The Mazda RX-8 is a true four-seat sports car. With near perfect weight distribution, it has great balance and precise turn-in. Yet the suspension is soft enough for daily comfortable use. The small rotary engine loves to rev and puts out lots of power. Mazda's lightweight rotary engine is a key design element in producing this light, nimble, high-revving sports car.
The RX-8 is a surprisingly practical daily driver. It's capable of taking the kids to soccer practice, with passenger space for four full-size adults. There's enough room for a weekend's worth of luggage or two full-size golf bags. The small rear doors and relatively spacious trunk make trips to the home improvement center possible. We know. We did it. It's not as roomy as a sedan, but it can move people and cargo when needed. And when it's just you and the open road, it can deliver the driving experience of a two-seat sports car.
The RX-8 is available in Sport and Grand Touring trim levels plus the R3, which features a sports suspension developed for serious enthusiasts.
The RX-8 is unchanged for 2011. The RX-8 was launched as an all-new model for 2004 then was substantially updated for 2009 with fresh styling, a more rigid structure and driveshaft, and revised rear suspension and gearing.
The RX-8 comes with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. It's a crucial choice because they are different cars in terms of character. The manual benefits from 232 horsepower at 8500 rpm, while the automatic gets 212 hp at 7500 rpm. Both are rated at the same 159 pound-feet of torque at 5500 rpm. The bottom line is that the manual model is for driving enthusiasts willing to shift for themselves, and those seeking maximum efficiency. The automatic is for stop-and-go commuters who want the look and feel of a sports car.
The 2011 Mazda RX-8 Sport ($26,795) comes with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, both for the same price. Standard equipment includes cloth-trimmed upholstery; air conditioning; AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and steering-wheel mounted controls; cruise control; power windows, mirrors and locks; leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel and shift knob; floor and overhead consoles; rear window defogger; variable-speed intermittent windshield wipers; alarm with immobilizer; and 225/45R18 tires on alloy wheels. Manual transmission models also get aluminum/rubber pedals, torque-sensing limited-slip differential and a rear lip spoiler. Options include Navigation ($2000), 6CD in-dash changer ($500), Sirius Satellite Radio ($430), spare tire kit ($400), rear wing spoiler ($360).
The RX-8 Grand Touring with manual ($32,260) or automatic ($32,960) upgrades with leather seating surfaces, heated seats and mirrors, eight-way power and three-position memory for the driver's seat, automatic air conditioning, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, 300-watt Bose audio with nine speakers and AudioPilot noise suppression, keyless entry and start, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with traction control, xenon headlamps, fog lights, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, HomeLink. Automatics get a limited-slip differential.
The RX-8 R3 ($32,290) gets upgraded suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, forged aluminum 19-inch wheels and 225/40R19 Bridgestone RE050A performance tires, limited-slip differential, Dynamic Stability Control, rear wing spoiler, side sills, unique front styling. The R3 comes with Recaro sport front seats with leather side bolsters, 300-watt AudioPilot AM/FM/6CD, Bluetooth, fog lights, xenon headlights, Homelink, leather-wrapped handbrake, keyless entry, remote start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, short-throw shifter.
Safety features that come standard include frontal and side-impact airbags (for torso protection) for the front passengers, and curtain airbags (for head protection) front and rear. A tire pressure monitor is also standard on all models. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution comes standard; DSC stability control is optional on Sport, standard on all others.