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July 2, 2008 > Auto Review: RX-8 by Mazda

Auto Review: RX-8 by Mazda

I found a number of things to like and dislike about the 2008 RX-8. On the positive side were:

Fun to drive
Good handling (very predictable and good cornering)
Great Brakes
Great driving position, great seats, good legroom in the front, and easy to heel & toe
Good power from the free revving rotary engine.

On the negative side:

The high beam head lights were just OK
The sun visors had holes in them
It used a lot of gas
The front end styling

I don't think I need to spend a lot of time on the positives but I do need to explain the negatives. Some of today's cars have very good lighting systems with high beams that pierce the darkness for long distances. The RX-8's lighting was not up to some of the other cars on the market today.

The sun visors are made from a "mesh" type material. When the sun is coming from the side of the car they work fine. But when the sun is directly in front of you, the holes let about 90% of the light through. Why did the Mazda designers make them with holes in them?

The EPA mileage numbers for the RX-8 are 16 city and 22 for the highway cycle. We all know "your actual mileage will vary" but when you push the RX-8 hard it varies downward significantly.

I know that the impact of styling is highly personalized, but the front fender treatment didn't do much for me. I think the rest of the car looks great.

The body style of the RX-8 is very unique. It has 2+2 seating which is not that unusual. What is unusual is that it is a 4-door sports car. Looking at the photo, you might miss the rear door on both sides. Mazda calls them "free-style doors." In past they would have been called "suicide doors" because they are hinged at the back. They allow very easy access to the 2 tiny rear jump seats.

I found another unusal item in the driver's manual. Mazda included a "Short Trip Start Up Procedure." It should be used if you are going a very short distance (like moving the RX-8 out of the garage to wash it) and the engine will not warm up to full operating temperature. After starting the car, you should let it idle for 5 minutes. Before shutting it off you should rev it to 3000 rpm for 10 seconds, and then shut it off.

Mazda is very committed to racing their products. One of their RX-8s won the GT class in the famous 24 hours of Daytona this February. More Mazda products are road raced each weekend, more than any other automobile manufacturer in the world.

The RX-8's 1.3-liter rotary motor puts out 232 HP when coupled to the 6-speed manual transmission. With the 6-speed automatic (with paddle shifters), the motor is rated at 121 HP. Both produce 159 foot pounds of torque.

The base RX-8 starts at $27,070. Different trim levels can bring the cost up to $32,005 for the top of the line 40th Anniversary (of the rotary engine) Edition. The automatic transmission adds about $700 to $800 to the price.

If you are looking for a sports car, you need to spend some time looking at the RX-8.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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