MAZDA RX-8 2003 – 2013

 2003 Mazda RX-8

2003 Mazda RX-8

Mazda’s RX-8 is a pure bred sports machine with many fascinating features. It’s a real breath of fresh air, moving off in all sorts of unusual directions at a time when other designers are scared of doing anything away from the mainstream.

Outside and inside the Mazda sports hardtop is delightfully different. Different to look at, different to drive – and most certainly different in its rotary powerplant.

2008 Mazda RX-8

2008 Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8 is a four-door sports coupe, not a two-door as its sleek lines suggest. The small back doors (which don’t have external handles) make entry to the rear seat much easier than normal in a car in this sporting class. They are hinged at the rear and can only be opened when the front doors are already open. All of which is complicated and sometimes a hassle in really tight parking spots.

Inside, the snug cabin has four bucket seats. The fronts are semi-race Recaro units. Those with a larger than average backside should try them for size early in your inspection phase…

The RX-8 is almost a genuine four-seater as adults can be carried with a lot less cramping than you might imagine given the sleek outline of the body. A surprisingly spacious boot and the little Mazda sports car makes a reasonably practical daily driver.

 2008 Mazda RX-8 Limited Edition

2008 Mazda RX-8 Limited Edition

The electric smoothness of the twin-rotor Wankel engine in the Mazda RX-8 gives it a feel like nothing else on the road. The fast throttle response and the buzz from the special engine is sure to put a smile on the face of anyone who loves driving.

Then again, the RX-8’s Renesis engine suffers from the usual rotary drawback, a lack of torque. You have to work at the car to get the best from it – which is no bad thing, after all this is a sportscar, not a family cruiser. Changes to the engine in July 2008 improved the midrange performance so it’s worth hunting one of these done.

Fuel consumption is high, expect to use around 13 to 15 litres per hundred kilometres in normal suburban driving. This can climb to the wrong side of 20 litres per hundred if you really get stuck into it.

Most RX-8s have a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s also the option of a somewhat antiquated by today’s standards four-speed automatic transmission. The auto is fairly well tuned to the torque characteristics of the Renesis rotary, but still isn’t the gearbox we would choose.

The tiny rotary engine sits behind the front wheels to give the RX-8 a mid-engined layout for excellent chassis balance. There’s plenty of feel through the steering, indeed through your complete body and the huge amount of road grip is both enjoyable and safe.

Standard safety features in all RX-8 models are ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, six airbags, stability and traction control. They have climate control, cruise control, a six-disc MP3-compatible stereo and leather wrapped steering wheel and gear lever. The topline RX-8 Luxury has leather seat trim, a premium sound system, powered driver’s seat and sunroof.

These days Mazda is a major player in the sales scene in Australia and has a strong, well regarded dealer network. There’s obviously a skewing to metro rather than country areas, but an increasing number of country cities and major towns have representation.

This isn’t the sort of car to tinker with if you don’t know what you’re doing so we suggest leaving all but the simplest of work to professionals trained in the brand and/or in rotary engines.

Check carefully into insurance costs as some companies have had bad experiences with the Mazda RX-8 and charge high prices accordingly.

Look for uneven wear on the front tyres as it probably indicates harsh driving. Also check for severe brake dust on the inside of the wheels.

Most sportscars are looked after like babies by caring owners, others get thrashed to the heavens. No marks for guessing which one you should be looking for.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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