The Concept: A four-door sports car for four adults
The Aim: To bring about a revolution in sports car driving pleasure
Mazda is the only car company in the world to achieve success in the volume production of rotary engine cars, the result of our appetite for new challenges. Since the “Marathon de la Route” endurance race in 1968, Mazda has been involved in motor sports, racing the RX-7, MX-5 and other models that have embodied the Mazda spirit and made their mark in automobile history.
Innovative Mazda DNA, cultivated throughout our history, continues to create new values that delight and move our customers. Our product philosophy gives form to Mazda’s DNA, and is based on three key attributes: ‘Distinctive design,’ ‘Exceptional functionality’ and ‘Responsive handling and performance.’
The RX-8 – on sale in Australia in July 2003 priced below $70,000 on the road – and the new Mazda6 and Mazda2, are new-generation models that fully embody Mazda’s Stylish, Insightful and Spirited brand DNA.
The basic concept behind the RX-8 is a genuine sports car in a totally new four-door, four-seater format that fully delivers sports car values and driving pleasure. In concrete terms, the car offers customers the following values:
Unique and unmistakable sports car styling that answers owners’ needs for self-expression, and sports car performance that assures unprecedented driving pleasure.
Flexible practicality that greatly exceeds other sports cars in terms of habitability for four adults, cost-performance and utility.
In other words, the Mazda RX-8 offers the originality and driving pleasure only a true sports car can give. Yet at the same time it is a sports car that can be enjoyed by families or four adults. To realise these unprecedented aims, Mazda pursued the following six key factors:
- Sports car values to assure driving pleasure
- Innovative sports car styling
- Practicality and functionality to accommodate four occupants
- Revolutionary dynamic performance that guarantees both driving quality brand comfort
- Next-generation craftsmanship dedicated to customer delight.
- Utmost concern for safety and the environment
By offering these key values, the RX-8 breaks the mould of conventional sports cars with its functionality and habitability for four adults, opening up a new global market.
The Mazda RX-8 delivers dynamic performance that directly communicates the feel of a genuine sports car. In real terms, this means sharp response, excellent controllability and extended performance limits.
To achieve the sophisticated dynamics our target drivers demand, we developed a dedicated platform and a next-generation rotary engine, RENESIS, specifically for the RX-8.
The new rotary engine is mounted lower and further to the rear, in what Mazda calls an advanced front midship layout.
The newly developed, highly rigid body and refined suspension enable sharp and linear vehicle response to steering inputs, delivering the handling of a genuine sports car as well as high-grade ride comfort.
While exhibiting unusually high power output for a naturally aspirated engine, RENESIS outstrips comparable reciprocating engines in terms of acceleration, the feeling of power in reserve and quick response.
RX-8's dynamics are testimony to the benefits of Mazda's sports car DNA, giving greater opportunity for drivers to experience the enjoyment of handling a genuine sports car.
The RENESIS engine powering the RX-8 has its origins in the MSP-RE that was unveiled at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show as the power unit for the RX-01 concept sports car. The name RENESIS was given to the engine as exhibited in the 1999 iteration of the RX-EVOLV. Thereafter, RENESIS, which stands for “the RE (rotary engine)’s GENESIS,” was carefully prepared for series production as the powerplant for the RX-8.
RENESIS employs side intake and side exhaust ports, and has approximately 30 per cent more intake area than the previous Mazda rotary, realising greatly reduced intake flow resistance.
The engine’s sequential dynamic intake system and electronic throttle control system deliver high power unparalleled in a naturally aspirated unit, with fuel efficiency and emissions also substantially improved over the previous engine. Fuel efficiency has been improved by about 20 per cent in city driving compared with the RX-7.
RENESIS is available in two variations: the High Power specification, which in Australia will mate to a six-speed manual transmission and the Standard Power unit, which will be available with automatic transmission.
Advanced Front Midship Layout
The naturally aspirated RENESIS engine, excluding auxiliary equipment, is approximately the same height as the car’s transmission. Furthermore, the intake unit could be mounted away from the power unit towards the front of the vehicle. In addition, the height of the oil pan is reduced to about half of that of a conventional design, and this allows the RX-8's engine to be mounted 60mm further aft with the dashboard being located 80mm forward, while the engine is placed 40 mm lower than the RX-7's.
