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Old 08-25-2006, 06:24   #1 (permalink)
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JP:Mazda's Six-Speed Automatic RX-8 Lands in Japan

Mazda's Six-Speed Automatic RX-8 Lands in Japan

Inside Line


Mazda has introduced a six-speed automatic transmission version of the RX-8 in Japan.

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Mazda's RX-8 is in the news again. The company has just added an optional new six-speed automatic gearbox.

Mazda this week announced that Japan would get an improved RX-8 with the optional new gearbox. The RX-8 until now has had a four-speed automatic. The revised specification also includes Formula 1-style steering wheel paddle shift controls.

The Japan-market RX-8 is basically the same 2006 RX-8 that has been on sale in the U.S. since midyear; it was previewed back at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. It is not identical, however; the automatic transmission, called Sport AT in the U.S. market, is called Activematic in Japan.

The RX-8 has badly needed the new box. Adding two extra gears shortens the gap between ratios and widens the overall ratio range, sharpening acceleration and cutting cruising noise.

The engine is hotter, too; on the auto RX-8; it gets the same six-port engine as on the version with High Power six-speed manual transmission. In U.S. tune, this brings a welcome 15-horsepower increase, up to 212 hp, which brings it closer to the six-speed manual model's 232 hp. Power numbers are quite similar in Japan.

The six-speed auto RX-8 goes on sale in Japan in mid-October. One surprise in today's fuel-conscious climate is that the 6AT RX-8 still gets a low 21 mpg in Japan's standard 10.15 fuel cycle, exactly the same as the outgoing four-speed. RX-8 fans would surely have hoped for better than that by now.

Stickers for the new six-speed auto RX-8 start at the equivalent of $22,000 in Tokyo and go up to $26,550 for the new sand beige leather package edition.

What this means to you: We still love the RX-8, and now it's getting even better.
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