Mazda RX-8: The last rotary-engine sports car

Stop comparing it to the RX-7.

5w ago

32.8K

Finally our first Japanese car review! We've been on Drivetribe since the beginning in November 2016 doing weekly articles, and we've never done a piece on an Asian vehicle. And we break this long and sad stint with a very special model indeed, the Mazda RX-8. The Japanese car could have been one of the truly greats but most people only remember it because it was kind of a let down. In fact, the RX-8 is a misunderstood sports car that will forever live in the shadows of its predecessor, the RX-7.

We'd like to thank Garage Caroll ​located in Geneva for letting us review this beautiful RX-8 ​that is currently on sale.

I must admit, I've always been a huge fan of the Mazda RX-8. I was just a kid when it came out in 2003 and immediately fell in love with its quirky design. It also made an appearance in the movie X-Men 2, so that did not help. I remember begging my dad to go for a test-drive, secretly wishing he'd fall for the car and buy it. That did not happen, but the very nice dealer gave me a die-cast model of a Lightning Yellow RX-8, just like this one, which I still have to this day. My fondness for the RX-8 did not fade away, and I still think that it's an interesting car that did not age a bit. So, why didn't I buy one?

First, a bit of history. The RX-8 replaced the iconic RX-7, and everything pretty much changed. Everything but the engine. It still was this curious rotary Wankel engine. A combustion engine that basically runs on zero cylinders. These engines may have a high power-to-weight ratio, but they lack fuel-efficiency and decent CO2 emissions. Many enthusiasts like this engine as it offers a lot of possibilities in terms of tuning, and it also sounds amazing. When the RX-8 got discontinued in 2012, it also meant that it was it was the end of this mythic engine. Mazda keeps on promising that they will bring back the rotary, but will it really happen?

the RX-8 is a misunderstood sports car

Jonathan Yarden

The looks of the RX-8 were also very different from the RX-7's. Gone were the round lines and coupe shape. The new car was bigger with two extra doors, had a more angular design, and was less powerful? Come on Mazda! When you have a 280 PS RX-7 Type RZ, you just can't release a 189 PS RX-8. Sorry, you just can't. Eventually, you could also go with a 238 PS car, but that's still not enough. The RX-8 was powered with a 1.3-litres Renesis engine that could rev up to 9'000 rpm. Not too bad, but it was still only capable of a top speed of 140 mph. Again, was this really the sports car people expected? Maybe, just maybe, Mazda intended the RX-8 to be more of a GT car. Indeed, the car now had four funky doors. Two of which were "suicide", maybe one of the coolest features of the car. Yet, there wasn't much place in the back for adults. All in all, the car didn't have the practicalities you'd expect from a GT, and the poor boot-space and lack of comfort did not make up for the lack of speed.

There only seems to be let downs. However, there is one really good thing about the RX-8, and it is the way it drives. The car is super light, around 1'350 kg and the chassis is very rigid. The result is a super fun car that has amazing driving dynamics. It's honestly one of the best drivers' cars you can buy with a limited budget. And talking about budget, the RX-8 is one of the most affordable sports cars money can potentially buy. You could find a running one with less than 100'000 miles for around £1'000. Could this be a future collectible? Well, they made over 190'000 RX-8s worldwide, so it's not a positive sign. However, it's becoming increasingly complicated to find a 100% original factory car that hasn't been modified. So, who knows.

So, why didn't I buy one? It may be one of my favorite Japanese cars, but I ain't dumb. I know that engine drinks oil like a teenager chugs beers on spring-break, and they aren't known for their reliability. Being a student, I am not ready to have a car that requires a lot of maintenance. However, that does not mean that I will never own an RX-8. Who knows, we could maybe do one of those dumb "We bought a car with the money we made on Drivetribe" again.

Again, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Garage Caroll for making this possible. This Mazda RX-8 is for sale here.​ It's a tad expensive but it's in superb condition, you can trust me on this.

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Comments (44)

  • The world needs Rotary engines again - yes they’re not very reliable and not very economical, but they give us that dosage of insanity that we need. They sound incredible too. 😭

      1 month ago
  • I've owned an RX8 for 15 months and around 20,000 miles. It was comfortable but the leather seats were too thick and that's a problem in the summer, it was great to drive, the engine was magnificent and it got a lot of love from people. HOWEVER, I had to call the AA 6 times in the first five months and it often wouldn't start when it was too hot, or too cold. I had to change the spark plugs twice, and the RX8 has two rotors but four spark plugs, two different sets, for some reason. And then there's oil consumption but worse of all, by a country mile, is fuel consumption. It was appalling. The RX8 has a fuel tank of 61 litres (16.1 US gallon) and the best it can do, even if you drive like a nun, is around 250 miles on a tank. Unless you're well in the money or unless you have another car you can use every day or unless you know for a fact you're only going to drive this occasionally, don't buy this because it's a big financial mistake waiting to happen. That's my two cents

      1 month ago
  • can't wait for rx-9, the best way to compensate economy for rotary platform is to go hybrid.

      1 month ago
  • Hey @tribe here's our first ever Japanese car review!

      1 month ago
  • A special edition MX5 with the rotary would be great addition to the Mazda lineup.

      1 month ago
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