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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-20-04, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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2004 Mazda RX-8: Introduction

2004 Mazda RX-8: Introduction
Renesis Check: Is The Twin-Rotor Engine The RX-8's Trump Card Or Its Achilles' Heel?


As much as we like our titanium gray Mazda RX-8's crafty, four-door coupe styling and its practical, pillarless rear Freestyle doors that make the +2 portion of the car actually usable, the nagging question over the next year will no doubt be: How good is this Renesis twin-rotary engine, and can it hold up over the long haul?

We've read the owner's manual stressing the need to check oil regularly, and we've already heard the murmured warnings about this engine's propensity to suck oil. As a precaution we've ordered a weekly oil-check regimen for our newest long-termer (and tossed a spare quart in the trunk for good measure). But we're assured engine improvements since that rotary of old-the engine that hummed in the RX-7 through the 1995 model year in the United States (sales of the rotary RX-7 continued in Japan through 2003)-have reduced the Wankel's oil-burning, rotor apex seal-cooking tendencies.

We, like 68 percent of the nearly 21,000 RX-8 buyers since the car went on sale last June, checked off the upgrade to the 1.3-liter twin-rotary (238 hp at 8500 rpm and 159 lb-ft at 5500 rpm) with the six-speed, close-ratio manual tranny with short-throw shifter (vs. the 197-hp, 164-lb-ft rotary with a four-speed automatic). While the higher-output engine/manual-trans package lists as a $1,500 option, it adds several features not on the $25,700 base model, including 18-inch tires and limited-slip differential. Once the extras are included, Mazda says the higher-output package actually saves the buyer $500 over a comparably equipped base-engine/automatic model.

From its sleek titanium gray flanks to its 18-inch alloy wheels, our high-revving, Wankel-powered long-term Mazda RX-8 is all sports car. But its wide-opening, B-pillarless Freestyle "suicide" doors and inviting 2+2 interior give this four-door sportster a practical personality that makes it handy around town and may pay big dividends in the long run. (Photos by Jim Fets)

Other options on our tester include a $2,000 navigation system, titanium gray metallic paint job, spare tire kit, rotary accent package, and the mongo $4,000 Grand Touring package that gives us bi-xenon headlights, fog lamps, dynamic stability control, heated leather seats (with eight-way power driver's seat), moonroof, Bose audio system, auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated exterior mirrors. All that took our sticker, including destination, up to $33,734.

First impressions can be everything, and with our latest toy the impression is a good one. Our readers who own RX-8s concur. More readers than we can remember on any other tester stopped long enough to dash off enthusiastic reports about what a blast they are having. We fully expect our joy at what the car promises to deliver to match our readers' in everyday driving.

While our testing (AutoFile, Dec. 29, 2003) shows the RX-8 isn't quicker or stickier than competitors like the Nissan 350Z and Infiniti G35, the car's neutral balance is hailed by all as an even more valuable asset when it comes to easy control and precise, predict-able, razor-sharp handling.

And in stopping power, the RX-8's 111 feet from 60 mph to 0 equals numbers posted by a Porsche 911.

So what's left to wonder? We've mentioned the engine's possible question marks, which only long-term testing will answer. We also worry about the Wankel's fuel economy, at least at this early stage where we've determined the car's smallish, 15.9-gallon fuel tank isn't up to the powerplant's prodigious thirst. Our fuel numbers have hit as low as 13 mpg, which is a surprise for a 3000-pound sports car that comes with federal fuel economy estimates of 18 city, 24 highway. Maybe once we settle down and stop running the engine in the 8000-to-9000-rpm range we'll see some improvement, but we're not sure we can live without the Wankel's high-revving wail for long. We'll keep an eye on fuel consumption and let you know if and when it improves. We also might try a tank of regular octane on the advice of some owners who say the car actually gets better fuel mileage burning regular octane vs. the premium that is recommended. But if regular hurts performance (as Mazda officials predict), you can bet the high-test will be back in our tank in a hurry.
We've also noted a distinct split in reaction to the RX-8's styling-at least until the rotary fires up or the handy rear doors pop open. Both features tend to mitigate any misgivings about our Mazda's Japanese anime-like exterior, leaving just a warm glow and the purring exhaust note in their wake.

