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Mazda RX8 2008 Review

It was - sort of, but added two extra “doors” and didn’t have a turbo engine or the same performance as a 7. It was more refined and practical offering seats for four and a decent boot in the back. The raunchy twin turbo rotary engine was replaced by a new generation Renesis naturally aspirated unit that ran like a sewing machine but lacked torque and outright grunt.

Handling was super impressive and it was a pretty car to look at.

And so we come to the mid-life revamp of the RX8 and it’s… more of the same, a little less power, lower gearing to address the torque deficit, a decent six-speed automatic option with sequential shift replacing the awful four speeder and minor interior and exterior tweaks. The new model handles even better than the first if that’s possible and the engine still sings like a sewing machine right up to and beyond 8000rpm.

Mazda has increased the model range to include a base model at $49,720 the Luxury and the GT.

It has no direct four seat competitor in the market and is the only mass produced rotary engine car available.

The rear hinged “doors” remain unchanged and the interior has a quality air to it with premium fixtures such as Bose audio on some models.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the new model is the adoption of Mazda MX5 sports car six speed transmissions to the RX8. They add a new dimension to the car offering slick shifts and improved overall performance.

The Renesis twin rotary engine is good for 170kW/211Nm output which is enough to propel the 1474kg car from 0-100kmh in a claimed 6.4 seconds. But it’s a thirsty beast consuming a claimed 12.9 litres/100km of high octane unleaded on the combined cycle. Drive the RX8 hard and this increases alarmingly.

Safety is well looked after with stability control, six air bags and a host of other equipment to avoid a collision and protect occupants.

Wheels sizes vary according to the model with the high spec GT scoring a set of gorgeous 19-inch items to complement Bilstein dampers while the other two have 18s. The spare is a space saver.

But “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” as they say and on the road, the new RX8 won’t disappoint. The sound of the engine is startling and stirring as it wails away pushing the sexy sports car rapidly forward. Get it up around 5000rpm and things start happening fast. Make it live above this engine speed and it’s fantastic to drive _ especially on a tight winding road. Which is precisely what we did last week west of Coffs Harbour.

Few rear drive cars offer the level of grip, precision and stability of the RX8 when driven fast like this. It is inspiring from behind the wheel to experience such deft handling, such manners, such driver feedback and resistance to stepping off line in anything costing less than about $100,000, let alone the sub 50 grand price of the RX8.

It makes mug drivers look good and is inherently safe because you can avoid a potential collision in the first place simply by using the RX8’s handling attributes. And it rides well into the bargain offering a taut controlled feel on rough roads that won’t jiggle your fillings loose.

We particularly enjoyed the sharp, well weighted electric steering that places the car with pin-point accuracy.

The RX8 is a relatively popular model for Mazda and should continue to be given the enhanced qualities of the new model. Imagine if it had a turbo - woo hoo.


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Range and Specs

(base) 1.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,800 – 13,200 2008 Mazda RX-8 2008 (base) Pricing and Specs
40th Anniversary 1.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $9,300 – 13,970 2008 Mazda RX-8 2008 40th Anniversary Pricing and Specs
GT 1.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $9,600 – 14,410 2008 Mazda RX-8 2008 GT Pricing and Specs
Luxury 1.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $7,500 – 12,500 2008 Mazda RX-8 2008 Luxury Pricing and Specs
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