First Test: 2004 Mazda RX-8
Rotarians rejoice! There's nothing conventional in the RX-8: Styling, engine, and structure are unique.
By Chris Walton
Photography by David Newhardt
Motor Trend, May 2003
Rotary-engine fans in North America are spinning with glee--at 9000 rpm. Why? Because not since the '95 model year, when the last twin-turbo 255-horsepower rotary-powered Mazda RX-7s were sold here, could they warble the praises of the unconventional and compact 1.3-liter sport coupe. Back then, RX-7 R2s were peaky, pricey (as much as a BMW M3), sometimes spooky to drive, and produced substandard emissions and fuel economy. Yet many still say the last-gen RX-7 remains one of the most attractive cars ever to come from Japan.
All that's changed for the '04 Mazda RX-8. The new (non-turbo) Renesis 1.3-liter two-rotor engine delivers a linear and smooth 250 horsepower through a slick six-speed manual transmission and carbon-fiber prop shaft to the rear wheels.
We anticipated a hunger for more torque than 159 lb-ft would suggest, yet its curve is so flat and the tach needle swings so willingly that we have few complaints there, either. Taking 6.4 seconds to reach 60 mph falls short of the last RX-7, but it's good enough to tie a 260-horse Acura CL Type-S. Emissions have met California LEV2-A levels and fuel economy has been raised to an estimated 18/23 mpg city/highway.
Despite our concerns that the large double-door openings would produce chassis flex, the four-seat coupe's rigid construction, near-perfect suspension tuning, 50/50 weight distribution, and precise rack-drive electric power steering managed to assuage skepticism. In fact, blazing hot laps at Mazda Raceway (nee Laguna Seca) and a 67-mph slalom run (here at home) underscore the car's true athleticism. Appropriately sporty Bridgestone Potenza RE040 tires also helped achieve a stellar 111-foot stop from 60 mph.
Mazda says the RX-8 is a sports car like no other, which raises issues: Does the rotary-powered, controversially styled, four-door coupe RX-8 answer a question nobody asked? Or does it fill a niche long neglected by other carmakers? We're leaning toward the latter--especially because the RX-8 is so darn fun to drive.
2004 Mazda RX-8
Base price $25,180
Price as tested $29,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front mid-engine, rwd, 4-door, 4-pass
Engine 1.3L/250-hp rotary
Transmission 6-speed manual
0-60 mph, sec 6.4
1/4 mile, sec/mph 14.8/94.3
60-0 mph, ft 111
200-ft skidpad 0.88 g
600-ft slalom, mph 67.1
On sale in U.S. Currently
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.....