Use of the advanced front midship layout, location of the plastic fuel tank between the rear wheels and other measures assure an ideal 50/50 fore-aft weight split as well as a 5 per cent lower yaw inertia moment than the RX-7. Locating the engine lower yields a lower vehicle centre of gravity, which, together with the wide track specification, has a cumulative effect in assuring high roll stiffness.
The RX-8's exceptional cornering and stability realise a class of handling that keeps the car perfectly attuned to the driver's intentions. And the advanced front midship powertrain layout, low centre of gravity and 2700mm wheelbase also bolster the RX-8's straight-line stability.
Highly Rigid Body Structure And An All-New Chassis
To realise the exceptional driving performance of a sports car, engineers devised a very rigid underbody frame and cabin reinforcements to give the RX-8 a body that, in terms of rigidity and low weight, surpasses those of comparable sport sedans of the same wheelbase.
The upper part of the transmission tunnel is a rigid closed section high-mount backbone frame running horizontally from the front of the vehicle to the rear, and joined to the main frame front and back.
The underbody makes maximum use of high tensile strength steel sheet in critical locations to assure sufficient rigidity. The optimised layout and large sectional area ensure a highly rigid platform, and the advanced front midship powertrain configuration enables installation of cross members connecting the frame in the engine compartment, adding rigid lateral support to the front suspension. In addition, three cross members are fitted across the lower open end of the transmission.
The RX-8 also uses a high strength construction for the formed side paneling of the door openings. A ring shaped tailored blank structure, formed from 5 steel sheets of optimal thickness welded together, provide local reinforcement where needed for the side panel inner. The panel inner is also a tailored blank, formed from 3 steel sheets, to provide added stiffness for the door opening and cabin.
Mazda designed the RX-8’s chassis to deliver unprecedented sports car driving pleasure through exceptional handling and control, while thoroughly suppressing road noise and vibration for a comfortable ride.
The low hood design enabled by the advanced front midship powertrain layout of the RX-8 allows the use of Mazda’s newly developed in-wheel type double wishbone front suspension. Upper and lower arms are mounted on a highly rigid sub-frame, and the long arms ensure linear alignment changes with jounce and rebound of the front wheels. To obtain linear control of compliance behaviour in response to input of external forces, upper and lower arm bushing has been given a new zero stopper clearance structure.
Additionally, the front suspension employs mono-tube gas-filled dampers with large diameter pistons, and the damper lever ratio (*) has been raised to improve damping efficiency. These measures assure sufficient damping force even with slight piston strokes and realise close compliance with the road surface over a wide range of surface conditions.
(*) Damper Lever Ratio: Ratio of damper stroke against wheel jounce/rebound.
The RX-8 employs a new multi-link (5 links per side) rear suspension system. Links have extended length and are optimally arranged to maintain correct geometry and compliance to keep tyres in stable contact with the road at all times, and achieve superior handling stability, ride comfort and low road noise.
The rear suspension was designed with a damper lever ratio of about 1.0 to assure compliance on all kinds of road surfaces.
Coil springs are located below the floor, and spring lateral force against the damper rod has been lowered to minimise friction. As with the front suspension, gas-filled mono-tube shocks with a large diameter piston are used for the rear suspension. The rear suspension also uses a newly developed six-point rubber mount system for the sub-frame. This arrangement assures rigid support for the links as well as a more comfortable ride with low road noise.
Additionally, the RX-8 is equipped with newly developed rack drive electric power steering that transmits just the right amount of road information back to the driver. The sports suspension version, fitted with large 18-inch tyres and aluminum alloy wheels, incorporates large-diameter ventilated front disc brakes and provides ample stopping power for sports driving.
