The Mazda RX-8 is a sports car with a difference - not least under the bonnet.
2008 Mazda RX-8 GT review & road test
Stylish, quality, amazing grip and handling, well equipped
Notchy gearbox, firm ride, no torque, steering a bit slow
CarAdvice Rating: (3.5/5)
- Photography and words by Karl Peskett
The RX-8 was brought forth with much fanfare and expectation. Five years down the track, and Mazda has freshened its halo car, with a raft of updates that aren't immediately apparent, but certainly have refined it.
Stylistically, the original would have been a challenge. To bring it from concept sketch to full size clay model would have been fun. A geometric nightmare, to say the least, given the combination of straights, curves and angles.
There's revised front and rear bumpers, headlamps, and front quarter panels, but it's more than a skin-deep change. The internals of the RENESIS rotary engine have also had a makeover, with things like the gas seal lubrication system being changed from a mechanical to an electromagnetic type.
The final drive ratio has been shortened from 4.444:1 to 4.777:1, as well as a new six-speed manual gearbox based on the acclaimed MX-5 unit, althought that doesn't stop it feeling a bit notchy though.
However, we're not a newspaper and we don't just regurgitate press releases, so here's how it drives.
There's also the aerodynamic benefit of a body-kit, while extras such as Xenon headlights, aluminium pedals and leather-bound handbrake all justify the $57,625 pricetag. Or try to.
All of a sudden, you realise that you've hit 7000rpm, there's a slight lift in the Newton-metre level and the buzzer now sounds warning you that the 9500rpm cutout is only 500rpm away.
The grip is actually scary - not because there's not enough, but because there's so much that if it does let go, you'll have some big speed behind you. Thankfully the stability control system will quickly take care of that.
It gives you the confidence, to then wring every last revolution out of the smooth 1.3-litre rotary. Driving this car fast puts you in mind of the Civic Type R we tested a little while back. It's only really quick when you're completely dedicated. There's no effortless, lazy, torquey push like a forced induction or big bore car. Some people really like that.
So is it a tourer then? Hardly. Although the rear seats are cleverly packaged, the knee room is non-existent, despite having head and foot room. You end up sitting with your legs splayed, and that's with my driving position which sits a little closer to the wheel. Heaven forbid if you like to drive with your seat back a little more - goodbye rear seats. The ride is also too firm to cope with, if you're viewing it as a tourer.
It's a shame, because the RX-8 should be a real contender in this market, it should almost be a benchmark. However, it's time for Mazda to realise that just having linear response is not enough from a car.
As one of our contributors said to me, "If any car ever needed forced induction...."
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