Inside, life is a little cramped depending on seat position preference, but reasonable for a sports car and downright spacious when you consider the rear-seat room. Our tester is pleasing to the eye with its aluminum-accented pedals, footrest and leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel. The short-throw shifter falls readily to hand, while the seats provide a good balance between comfort and butt-holding bolstering. Though the car did not arrive with the in-dash six-CD changer we ordered, we have no complaints about sound quality from the six-speaker setup.

We've already judged the rear buckets a tad tight for long trips, but adults should survive in a pinch and youngsters seem to thrive in the space provided. The center console with its own pair of cupholders in back helps divide and placate. The rear seat is also a good place to put stuff that won't fit in the tight trunk, which is pretty much limited to a carry-on-sized suitcase and a briefcase or two.

All that said, our RX-8 remains true to its roots and original intentions-it's a sports car first and foremost and we'll no doubt evaluate it from that perspective in the coming year. And if it can satiate our sports-car jones while carting the children and a cooler and chairs to the beach, all the better.


Base (includes $520 delivery): $27,200 As-tested price: $33,734 Options: Grand Touring package, with Bose audio system, heated, power and leather seats, HomeLink universal transmitter, heated mirrors, bi-xenon headlights, stability control, fog lamps ($4,000); navigation system ($2,000); spare tire kit ($395); rotary accent package ($139)

Wheelbase (in): 106.4
Track (in): 58.9 front, 59.3 rear
Length/width/height (in): 174.3/69.7/52.8
Curb weight/GVWR (lbs): 3029/3810

Front 1.3-liter/79.3-cid twin rotary
Horsepower: 238 @ 8500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 159 @ 5500 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel requirement: 91 octane

Rear-wheel drive
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Final drive ratio: 4.44:1

Front: Double wishbone with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar
Rear: Multilink with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

Discs front and rear, ABS, aluminum wheels, Bridgestone Potenza RE 040, 225/45R-18 91W

EPA combined: 20.3 mpg


0-60 mph: 6.26 sec
0-quarter-mile: 14.75 sec @ 94.4 mph

60 mph-0: 111 ft

490-foot slalom: 46.3 mph
Lateral acceleration (200-foot skidpad): 0.84 g

Idle: 45
Full throttle: 83
Steady 60 mph: 69

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-18-04, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 2004 Mazda RX-8: Introduction


2004 Mazda RX-8

The legend continues. Mazda didn't invent the Wankel rotary-piston engine, but the Japanese manufacturer has been the most successful in using it for an automotive powerplant, and no other automaker is identified with the rotary engine as much as Mazda. Starting with the Cosmo, a small sports car, in the late 1960s and building its reputation with a series of coupes, sedans, and even a wagon and pickup in the 1970s, Mazda hit its stride with the introduction of the RX-7 in 1978.

With its offering of performance and style at a very competitive price, the RX-7 was one of the harbingers of the end of the automotive Dark Ages of the 1970s. With the second generation, in 1986, the RX-7 gained both refinement and performance, especially when the turbocharged model was released. The third-generation RX-7, sold here between 1993 and 1995, was truly a supercar in all but the nameplate. Its sleek looks and seriously sport-tuned suspension would not have been out of place on an Italian exotic. And a 255-horsepower twin-turbo engine in a 2800-lb chassis gave it a near-exotic levels of speed and handling. Its high price and narrow supersport focus reduced sales potential. And then ever more stringent emissions regulations seemed to be the death knell for the rotary engine in the American market. The Mazda Wankel seemingly disappeared after 1995.

Seemingly. The RX-7 soldiered on in Japan for a while. And, in 1999, the ``RX-Evolv'' concept car was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show. It was a distinctive-looking, very angular sports coupe with a difference - it was a 2+2 featuring four doors, with the rear doors rear-hinged and front-opening in the manner of those found on the sides of pickup cabs. And under the hood was a Wankel. Would this mean a new RX-7?

