The Toyota Supra vs Mazda RX-7 : Which Is Better? Sometimes automobiles come along that you just know will be unique. It’s funny how many of those everlasting classics came from a specific place and period. In this example, we’re discussing Japan in the 1990s. When it came to inexpensive, powerful, and adaptable sports cars, Japanese manufacturers got their priorities straight.
While Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Subaru were all producing classics, two manufacturers stood out above the rest in terms of producing vehicles that would stand the test of time: Mazda and Toyota. The RX-7 brand had been around for over 15 years by the early 1990s. The same is true for the Supra. The two were diametrically opposed in their early stages. The RX-7 was designed to be entertaining from the start, but the Supra was a wedge-shaped grand tourer. That altered over time, as the Supra eventually matched the RX-7’s athletic spirit.
The competition between the RX-7 and the Supra reached a climax in 1993, with the introduction of the FD RX-7 and the MkIV Supra. Both were refined beasts at the time, offering equivalent performance at a comparable price. While the two were an excellent matchup on paper, they achieved their widely lauded results in very different ways.
Mazda RX-7 vs. Supra – RX-7 History
Mazda has used a variety of approaches over three separate chassis iterations during the RX-7’s 24-year lifespan. While the history of the RX-7 could undoubtedly fill several pages, we’ll keep it brief and general here.
The RX-7 moniker debuted with the first generation SA22C chassis in 1978. Mazda’s goal with the RX-7 was simple: create a lightweight, economical, well-balanced sportscar. That is precisely what they did. The SA was Mazda’s second vehicle to use a Wankel rotary engine. Despite producing only 100 horsepower, the SA’s 1.1L 12A rotary engine is a blast to drive. The SA’s recipe was high rev performance in a light chassis, and it really established the trend going ahead.
The FB arrived in 1981, with some significant alterations to the SA chassis. While the FB is generally thought to be only a half-step above the SA, by 1985, the updates had separated the two quite a bit. The main differences between the SA and FB are redesigned looks, an improved 5-speed manual transmission, and engine adjustments that increased performance by 10 horsepower. In 1984, a more significant engine update occurred, with the 1.1L 12A rotary engine being replaced with a larger 1.3L 13B RE-EGI rotary delivering 135 horsepower.
In 1986, the FC generation RX-7 was released. While the SA and FB generations were heavily focused on weight loss, the FC generation abandoned the diet. As a result, the FC was much heavier than its forefathers. Mazda chose to include a more powerful version of the 13B engine featured in the FB to compensate, resulting in an overall power number of 145 horsepower. While the FC was marketed as a sport-tourer, its independent rear suspension, precise steering, and adjusted handling characteristics made it a strong performer. A twin-scroll turbocharged variant with 180 horsepower was also offered.
The third and most well-known RX-7 model was produced in 1992, with the chassis code FD. In comparison to the FC generation that came before it, the FD represented a return to the RX-7’s origins. The FD resumed the diet that the SA and FB were on, and she lost much more weight than the FC. The 13B-REW, Mazda’s most powerful production rotary at the time, also powered it. The REW was Japan’s first mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharged engine, increasing the FD’s power to 252 horsepower. Its unique engine configuration made its handling qualities challenging.
Toyota Supra Background
The Supra nameplate, like the RX-7, is steeped in history and has seen numerous changes throughout the years. The first four versions of Supra were manufactured between 1978 and 2002, corresponding with the production run of the RX-7. The Supra was initially so closely associated with Toyota’s Celica line that it was marketed under both names until 1986. The Supra has always used an inline-6 engine format, from the first generation all the way up to the current 5th iteration.
Supra 40 A40
The original A40 chassis Supra was substantially based on the chassis of the Celica, sharing the majority of body panels from the front doors back. To accommodate the larger inline-6 M-EU, 4M-E, and 5M-E engines, the front panels were enlarged. The original generation Supra was not performance focused, carrying a lot of weight with only a little power. It was intended to be a grand-tourer, and its appearance and entire personality reflected that notion. The A40 Supra’s engine was upgraded to the 2.8L 5M-E engine in 1980, increasing horsepower to 116.
The A60 Supra
As the name suggests, the second generation A60 Celica Supra was built on a redesigned Celica chassis. While the A60 was still classified as a grand tourer due to the presence of rear seats, its more angular and aggressive design indicated a slightly more pointed focus on performance. Standard editions for the global market continued to use the 5M-E inline-6 with 145 horsepower until 1983, when it was increased to 150 horsepower, then again in 1984 to 160 horsepower. Toyota definitely received a clue between 1981 and 1986 that the public favored athletic features over luxurious ones, and the A60 evolved over time to accommodate that.
The A70 Supra
The third generation A70 Supra had its own distinct identity, breaking connections with the Celica moniker entirely. The late 1980s, like the second generation FC RX-7, were a time when integrated technology was all the rage. As a result, the A70 was cumbersome. Toyota made up for it by including a big 3.0L inline-6 engine with 200 horsepower in basic level. In 1987, the A70 turbo was debuted, with the now-legendary 7M-GTE engine producing 231 horsepower.
