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Mazda RX-8 GT and Luxury 2008 review

When it was first launched in Australia in 2003, the Mazda RX-8 was touted as a `sports car like no other'. It still is.

With the second generation of the rotary engine powered sports coupe, Mazda is continuing its 40-year association with the Wankel engine - the only non-piston motor to win the Le Mans 24-Hour race, in 1991 - and maintaining the opposite opening doors for which it has become famous.

Now on the market in three variants - the base with six-speed manual gearbox at $49,720, the Luxury $55,520, with optional six-speed automatic transmission an additional $1645, while the top performer GT is $57,625.

The RX-8 is a car of contradictions. While Mazda says it will reduce fuel consumption across its range of vehicles by 30 per cent by 2015, the four-door sports coupe now uses 12.9 litres of premium unleaded fuel per 100km (22 miles per gallon) travelled on the combined urban/highway cycle, as opposed to 12.6 litres (22.5mpg) with the superseded model.

It is also slower to the `ton' - 6.4 seconds as against 6.2 seconds. Reason is shorter gear ratios, hence one extra shift.

The power with manual set-up stays at 170kW, the automatic, with 158kW, rises by 17kW over the four-speed of the last model. Fuel consumption is 12.1 litres/100km (23mpg).

The auto is shackled by the fact that 9000rpm is beyond the box which is limited to 7500rpm tops. The 1.3 litre rotary powerplant still has that unique rorty note with smooth overtone, the body is more aerodynamic at 0.30, against 0.31, and suspension upgrades has made the car a better deal on bends.

However, the motor has to be held up near the redline to get the best out of it and the suspension does not iron out creases in the road surface. The engine sits low and well back in the engine bay, making for ideal 50:50 weight distribution.

All RX-8 models come with a comprehensive list of equipment that includes climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, a six-disc, MP3-compatible CD player with six speakers (nine on Luxury) and auxiliary jack, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob. There are front and side airbags for driver and front passenger, and curtain airbags for all occupants.

Dynamic stability control, anti-lock braking and electronic brake-force distribution are standard.

The base model rides on 18in alloy wheels and high-performance Bridgestone Potenza 225/45R18 tyres.

The RX-8 Luxury adds leather seat trim, eight-way electric driver's seat adjustment with three-position memory, a premium Bose sound system with 300 Watt amplifier and nine speakers, a power sliding sunroof and front fog lamps.

The GT features 19in alloy rims with sticky Bridgestone Potenza 225/40 aspect combined with Bilstein shock absorbers to sharpen the RX-8's already quick reflexes and deliver prodigious grip.

All manual models get a special trapezoidal double front strut brace, while the GT goes one step further with a urethane-filled front suspension cross-member designed to sharpen steering and improve feedback. A sports body kit consists of side skirts, a ground-hugging front bumper with integrated fog-lamps and a rear deck-lid spoiler.

The GT is 23kg lighter than the RX-8 Luxury.

Lightweight alloy wheels and body-hugging Recaro leather/cloth sports bucket seats are at the forefront of weight-saving.

The GT weighs just 5kg more than the base model.

Mazda Australia says it expects to sell 75 RX-8s a month, the standard model, making 10 per cent of these, the GT for 40 per cent, and the Luxury for 30 per cent (manual), 20 per cent (Activematic).


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Pricing guides

Based on 3 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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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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