It was too different to be the fourth-generation RX-7. But, with few changes, it did become the new star of the Mazda lineup, the RX-8. The RX-8 really can't be compared directly to the last RX-7, as it is a four-seater oriented toward a broader clientele. But it is most definitely not a soft boulevard cruiser, it is a serious sports-luxury coupe that offers room for four - with easy access thanks to those ``freestyle'' doors, as Mazda calls them. Yes, it's softer and less narrowly-focused than the last RX-7, but it is also considerably less expensive, not even adjusting for inflation. The further-developed twin-rotor engine lacks turbocharging, but now develops 238 clean, low-emissions horsepower even without the turbos. I've been driving one for the past week, and am loath to give it up. Because of the door arrangement, the rear seat is nearly as accessible as that of a sedan, yet the rotary engine's small size and light weight make for ultra-efficient packaging. Light weight and a rigid chassis give the RX-8 the performance and handling expected of a serious sports car, yet it has enough space and versatility to be an everyday car. That's a winning combination.

APPEARANCE: ``Distinctive'' is perhaps not a strong enough word to describe the RX-8's exterior. It will not be confused with anything else, and successfully blends classic 1950s sports-racer cues with contemporary shapes and style. It's busy but cohesive. The protruding grille and separate front fenders in particular echo some of the last front-engined sports-racing cars, while the general shape, long teardrop-shaped passenger cabin, and complex front lighting system under plastic fairings are cutting-edge contemporary. The compact shape makes it look smaller than it is, and, even though the ``freestyle'' doors are apparent, the RX-8s still has the proportions of a two-seat coupe. The Wankel rotor's curved triangular shape is used in ornamentation of the lower front and rear fascias, and is also embossed at the rear of the hood, directly over the engine.

COMFORT: ``Convenience'' is a word not often used in describing a sports coupe. The genre is notorious for rear seats that are difficult to get into or out of, and offer little space for humans over the age of 10. ``2+2'' apparently means ``two adults plus two small suitcases.'' The RX-8 is different. The freestyle doors, with no central ``B'' pillar, mean easy access for all four passengers. Four six-footers are not in the design spec, but a five-eight person can fit comfortably behind a six-foot front passenger. All four seats are comfortably-padded and bolstered for support in spirited driving - and check out the Wankel-rotor shaped inserts in the front headrests. Make no mistake, the RX-8 is a driver's car, with very good instrumentation and near-perfect positioning of the controls. For convenience, both front and rear passengers have small storage boxes and cupholders in the center console, and there is a passthrough to the trunk, although the space-saver spare tire must be moved or removed to use that feature. Trunk space is far from station wagon standards but decent for a coupe. The RX-8 is as useful around town as it is fun to drive on the open road, and can easily be an only car, not just a weekend toy.

SAFETY: The Mazda RX-8 meets or exceeds all Federal safety requirements, and features active safety equipment including four-wheel vented antilock disc brakes and available dynamic stability control.

ROADABILITY: Despite the two large door holes in the sides of its unibody structure, the RX-8 is commendably rigid, much more so than the last RX-7. The small physical size of the rotary-piston engine allows it to be placed far back in the chassis, for what Mazda calls ``an advanced front-midship'' layout. All important masses are within the relatively long 106-inch wheelbase, for the 50/50 weight distribution and mass centralization that means nimble, precise handling. Handling is further improved by the lower unsprung weight of the aluminum suspension arms. When the six-speed manual gearbox is specified, 18-, instead of 16-inch wheels and ultra-low profile performance tires, a limited-slip differential, and a firmer suspension tuning are included. These all benefit handling response, with little negative effect on comfort. The RX-8 is more ``sport-touring'' than the third-generation RX-7, but for everyday use that's better. It's still serious fun on the right kind of road, and it's not punishing at all on a long highway trip.

PERFORMANCE: The RX-8's heart is its 1.3-liter twin-rotor rotary piston engine. Compared to earlier Mazda rotaries, this one is designed for lower emissions and improved fuel economy. The intake and exhaust ports are larger, and repositioned. A three-position intake manifold and electronic throttle control further improve response. But don't think this means that these changes mean a lack of power - with 238 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 159 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm with the six-speed gearbox, it isn't all that less powerful than the last RX-7 despite the lack of turbochargers. (Examples fitted with the four-speed automatic are retuned, for less horsepower and more torque, with 197 hp at 7200 rpm and 159 lb-ft at 5000.) Because it has no reciprocating masses, it is turbine-smooth. There is sufficient power for normal driving above 3,000 rpm, where is makes a sporty four-cylinder snarl. The real power starts above 5000, and continues to the 9000-rpm redline, with a ferocious buzz coming from the twin exhausts. The six-speed gearbox features smooth, precise linkage and well-chosen ratios, and the arrangement of the drilled aluminum pedals is conducive to heel-and-toe shifting.