The A80 Supra
The fourth generation A80 Supra, often known as the Mk4, debuted in 1993 with a considerable performance-focused redesign. Engineers used drastic weight-saving techniques, ensuring that the Mk4 had a balanced chassis. The Mk4 also received a new powerplant. In fact, it is one of the most famous powertrains in history. The 7M was superseded by the 2JZ inline-6, which was offered in both normally aspirated and sequential twin turbo trim.
Engine Comparison: RX-7 vs. Supra
The engines of the FD RX-7 and MK4 Supra are well-known. The RX-7 is known for its 1.3L 13B-REW rotary engine. The Supra is powered by the 2JZ-GTE, another well-known inline-6. While both cars and engines are without a doubt legendary, they are famous for very different reasons. Obviously, comparing a rotary to a traditional inline-6 in terms of technical specs is difficult because they operate in very different ways. But we’ll give it a shot regardless. The sections that follow compare the engine specs of the RX-7 and Supra.
Engine Mazda RX-7 13B-REW
If Mazda is known for anything, it is the use of rotary engines in many of their vehicles. The Cosmo, Mazda’s first rotary-powered vehicle, was introduced in 1967. So they clearly understand the rotary formula. For decades, Mazda was defined by its rotary, or Wankel, engine, which offered a unique driving experience and novel engine characteristics to the global market. The 13B-REW is the peak of Mazda’s road-going rotary series, and its use in the FD RX-7 made it one of the most recognized examples of the Wankel configuration. The 13B-REW’s specifications are as follows:
What Is the Process of a Rotary Engine?
If you don’t know what a rotary engine is or how it works, you should forget all you know about standard piston engines. A rotary engine, in essence, follows the same combustion and exhaust formula as a typical piston engine, but in a completely different manner. Unlike traditional piston engines, which employ cylinder pressure to move a piston back and forth, combustion pressure in a rotary engine is contained within a chamber formed by the gap between the engine’s casing and internal triangle rotor.
Similar to a normal engine, fuel and air are introduced into the chamber. The mixture is then ignited within the combustion chamber using two spark plugs. The triangular rotor within the engine housing is spun by the combustion process. At each of the rotor’s three apexes, the internal rotor makes contact with the engine housing, and each chamber on all three sides of the triangular rotor performs a role. Air and fuel are introduced into one of the three chambers while the rotor spins. It is then rotated to the engine’s ignition side, where combustion occurs. The rotor then turns to allow the exhaust gases to escape.
One of the major flaws in the design of the rotary engine is the seals on each apex of the rotor that make contact with the engine casing. The sharp apex seals can damage the inside of the engine case if not properly greased. This eventually results in a loss of compression within the engine. The 13B-REW’s principal flaw is apex seal failure. If you want to understand more about 13B-REW engine problems, read our 5 Most Common Mazda 13B-REW Problems Guide.
What Makes Rotary Engines So Special?
Obviously, it wasn’t an exhaustive explanation of how a rotary works, but it should give you a good notion. So, why does Mazda love the rotary format so much, and why did they chose to install one in the FD RX-7? That is an excellent question. While unconventional and a little finicky, the Wankel engine has some unique and interesting characteristics that make it a very good performance engine.
While the logistics of building a reliable rotary engine are extremely complicated, the overall design is quite simple when compared to a standard piston engine. Most conventional engines have significantly more moving components than rotary engines. A rotary engine has no pistons, connecting rods, camshaft, valves, valve springs, rockers, timing belts, timing gears, or crankshaft. There are numerous advantages to this, but the most prominent is weight loss. Rotary engines are often lighter than their conventional counterparts and have fewer elements that can fail in total.
In many aspects, rotary engines are smoother than typical piston engines. Because the rotary’s main driving components are counterbalanced and move in a fluid cyclical motion, they don’t vibrate as much. They also feature a smoother power delivery.
Rotary engines are incredibly efficient and can generate a lot of power from a small amount of fuel. For example, the 13B delivers 178 horsepower per liter. That means that, despite its 1.3L displacement, the 13B-REW can produce 252 horsepower in stock form. That level of efficiency is usually reserved for high-performance supercars, so it’s especially astonishing in a car that costs a third of the price of cars producing comparable results.
Engine: Toyota 2JZ-GTE
Almost every automotive fan in the world is familiar with, or has heard of, Toyota’s famed 2JZ-GTE engine. When Toyota first debuted the 2JZ in 1991, it was a special engine in stock form. It has a 3.0L DOHC twin-turbo inline-6 engine that produces 320 horsepower right out of the box. While it lacks the exotic characteristics of the 13B-REW, it is still one of the best traditional piston engines ever built. The 2JZ-GTE engine found in the MK4 Supra has the following specifications:
What Makes the 2JZ-GTE Engine So Good?
The 2JZ-GTE features a low compression ratio of 8.5:1, which allows it to handle high boost. The square cylinder shape provides an excellent blend of torque and top-end power. The 2JZ’s closed deck, iron block from Toyota is extremely powerful. Pistons were cast rather than forged, but they are nonetheless quite robust and hefty. They were also outfitted with oil spray nozzles to keep the pistons cold. A hefty forged crank and rods round out the package.