Sports car styling innovation: The product of Mazda DNA
With the design for the RX-8, Mazda set out to create a completely new sports car form, while maintaining the sporty DNA of the RX-7 and MX-5. By this we mean low weight, a pleasing ride with exceptional grip and handling, and dynamic styling that immediately conveys these attributes. The RX-8, with its next-generation sports car dynamism as its basic design concept, takes Mazda DNA to a new stage in its evolution.
To give form to the design concept, Mazda aimed at the following new values:
- Styling packed with vitality and tension
- Space to comfortably accommodate four adults that belies the car’s compact-looking exterior
- A form that expresses the feel of a genuine sports car, as well as quality realised by the use of choice, authentic materials
- The emotional impact unique to the rotary-engined sports car
Original and innovative ideas, combined with the long, distinguished history of Mazda DNA gave rise to the RX-8’s unique sports car styling.
The overriding design theme for the exterior was “Athletic Tension”. By “Athletic Tension” Mazda’s designers mean a look that conveys a feeling of expectation or pent-up energy ready to be released, much like an athlete in peak condition waiting for the starter’s gun. To give concrete form to the concept, the design team focused on weight reduction, aerodynamics and other sports car essentials, while shaping the car to evoke three main attributes: namely dynamic form, stability and tension.
Dynamic Form is evident in a powerful continuity of surfaces beginning at the front air intake, and running along the body sides to the trunk lid. The desired look is not expressed in two-dimensional character lines, but in three-dimensional relief, conveying dynamic power from whichever angle the car is viewed.
Stability is the very basis of a good sports car design. RX-8’s cabin, while offering comfortable space for four adults, achieves a compact look by virtue of its freestyle door arrangement. This compact-looking cabin combines with the pronounced overfenders to shift visual mass downwards, creating low-slung proportions that communicate a feeling of great stability.
Tension is expressed by trimming excess body mass to produce an extremely taut form. Imbued with the sleek elegance that suggests a powerful athlete, RX-8 sets a new benchmark in sports car styling.
Design elements such as the rotor shaped power bulge and rotor motif rear fog lamp (European version only) create a vivid impression of rotary engine sports performance. Other features like the unique headlamp design and the combination lamps with mechanical overtones, and aluminium wheels, demonstrate a close attention to the details that convey an emotional message to sports car enthusiasts.
The basic design theme was for a “Comfortably Snug” interior that expresses the very latest in refined sports car taste. The spacious cabin revealed from the opened doors conveys a look of vitality and comfort, while maintaining the dynamic emotional impact of the car’s exterior.
The strong impression of vitality given by the interior is largely due to the continuity of form, starting from the bonnet’s power bulge, flowing through the centre panel of the dashboard and centre console to the rear parcel shelf.
Additionally, the aluminium side bar features of the centre console impart an impression of comfort that simultaneously has a somewhat mechanical aspect. The instrument panel is split into three sections: left, centre and right. The three zones are invested with new textures, color accents and soft materials chosen according to purpose, expressing a modern, comfortable ambience and refined quality.
Additionally, the three discrete and compact meter clusters, manual shift knob with rotor motif, front seat bezel, sun visors of lightweight-look mesh material and other details express the special qualities of Mazda’s latest rotary-engined sports car.
Driving pleasure for all
The force behind Mazda’s place in sports car history
The world’s first petrol-engined car was introduced in 1886, and just a few years later in 1894, the world’s first auto race took place over about 130 kilometres between Paris and Rouen. By that time, the automobile had already established itself as the means of transportation for the age, as people discovered the entirely new feeling of freedom that comes with motoring. The sports car has always been synonymous with unadulterated driving pleasure; its birth and evolution, as well as the popularity of motor sports, seem deeply rooted in human instincts and romanticism. In other words, the pleasure of driving is not inherently the sole preserve of a select few. Instead it is a basic value demanded by the overwhelming majority of car-buyers.
Virtually all of the world’s auto manufacturers have built sports cars of one kind or another. Some lack comfort and functionality, while others are extraordinarily expensive and targeted at an elitist few. Rarely has there been an answer to the demand for a sports car that is also suited to the needs of a broad spectrum of customers.
