With another trip to the automotive mecca that is Japan we of course visited our friends at Fun2Drive again. This time I was dying to get behind the wheel of a bright yellow RX7 that was still burnt into my retinas from our previous trip.
After a short drive out of Tokyo we returned to our ‘Home away from home’ Hakone. A picturesque town sprawled across the mountain tops. With stunning views of Mt Fuji it’s also home to an amazing little rental shop called Fun2Drive (More here). After catching up with Chikara and Yoshi we got right into business and I was given the keys to our first rental car, a gorgeous Mazda FD3S RX7.
As I was holding the keys Yoshi told me that this exact car was responsible for taking out a guard rail just 2 months ago. At that moment the skies opened up and it began to rain. Feeling the pressure of keeping this now straight car in the same condition as I had picked it up in I decided to take it easy that morning.
At the turn of the key I found the smooth and deep exhaust note incredibly soothing. This was my very first time driving a car powered by the wizardry commonly known as a rotary engine.
I didn’t really know what to expect but I instantly noticed the car seemed aggressive throughout the entire rev range and very happy on power.
There was a touch of turbo lag when pressing the accelerator, only for a second and then the power came on strong and pushed the car along leaving a very obvious grin across my face at every press of the throttle. The sound and feeling of the car even when stationary was extraordinary. I definitely had a new found appreciation for the Wankel engine.
That’s where my love affair stopped. After the initial excitement of the power delivery and noise the engine made had worn off I found myself focusing on the claustrophobic interior that seemed to carry on and make as much noise as the engine itself with every rattle and pop.
There were also less pedantic problems too like the suspension/tyre combination on the car that made it feel like a wet sponge. It was incredibly hard to get any direct feedback from the road. Visually it was also impossible to get a sense of where the tyres were under the front guards.
Weeks after my trip I was telling friends about my time with the RX7 many of whom are avid Mazda/Rotary enthusiasts. The look on their faces trying to comprehend that I just didn’t enjoy the feeling of the car around corners and that it felt slightly ‘detached’ from the road left them questioning their friendship with me. Understandably I had high hopes for the buzzing rotary but simply couldn’t get past the interior swallowing me whole or the loose feeling from the tyres.
Ultimately I’m sure with more time, the right suspension and tyres this would be an amazing car to drive. I am also sure that if I wasn’t constantly scared of all the guard rails jumping out at me I would have relaxed and enjoyed more of the corners around Hakone’s beautiful twisting mountain roads.
What I did enjoy about the car was its looks, it was jaw dropping from every angle. Yellow is easily one of the most striking colours on the smooth lines of the body, the nostalgic feeling I get with pop up headlights is just as strong with this car as any other 90’s performance car I’ve driven as well.
So there I was standing looking at the car under the trees and feeling very shallow. I had more fun looking at it than I did driving it.
I kept thinking is it me? Is there something wrong with me?! Why couldn’t I find the fizzy feeling James May is always fluffing on about with all the cars he’s been driving over the years?
Once I got out of the mountains and found wider roads I started to worry less about falling into a gutter and began enjoying myself more and more. I still found the response from the tyres an issue but as I was taking it easy on the wet roads it wasn’t too noticeable.
This was the first time I’ve not felt a spark behind the wheel of a sports car and it had nothing to do with a lack of power. Even driving the notoriously under powered Toyota 86 I felt more excitement from being able to drive that on the limit of the red line and even the road itself. The RX7 had me nervous and reserved the whole time.
I would jump at the opportunity to drive a modified RX7 just to get a sense of comparison to the stock as a rock version that I drove here in Japan. It felt like I was eating an unseasoned meal that just needed a pinch of salt.
With the last few minutes of daylight quickly fading I decided to soak in as much of the beautiful exterior as I could while dreading the last drive I had ahead of me in the pouring rain.
In summary my time with this RX7 was a bit like a first date with a stunningly beautiful girl with no conversational skills at all. Great to look at but no real substance to keep you interested.
I don’t think I’ll be calling again.
Thanks to the awesome guys behind Fun2Drive, we got to drive a lot more cars this time so keep your eyes out for even more features!
Thank you for reading,