Mazda RX-8 2009 Review
The RX-8 targets those who are unwilling to purchase a front-drive car, and who enjoy driving a sports car but also require enough practicality for a two-child family.
The heart of any RX in the Mazda line is its engine. Mazda have been developing their rotary engine now for over 40 years and in its current guise, the Renesis, the issues leveled at the engine configuration in the past have been addressed.
Fuel economy and emissions have been vastly improved and previous lubrication problems have been resolved. Unlike the last RX-7 engine, the Renesis has forgone the turbo route and is naturally aspirated.
While power is down from the twin-turbo beast that the last RX-7 was, delivery of the available 170 kW at 8200 rpm (screamer) and 211 Nm of torque at 5500 rpm is handled superbly.
The Renesis won the International Engine of the Year award for 2003, the same year as the RX-8 won Wheels Car of the Year.
The styling of the RX-8 is not for everyone. Those that like the style are quite passionate about expounding its virtues. The four door coupe is an emerging market, and we are now seeing several prestige brands entering the performance family coupe niche.
Mercedes launched into the market early with the CLS and now we are seeing Audi, BMW, Porsche and Aston Martin joining in. The unique front opening rear doors (Rolls Royce also use them) provide a practical way of having a small but useable rear seat entry. There is a problem with them though, if there is an obstruction impacting the ability to open the front door to a reasonable angle, trying to get out of the back leaves you trapped between the front and rear door without enough clearance to squeeze through the available space.
The RX-8 is strictly a four-seater, the large centre tunnel – complete with compartments and armrests, means that the rear seats are effectively individual buckets. Rear leg room is not expansive; however it is more than adequate for all but a very tall passenger. The seats are both supportive and comfortable and provide a cocoon like environment. The dash expounds the sporting nature while maintaining very good ergonomics.
Mazda safety features have earned a reputation for being very good, and the RX-8 is no exception with driver and passenger airbags and side curtain airbags plus all the current safety TLA’s (three letter acronyms) — four wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). This all adds up to an impressive array of driver aids that help minimize catastrophic results of human error.
While the layout of a pillarless four door could result in a compromise to structural integrity and strength, Mazda have the expansive side door gap covered with strong reinforcements to the doors.
The RX-8 starts at $51,440 for the base manual and peak at $60,066 for the RX-8 GT, plus dealer and statutory charges.
Driving a rotary is a different experience to a standard piston engine. The unique combination of power, torque and rev pattern adds to an experience that within a few hours driving becomes very enjoyable. The front-mid engine layout provides great balance and subsequently the handling and road holding are superb. While its manners are impeccable, to get the most out of a normal drive you do need to be prepared to rev a bit harder and change gears more often, the power band is both different and narrower than other performance cars.
The best word to describe an RX-8 is ‘balanced’. It is a competent sports car yet succeeds in offering enough space and practicality for a family. And does it for less money than everything else that meets that brief. Its competitors are both limited and varied when you look to find a rear-drive, four-seat, four-door performance car. The BMW 135, Ford FPV, Holden HSV are about all there is. And all are more expensive.
While Mazda has managed to improve the rotary’s fuel consumption over the years it is still fairly thirsty at 12.9 litres per 100 km. But when it comes to bang for your buck though – especially when you consider re-sale value — the RX-8 stacks up very well against its competition.
The six-speed manual transmission that we drove simply felt right. This is a driver’s car and the manual adds to that experience. Thankfully Mazda continue to build cars for enjoyment.
Range and Specs
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data