CONCLUSIONS: Against all odds, Mazda has developed the rotary-piston engine even further in its innovative new RX-8 sports coupe.

2004 Mazda RX-8

Base Price $ 26,680
Price As Tested $ 33,760
Engine Type Naturally-aspirated twin-rotor Wankel
Engine Size 1.3 liters / 79 cu. in.
Horsepower 238 @ 8500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 159 @ 5500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length 106.4 in. / 174.3 in.
Curb Weight 3029 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 12.7
Fuel Capacity 15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91-octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires P225/45 WR18 Dunlop SP Sport 8090
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disk antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone /independent
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 18 / 24 / 17
0 to 60 mph 6.0 sec

Grand Touring Package - includes: xenon headlights, DSC with traction control, Bose(tm) audio system, day/night mirror with Homelink, moonroof, leather-trimmed upholstery,faux-leather door trim, 8-way power driver's seat, heated seats and mirrors, lumbar support,fog lamps $ 4,000

Navigation system $ 2,000
In-dash 6-disc CD changer $ 500
All-weather floor mats $ 60
Destination and delivery $ 520

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-16-04, 05:27 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 2004 Mazda RX-8: Introduction

2004 Mazda RX-8: First-quarter update
Still Checking: We’re Digging Our RX-8, But The Renesis Is Off To A Thirsty Start


(Photo by Roger Hart)

MILES: 6660
FUEL MILEAGE: 16.81 mpg
MAINTENANCE: 5000-mile service oil change ($32.55)
READERS: If you own one of the following vehicles, we'd like to hear from you: Volvo XC90, Chrysler Pacifica, Jaguar XJ, Volkswagen Phaeton, Mazda RX-8, Toyota Prius, Porsche Cayenne

When Mazda first announced the rotary engine would finally return to the United States as the powerplant for its new RX-8, there was much rejoicing throughout the land.

So we happily added an RX-8 with its high-revving 1.3-liter, 238-hp Renesis-dubbed twin-rotary to our long-term fleet as the sporty replacement for our dearly departed 350Z.

But now that we’ve had a couple of months behind the wheel of our RX-8, our yearlong "Renesis Check" has so far brought mixed results.

We’ve become more than a bit rankled at having to constantly fiddle with our dipstick to find yet another quart of oil has burned off. Not to mention having to pull up to the pump about as frequently as any midsize SUV.

We’re well aware these issues are not new to rotary-powered vehicles. It’s the Achilles’ heel of Felix Wankel’s groundbreaking design. But we expected better from the newest generation of the Renesis engine.

When we asked Mazda about the poor initial gas mileage, its response was essentially, "stop mashing the gas pedal to the floor." Our retort: "Who, us?"

To be sure, we’ve gotten our share of kicks running the Renesis to its 9000-rpm redline. There is much joy in pushing it to sing its rotary siren song. But it’s not like we’re jamming it to the rev limit every mile we drive. We believe we’re just like any other RX-8 owner who wants to have some fun with a high-tech, high-revving engine now and then. Isn’t that a big reason why you’d buy this car?

The RX-8’s 16.81 average mpg we recorded during the first quarter was far less than the 21.61 mpg our Z recorded (AW, May 17) during its yearlong stay (And yes, we drove the Z hard). It was even less than our long-term Volvo XC90 (17.66 mpg) recorded during its most recent quarterly stint (AW, June 21). Mazda claims a 20.3-mpg EPA combined rating.

More troubling to us is the oil-burning issue. Our trusty intern/indentured servant has been under the RX-8’s hood seemingly more than a local oil-change guy, constantly checking and filling. Any staffer who has gone on a trip of any length has usually had to go to the trunk for the quart of Castrol GTX oil we keep handy. We never thought it would burn this much, this soon.

Engine consumption issues aside, we’re finding a heck of a lot to like about the RX-8. It’s been widely praised in the logbook for its handling prowess, its firm, somewhat forgiving sport suspension feel and a quality, edgy interior that’s becoming a hallmark of Mazda’s vehicle line. And its only trip to the shop so far was for its first scheduled maintenance.