Mazda’s history of sports car design and manufacture began in 1967 with the Cosmo Sport. The car was powered by a rotary engine in whose development the company invested its faith, and even its life-blood. In the years since, Mazda has continued to refine its concepts and technologies to make the sheer delight of driving a sports car more accessible to the majority of drivers. In 1968, Mazda’s Cosmo Sport made its debut in the gruelling “Marathon de la Route” endurance race at the Nurburgring. The car gained 4th position overall and signalled the beginning of Mazda’s continuing involvement in motor sports.
The RX-7 first appeared in 1978, and matured into the second-generation version in 1985. In 1989, Mazda brought out the MX-5, a lightweight, open-top roadster that married traditional sports car values with the latest technology and succeeded in becoming hugely popular throughout the world. The third-generation RX-7 was unveiled in June 1991, while on the circuit, the four-rotor MAZDA 787B became the first Japanese car to gain overall victory in that year’s Le Mans 24-hour endurance race.
Our determination to offer an increasing number of car buyers the unique pleasure of the sports car is what has consistently fuelled our design and manufacturing over the years. The RX-7 was a thoroughbred sports car and the MX-5 a lightweight roadster, both developed according to the values of their respective categories.
Mazda continues this development tradition with the RX-8. In addition to stunning sports styling and dynamic performance, the RX-8 comfortably accommodates four adults, making it a completely new form of sports car poised to win the hearts of drivers worldwide.
With the RX-8, Mazda is writing a new chapter in sports car history, realising fresh values for the sports car genre in a new four-seater format, to answer the demands of sports car enthusiasts.
Safety in support of pleasurable driving, safety that defies conventional thinking on centre pillarless design
The RX-8 incorporates a large number of innovative active and passive safety technologies. These were developed to support the dynamic performance typical of a Mazda sports car, to bring fun and excitement to an increasing number of drivers.
Active safety mainly concerns the brakes and their ability to provide the stopping power required for real sports car driving. On the passive safety front, Mazda developed a body shell that delivers world-class collision safety performance, in spite of its centre pillarless construction. In addition, to address environmental concerns, the RX-8 delivers low exhaust emissions and high fuel economy. The car’s environmental impact is also reduced owing to positive measures taken by Mazda to advance recycling and other ecology-conscious practices.
Active Safety Worthy Of A Genuine Sports car
With the sports suspension type RX-8, active safety measures include large-diameter 17-inch disc brakes at the front, and a large diameter 10-inch single booster: combined, they realise some of the shortest braking distances in the sports car class.
Also included as standard on all models are 4W-ABS (4-wheel Anti-lock Brake System) and EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution) as well as DSC (Dynamic Stability Control). These measures allow drivers to experience the excitement of genuine sports driving backed by extremely reliable active safety.
World-Level Passive Safety Realised In A Centre Pillarless Body
With its specially designed, high-rigidity, crashworthy Mazda Advanced Impact Distribution and Absorption System body, RX-8 achieves world-leading safety. This is particularly true of the vehicle’s sides, which, in spite of the absence of center pillars, exhibit safety on a par with a regular four-door sedan.
The RX-8 is equipped with a dual-stage deployment SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) airbag on the driver’s side and standard SRS airbag system on the passenger’s side. In addition, SRS curtain airbags and side airbags are also provided.
To prevent foot and leg injury to the driver during a full-frontal collision, the RX-8 is equipped with an intrusion-minimizing brake pedal, while front seats are equipped with a whiplash restraining mechanism to minimize the chance of neck injury in a rear-end collision. Top tether ISOFIX-compliant child seat anchors are also provided.
To protect pedestrians in case of a car-pedestrian collision, there is a large space separating the hood from the engine, and newly-developed cone-type aluminum construction is used for the hood itself to increase crash energy absorption efficiency.
Concern For The Environment
The next-generation RENESIS engine, with its side intake and exhaust porting and other technical breakthroughs, achieves a vast improvement over previous Mazda rotary engines in terms of fuel economy and exhaust gas emissions. The RX-8 also extensively employs recyclable thermoplastics. Parts made of composites are dismantled and the re-usable plastic recycled into components, contributing to environmental care and conservation of resources.