The second generation of Mazda’s iconic rotary-engine sports car has led a dual life. Generally scorned by the public, the RX-7 of this era is prized among rotary engine enthusiasts for its performance potential and features.
After a successful seven-year run for the first generation body style, the Mazda RX-7 was due for a refresh. The new design mocked the popular Porsche 944, but it carried the best technology Mazda could bring to its halo sports car. The new shape offered a drag coefficient of just .31, dropping to .29 with the optional aero kit. Where the first generation carried a traditional solid rear axle with standard drum brakes, the second generation RX-7 offered true independent rear suspension with disc brakes on all four corners.
The engine in the second generation Mazda RX-7 was the same 13B rotary that had been introduced in 1984, but power output was raised to 146 hp, and an optional turbocharged model enjoyed 182 hp from the tiny 1.3-liter motor. The Turbo II, as it was called, also enjoyed larger front brakes. Transmission options included a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
The 1986 RX-7 was also available in a two-seat configuration or a 2+2 style, although getting anyone but a small child in the back seat was a trial. The RX-7 came in two trim levels – base and GXL, with GXL cars equipped with larger 15-inch wheels and four-piston front brake calipers.
The RX-7 received no notable changes for 1987 except for optional anti-lock brakes. In 1988, Mazda added the first convertible RX-7, which is also the most handsome RX-7 of this era. All convertibles came with the non-turbo engine and a five-speed manual transmission. Mazda also produced a 10th Anniversary edition RX-7 this year with the turbo engine and special white-on-white exterior over a black leather interior. Gold badges indicate the 10AE status.
The 1988 packages were carried over into 1989 unchanged except for the 10AE model. Late in the 1989 model year, some mid-year changes boosted base horsepower to 160 and turbo horsepower to 200. A special “GTU” model appeared with the normally aspirated engine and fewer bells and whistles. This earned the GTU a lighter curb weight, but not much else. These changes were carried on in the 1990 and 1991 model years.
After 1989, sales of the RX-7 dwindled due to the explosive popularity of Mazda’s new Miata. With most of the performance in a much more attractive package, the Miata stole the show. So for the 1992 model year, Mazda brought out an entirely new RX-7 that was a complete game-changer.
Most second generation Mazda RX-7 collectors tent to seek out convertible models, while those with a particular bent towards performance usually prefer the turbo editions. Regardless, the second generation Mazda RX-7 is the least expensive rotary engine sports car on the market today, so no matter the choice, it won’t cost a lot of money.