Rave Reviews From Top Gear for RX8 coupe
Posted on 28 Mar 2007
Novel cross-breed between a coupe and a saloon, featuring back-hinged rear doors to give access to the seats. Power comes from a smooth but peaky rotary engine
No more Wankel jokes, please folks. The RX-8 is a stroke of genius from Mazda
There's no denying that Mazda's RX-8 looks fantastic. With bold curves, wide wheelarches and glitzy details, it's a real head-turner. Practical and affordable, the RX-8 also happens to be a sports car.
At the heart of it all is a unique rotary engine - the latest in a line that can be traced back to 1967. The Renesis engine is a twin-rotary unit with a combined displacement of 1.3 litres. OK, it sounds puny, but it produces 189bhp or 228bhp depending on the state of tune.
Behind each of the front doors is another mini-door with no exterior handle. When the front doors are open, these can open rearwards and leave a large, pillarless hole to allow rear-seat passengers easy access. This makes the RX-8 surprisingly practical for up to four adults. The interior is suitably performance-oriented, with a high transmission tunnel running between the front and rear sports seats.
One of the main benefits of that Renesis engine is its incredibly compact size, which allowed Mazda's engineers to position it very close to the centre of the car for perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
Well-balanced handling with little understeer is the result. The RX-8
attacks corners with relish, feeling taut and giving the confidence to make the most of that rev-happy engine. On the down side, a lack of torque means you really need to work the gears.
Brain and brawn helped Mazda pioneer rotary engine technology, and its beautiful and clever RX-8 demonstrates the concept perfectly with its high-revving engine and distinctive rotary roar from its twin exhausts. But it doesn't end there because the RX-8 is fast, well balanced, well made, great inside and loaded with impressive gadgetry. Unlike other coupes it is also quite practical - its clever reverse-hinged rear doors providing easy access to the rear seats, allowing (only) four adults to be seated in relative comfort.
There are two models to choose from, both with 1.3-litre engines - one offering 190bhp, the other 228 and a six-speed box to go with it. Both score highly in the performance stakes, at the expense of a rather unhealthy familiarity with the petrol pumps. Now that the first ones well past their first birthday, prices are on a downward trajectory - albeit a very gentle one.
Only 10,000 or so have been registered so far, so there really won't be much choice beyond private vendors and ex-demo stock at main dealers. At least taking the latter of these options means you'll skip the four-month new car waiting list and bag a whole load of extras for nothing. Ideally, you're looking for a red, grey or black one with leather and satnav. For resale, avoid the vivid Brilliant Yellow at all costs.
Don't worry about reliability - it's a Mazda - but be wary of any kind of import, as residuals for these will be worth considerably less than kosher UK cars.
Now, here's the important bit. While the tweaked version might seem like the obvious choice, the 189bhp version actually has more torque - 162Ib ft at 5000rpm instead of 156Ib ft at 5500 - and you'll only notice the power deficit when hammering it. This means two things: firstly, it will be more responsive around town, and secondly - you'll be able to get one more cheaply by using the fact that it's not the 'more powerful model' as a handy bargaining tool. Win, win in other words. Added to which, a fire in the factory pre-Christmas 2004 has set production back by several months, so the waiting list has just got longer, keeping residuals high.
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