Mazda RX 8 Car Review – MotorPoint
Mazda RX 8
Mazda RX 8 Car Review
The term practical sports car is an oxymoron but in the case of the Mazda RX 8 it is not only accurate but an understatement. This is a tremendously fun car to drive extremely well priced and you get four useable doors to boot. It is without doubt the most underestimated car we have tested and only its lackluster fuel mileage prevents it from being irresistible. One caveat dont get the automatic transmission version because it dulls the high revving rotary engine and the engine has been detuned for less power.
Lets start at the most interesting part of the Mazda. No it isnt the rotary engine but the way the company has engineered a sports car to have four usable doors without diminishing its exceptional handling. The trick is that the smaller rear doors open forward. In the old days these were called suicide doors because in an accident when they swung open they caused the occupants to be ejected towards the impact. Fortunately the RX rear doors only release when the front doors have already been opened and so such negative effects are negated.
There is some chassis flex because of the vast opening that the four doors create but the way this RX handles it hardly matters. With a terrific 50/50 weight distribution an engine that does not wake up until it reaches 8000 rpm and comfortable seats this as friendly a sports car as you are ever going to find. And here is the coup de gra; the car lists for $55265 Australian Dollars with a six-speed manual and $54465 if you want a four-speed automatic transmission. This car placed second in our family car of the year competition last year losing to the more practical and less expensive Toyota Prius. This is the highest a sports car has ever come in our contest since the Subaru WRX came out in fighting trim. In other words for the price of a well equipped but mundane Honda Accord or Toyota Camry you can have a genuine family roadrunner.
Dads view: It is addicting. The more you drive the RX the more compelling it becomes. The sound of the rotary engine as it winds towards 10000 rpm is as turbine like as you are ever going to hear and the easy to shift six-speed manual makes it effortless to repeat this process in every gear. The engine produces 238 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 159 pound-feet of torque at 5500 rpm but if you go against our wishes and order the automatic you only get 197 horsepower at 7200 rpm and 164 pound-feet at 5000 rpm. Moreover the automatic does not have the same aggressive suspension.
This is not a road rocket although Mazda ads proclaim in can get to 60 mph in under six seconds but a well balanced sports car capable of enjoyable if not blistering acceleration. World-class handling is really its forte but you dont sacrifice a comfortable ride for this enjoyment as the suspension is even comfortable over troubled roads. If you learn to polish your shifting skills this Mazda can get you around a mountain road faster than any non-turbocharged vehicle in its class regardless of price. Yes a Subaru STi is faster and has room for four but they have little in common as the RX is the boxer and the Subaru the slugger. Both get you there but the RX is less a bruiser thanks to a well-tuned independent wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs and multi-link rear suspension and coil springs.
The RX-8 requires practice to reach its potential. It is easy to promote understeer despite its fine balance by applying too much throttle even with Mazdas driver friendly dynamic stability control. A bit more tire would make this a super-handling vehicle but the cost would be further road noise and a more jarring journey over tax-deprived roadways. Mazda has compromised on its tire and wheel combination and it works well for most
There are not many cars we enjoy cornering because they usually fall into two categories. Those that let go without a lot of warning due to their power and unbalanced weight distribution such as the Nissan 350Z (53/47) and the Porsche 911 (36/64). These are not for the novice driver. In fact the Porsche is the only car we ever spun and that was on a highway onramp where there was some sand. We were barely going 40 mph when the car started to revolve on its axis. It seemed like an eternity before the front end came around and I accelerated out of the spin. The RX would have had much less of a problem with the sand or ice for that matter with its better balance thanks to the light weight rotary engine that does away with pistons values crankshafts connecting rods camshafts and rings among other items. As a result the Mazda Renesis engine is light and easy to mount low in the chassis for better balance. The upside is a car that weighs in at 3000 pounds and an engine that can rev like a Formula One engine ranges and can still be lugged in sixth gear down to 35 mph without bucking. The downside is high oil and fuel consumption.
Under normal driving I shifted from first to third to sixth and left it there. Sixth gear is a bit of a pain to find at first because it is snuggled up to reverse in the shift pattern. The other gears were easy to locate following in the tradition of good shifting transmissions that the Miata started. I only wish Subaru and Ford would follow suit.
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