The idea is that the Toyota 2JZ is plainly designed for strength and endurance. These are virtually exactly the specifications you expect to see on any high-performance engine. The 2JZ developed a name for itself in tuning and aftermarket possibilities. Because of its unrivaled strength, the 2JZ-GTE is one of the most in-demand engines in the aftermarket community. That translates directly into some insane Mk4 Supra builds with four-digit power figures.
Whether you modify a 2JZ-GTE or keep it original, Toyota’s overengineering makes it a highly reliable engine. The 2JZ has few known faults, and even fewer that can cause major engine damage. All of these elements combine to make the 2JZ-GTE legendary. As a result, the Supra gained legendary status.
Supra vs. RX-7 – Performance
Now that we’ve discussed the engines that power these two beasts, let’s speak about how they drive. Despite being lumped together in the same category when it comes to performance, there is a significant difference in how the two drive in a performance setting. Here’s how the RX-7 vs Supra performance showdown plays out.
Supra vs. RX-7 – MK4 Supra Performance
While the MK4 is undoubtedly more performance-oriented than its predecessors, it still has a lot of GT blood in its veins. That becomes clear when you look at the curb weight of the MK4 Supra. The MK4 non-turbo, powered by the 2JZ-GE, weighs between 3,100 and 3,300 lbs, while the turbo weighs between 3,300 and 3,500 lbs.
All of this is to suggest that the MK4 Supra is not a light car. The basic suspension on the Supra is also nothing to write home about. The Supra’s heavy weight and floaty suspension suggested that it is more at home on long motorway stretches than on racetracks. With sticky rear tires, you’ll have no trouble thrashing an MK4 around the curves. When the MK4 was first produced, it was lauded for its incredible cornering grip. However, with so much power to the rear wheels, you must exercise caution when applying throttle, as too much can cause it to switch ends.
When performance modifications are added to the mix, the Supra comes to life. As previously stated, the basic Supra suspension is subpar when compared to the current suspension alternatives available today. A solid set of coilovers and some chassis stiffening changes may turn an MK4 into a far more capable vehicle. Obviously, if you want more power and straight-line speed, there are plenty of 2JZ-GTE mods available. Check out our Toyota 2JZ-GTE Complete Engine Guide if you want to learn more about modding a 2JZ-GTE Supra.
Related : The Guide to the Dodge Neon Turbo
Supra versus RX-7 – FD RX-7 Performance
Unlike the MK4 Supra, the FD RX-7 was designed from the ground up to be a dedicated sports vehicle. As such, it has all of the necessary components right out of the factory. In terms of weight, the RX-7 easily outweighs the MK4. Overall, the FD is over 400 pounds less than the lightest MK4 and nearly 600 pounds lighter than the turbo. Because of the weight differential, the RX-7 performs substantially better around corners in factory trim than the Mk4.
Furthermore, the RX-7 has a more sport-oriented suspension geometry, a more connected road feel, and a preference for high revs. In fact, this is one of the FD’s primary distinguishing features. Mazda expects you to be constantly flirting with the top of the rev range with an 8,000 rpm redline. The majority of the RX-7’s power is generated between 6,000 and 7,500 rpm, which means you really have to wring it out to get the most out of it.
The sophisticated Hitachi sequential turbo system on the FD results in some intriguing performance characteristics. The first turbo generates boost from 1,800 to 4,000 rpm before the second turbo takes over. The turbo changeover point encourages drivers to modify their driving technique to account for the sudden rush of power that occurs when the second turbo spools up. The MK4’s sequential turbo system operates in virtually identical fashion, with one turbo providing boost at 1,800 rpm and the other at 4,000 rpm. However, before the changeover point, the MK4 feeds some exhaust gas into the secondary turbo, smoothing out the power band slightly.
RX-7 vs Supra Final Thoughts
While most people lump the FD RX-7 and MK4 Supra into the same category, the truth is that they were designed to serve different purposes. Throughout its 24-year run, the RX-7 was always intended to fill a lightweight, exotic, sporty role in Mazda’s catalog. The addition of a rotary engine solidified it as one of the most distinctive sports vehicles on the market, not only at the time, but also today.
The Supra, on the other hand, has always been a grand tourer first and a sports vehicle second. Looking back at the first three generations of Supra, it is evident that Toyota had a vision for the Supra that was more autobahn-focused than Nurburgring-focused. That’s not to suggest the MK4 Supra isn’t a good sports car; it is. The MK4 is frequently complimented for its incredible cornering grip and more than adequate power. In terms of performance handling, the Supra’s worst flaw is its factory suspension. Some of the Supra’s body roll can be eliminated with careful modifications such as improved suspension and sway bars.
Overall, the choice between an FD RX-7 and a Supra comes down to what kind of performance you want. If you want an out-of-the-box sportscar that can do some damage on the track, an RX-7 in stock trim is a better option. However, while the RX-7 is a fantastic car to drive, it suffers from poor reliability and high repair costs. The Supra, on the other hand, is an excellent choice for a quick cruiser. With enough time and money, Supra can undoubtedly be built to spec. While they may not be as fast on the track in stock form, MK4 Supras are infinitely modifiable and incredibly reliable.