The Mazda RX-5 is a classic of the Mazda brand. The RX-5 was also known as the Mazda Cosmo, primarily in Japan where the car found great success. There were four generations of Mazda Cosmos, with the RX-5 belonging to the second generation. Production on the Cosmo range for Mazda began in 1967 with the Cosmo Sport 110 and ended in 1995 with the JC Cosmos or Eunos Cosmo. The Mazda RX-5, like the other generations, was a grand tourer, a high performance luxury vehicle specifically designed for long distance travel. In fact, the name grand tourer was derived from the Italian gran turismo. The RX-5 competed successfully in the luxury performance sports vehicle market in Japan, and was exported to Australia and the rest of the world with mixed results.
All vehicles from the Cosmo line, including the RX-5, were designed with speed and distance in mind. The original Cosmo was a racing car, selected to compete in the legendary 84-hour Marathon de la Route in Germany. The next car to come out was the CD Cosmo, known in Australia and abroad as the Mazda RX-5. This classic grand tourer had many improvements over its predecessor, including a re-design of the body shape and more luxurious features. This second generation car from Mazda was sold from 1975 through 1981, performing well in Japanese markets but struggling abroad. In fact, the RX-5 was only offered in international markets (including Australia) from 1976-1978, and the Series-II version of the car was only sold domestically in Japan. In Japan the car was known as the Cosmo AP (Anti-Pollution) for its relatively low emissions and eco-friendliness.
The Mazda RX-5 is a real collector’s dream. It’s got it all: unique styling, impressive kit, power under the bonnet, and a rare pedigree that makes it all the more desirable. The RX-5 features a sleek two-door design, sporty silhouette, and comes in a wide variety of trims, colours, and finishes. The RX-5 was Mazda’s ‘large’ rotary coupe, providing plenty of space in the front and the back (not to mention the large boot). The RX-5 was known for its ability to drive long distances at a time, its fuel-efficiency, and its considerable power. Despite not faring well abroad, the RX-5 is a truly impressive vehicle with great kit, making it a must-have for any lover of classic Mazdas.
The Mazda RX-5 was available in three different trims, each with their own engine specs. The first trim came with a 1.1-litre 12A engine, a version of Mazda’s famous Wankel rotary engine designed in the 1960’s by German engineer Felix Wankel. The engine, produced from 1970 to 1985, packed great power and dependability. In fact, the 12A was the only engine produced outside of Europe or the US to finish the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
The engine’s output is 120kW of power at 6,500rpm with 225Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. A turbo version of this engine, included in the 1982 Mazda Cosmo, made that car the fastest production car in all of Japan. A 1.3-litre engine named the 13B was another option for the RX-5. The 13B, also a Wankel engine, was designed to combine high performance with low emissions.
A third petrol engine version was also offered under the name Cosmo 1800. This 1.8 –litre inline-four SOHC engine had an output of 75kW and 149Nm.
One of the best aspects of the RX-5 was the luxurious kit it offered throughout the generations, and the combination the features with the sporty styling made it a highly-desirable car. The car was Americanised in terms of style and included many high-end options. The various trims came with the same appointments, and they all offered five-link rear suspension (an upgrade from the car’s predecessor) and rear disc brakes. The car featured cloth seats with leather trim on the steering wheel and gear shift as well as attractive interior wood panelling.
The Mazda RX-5’s biggest competition came from the iconic Ford Thunderbird. The Thunderbirds built at that time featured either a 7.0 or 7.5-litre V8 engine and were available as a two-door hardtop coupe. Later versions of the Thunderbird produced around the same time as the RX-5 replaced the big block V8 with a smaller 5.8-litre V8 engine. The Thunderbird outsold the RX-5 in Australia and abroad, but the RX-5 remains an outstanding testament to Mazda’s sport luxury legacy.