"It’s a blast to drive," said one editor. "The snick-snick gearbox is a joy to use, the engine is flexible in the extreme—you think when you get to about 6500 rpm it’s time to shift but no, the thing is just warming up."

While not all of us love its exterior design, the Mazda RX-8 is certainly sports car cool to most of us, as well as to the numerous folks who have asked us about it—or stared us down on the freeway.

"I keep thinking, ‘Wow, that girl must be 20 years younger than me and she’s checking me out,’" wrote a momentarily delusional staffer. "But then I realize it’s the car. So much for my midlife crisis... Bring on the next dose of 9000-rpm Viagra."

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-19-05, 07:02 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 2004 Mazda RX-8: Introduction

2004 Mazda RX-8: Third-quarter update

Keeping Our Foot In It: Still Having A Blast With Mazda’s Rotary-Powered Rx-8


(Photo by Jim Fets)

FUEL MILEAGE (QUARTER/TO DATE): 16.27 mpg/17.28 mpg
FUEL COST (QUARTER/TO DATE): $632.95/$2,177.76
MAINTENANCE: 15,000-mile recommended service, including oil change, inspection and adjustment of all systems, air filter change, tire rotation ($217.16); purchase and installation of four Bridgestone Blizzak 225/45R-18 snow tires ($1,220.06)

The love-hate relationship with our long-term Mazda RX-8 continues through its nine months in our fleet. You don’t need to search the logbook to read glowing comments about the car’s fresh styling and responsive handling. The short-throw shifter, clutch takeup and outstanding brakes are also noted in entry after entry. “Fun” is a word used often. The car’s acceleration is appreciated, too, once the driver learns to keep a right foot planted so the rotary revs in the sweet spot.

But that may be a contribÂ*uting factor in our biggest complaint about the car.

Editors hate the Renesis engine’s poor fuel mileage and the associated numerous gas-station stops necessary on any extended road trip. We barely averaged 16 mpg for this quarter—more than 2 mpg worse than last quarter—with numerous tanks returning just 13 to 14 mpg. With the car’s 15.9-gallon fuel tank, that meant 26 stops at the gas station for the 4748 miles driven this quarter—about 2000 miles fewer than we did in each of the first two quarters.

We’re also tired of seeing the engine’s oil level drop at times as quickly as the fuel level, though on two recent extended road trips—one to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and one to Toronto—the oil level remained constant. For the quarter, we needed to add two quarts of oil between oil changes. But we’ve added more than a case (that’s six quarts—eight altogether) of the stuff since it arrived last March.

When the RX-8 joined our long-term fleet, it filled the spot vacated by our much-loved Nissan 350Z. One question we set out to answer before the year was up was which car we would choose. We loved the Z for a lot of reasons—styling, performance, handling and the rekindling of the Z legend—and while a direct comparison of the two cars is difficult because the Z doesn’t have a back seat, the spirit of the two cars is on par. The RX-8 has reignited the rotary-powered sports car flame.

“It would be a tough decision,” wrote one editor, “but for an everyday sports car, and for the stuff you deal with 90 percent of the time on public roads, I’d take the RX-8.

With the Renesis’ lack of low-end punch, some editors wish the RX-8 could be ordered up with a V6 powerplant like the Z’s sweet 3.5-liter mill. Yes, we know one advantage of the rotary is its small size and light weight, factors contributing mightily to the car’s superior handling that we appreciate. Having said all that, we’d still like some enterprising Mazda engineers to have a go at giving us more torque.

Despite the complaints, the RX-8 returns a nice performance dividend while also having some practical features—like a back seat—tipping the scales for many of us in favor of the Mazda.

During the third quarter, the RX-8 didn’t miss a day of service, but it did spend a couple of afternoons at the dealership for routine maintenance. In mid-September the car needed its 15,000-mile service. A search for winter tires also began. With experience, we’ve found sports cars in our long-term fleet outfitted with aggressive snow tires can slog through just about the worst of Michigan’s winter weather. But finding those tires can sometimes prove difficult.

Attempts to get a set of Dunlop snow tires from a couple of well-known online tire stores came to no avail. We contacted the manufacturer directly, again with no success—the tires were sold out. We were beginning to think the RX-8 might have to be parked if snow was forecast, but a call to our local dealer found four appropriately sized Bridgestone Blizzaks. After plunking down $271.35 for each tire, we are ready for whatever winter brings us.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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