anything happens. I never want to be lackadaisical around it, in the same way that I don't want others to be lackadaisical around my car, because safety I personally believe is a shared responsibility. I just don't want my sports cars to be so... complicated. To have its focus split so many ways. Instead of using technology to make me a sword that fires missiles, I want technology to make me a sword that is tougher and shaper. I don't want technology to take away from the actual act and feel of cutting with a sword. And if it happens to looks beautiful, then all the more better.
Of course I do want safety. I do want to be able to walk away from a crash and still be able to do it again. I believe in learning from mistakes. I want airbags, ABS, crumple zones, and rollover protection. That's it, really, and the FD I know for sure has the first two. I don't want the car to intervene and interject. I don't want it to intrude, and I don't want it to overwhelm itself. Thing is, with cars chasing horsepower figures, they need that kind of crap to keep themselves in check. No one is driving a 700HP car without aids.
I get that I'm in a shocking minority, which is probably why modern sports cars are such compromised, cumbersomely complicated and confused things nowadays. When I drive modern performance cars that do 0-100 in under 3 seconds with inane power that no one can possibly exploit even on a racetrack, held back by twenty million electronic nannies onboard that can't be switched off, meddling at every turn, I can't help but to wonder what cars the generation after mine will drive when learning how to go fast. I can't help but to wonder if they'll ever learn to perceive the nuances of a purely analogue sports car, know what they mean, and train up the muscle memory to react accordingly. I can't help but to wonder if they will then become the engineers of performance cars, and if they can understand how to make a car go fast or be fun to drive. I wonder if cars will be set up by computers more than people. Most importantly, I can't help but to wonder, in a world where instant gratification is quickly becoming the only affirmation in our lives, and where appearances and numbers mean more than anything else, if there's a place for old classics like the RX-7 and the highly refined art form it brings to our streets, if they will ever be understood even by the microscopic minority of the people who love cars. It will genuinely break my heart if one day a kid gets out of an FD RX-7 and tells me something like "it's slow sloppy and stupid I hate it".
I believe the FD RX-7 is an art form both in the tangible styling of the car, and the immeasurable sensations it delivers to a driver from behind its wheel. We're irrational creatures, some of whom buy expensive watches when their phones can tell them the time, some of whom hit balls for a living, some repeat a sword Kata in isolation thousands of times, and some of us love driving, even if just by ourselves. If we were rational beings, we wouldn't be so opposed to CVTs, and SUVs will be a niche market segment. Great cars like the NSX and the Viper wouldn't have a place in our world. A sports car is almost a celebration of irrationality, of the intangible. It's supposed to be unabashedly pandering. Raw. Communicative. Honest. Beautiful. Balanced. I should be able to trust it and take liberties with it, and it should duly slap me across the face if I take things too far. And it is these unquantifiable traits that make the FD RX-7 so, so beloved. I don't care about 0-100 times. I want an experience that will, like the styling of the FD, never get old. I want the car to talk to me. I want to daily drive it, to show everyone what I'm passionate about. I want to drive it. By myself. I want it to be special. I want it to be selfish. I want it to be made with my enjoyment its top priority. I want it to be uncompromising. I want to see, feel, someone's soul, passion, and intent in it, not profit margins and PR stunts. And cars like that are excruciatingly rare, if not extinct, by today's standards.
While I love the FD RX-7 more than I can possibly put into words, I'm... almost glad that Mazda hasn't tried to build a direct successor to it. Seeing the NSX and Supra name be dishonoured like they've been, I can't help but to worry about the same fate befalling the "next RX". Maybe we really can't have an excellent sports car in the same vein as the FD today. Maybe it's something that could only have been possible in the 90s. I can recognise when I'm in the minority, that I'm an ancient dinosaur when it comes to my tastes. I'm just glad to see that same spirit alive in modern Mazdas, and that they seem to be doing well for themselves. I'm glad my memories and my feelings towards the FD hasn't been insulted by a subpar product that shares nothing in philosophy with the original. And maybe that's good enough of a victory in a world where the Mustang has become an electric SUV, and half of Lamborghini's sales are from the Urus.
I apologise for the long, philosophical, and borderline political rant. This is just too near and dear to me. I promise this is the last time I'm going to ramble so much about philosophy and politics (until I review an electric car...). Just as is with sports cars, I believe the best writings and expressions come from honesty. And I want to embody that so much, it perhaps works to my detriment, as is probably already evident in my reviews and life choices. It is the reason I took up engineering and Japanese in college. It is the reason why I always fly to Hiroshima every time I visit Japan. To me, the FD is neither a good or a bad car. It's not a Beater or a Sleeper. It isn't simply the Car of the Week, or even the Car of the Year for me. It is, quite simply, The One.
I dont like this car. This should have been a WRX vs EVO thing because the WRX blows this thing away if only because it has a variable center diff... and the 6 spd.
How Mitsubishi got away with a 5 spd back in 2016 is a mystery. I think they discontinued the dual clutch 6 spd etc.
The 5 spd is workable but I dont like the amount of chassis movt. this car exhibits. Its not in a terrible way. Like the car understeers but its like the WHOLE car understeers, not just the front end like on an FWD car.
I found you have to be at very low speeds for it to not understeer. And the car seems to pitch badly on most corners like as if it has good damping but the springs are too soft. PLUS there's some odd nose corner pitching on power delivery. ie. power thru a right hand corner the opposing hand nose corner rises but the back corner dips... like an old 1960s muscle car? Its rolly polly.
Its a smallish car that feels like a much larger car than it is. You have to use all the track and again, got deep into corners, hit the apex and then go wide out. Its not that bad at say N400 with some weight loss but its certainly not good.
The car is nothing against the old Evo 7-9. I'm sure its because it handles ok as a dirt car but since PD didnt bother to utilise the EVO vs WRX thing on dirt...