Zoomer Consumer: Mazda RX-8
Admiring the beautiful, aggressive arched front fenders, I began to wonder why the roads aren’t littered with Mazda’s speed hungry RX-8. There’s enough intrigue in its design to compete with the likes of the Audi TT or Nissan 370Z, and with a starting price of $41,995 it falls in between both of those roadsters (the TT starts at $49,350 and 370Z enters at $39,998).
Perhaps it’s simply brand loyalty that has kept the RX-8 a rarity on the roads since it was introduced in 2004, or maybe it’s the fact that Mazda has continued to showcase a rotary engine under the hood – an unknown element for most.
Whatever the reason, the numerous stares I got each day I took my tester out on the streets, confirmed its mesmerizing form.
The purr of the rotary is brilliantly sweet to the ears. It allows for high revving (it redlines at 9000 RPM) to maximize its entire 232 HP and relay a truer sports car feel.
It takes a few rides to get used to the feel of the car. The six-speed manual transmission requires precise throws, so expect a few jerky starts – I definitely felt the rapid rush of blood to my face when failing to start smoothly on more than a few occasions – but after a few red lights, I quickly found the clutch’s sweet spot and off I went.
Because the engine is constantly screaming for more power and high revs, driving in the city didn’t exploit any of its selling points. It felt like it was chugging, underpowered and searching for torque. It’s only when you find open road to let it fly that its true character comes to the fore.
At first I nervously inched towards the 9000 RPM redline marker, not entirely sure how it would respond. Well, the engine woke up from its lengthy slumber to shoot me out of first and into sixth gear, roaring with excitement. I quickly gained confidence in the vehicle’s capabilities. The steering is tight and minimal movement is required to hug corners or take a turn at high speed.
The leather Recaro seats enhance the sporty racing feel of the RX-8, but minimize visibility from the side and lock you in the seat. Thankfully, the seat’s mould suited my body but I could imagine others not quite fitting the way they desire.
Unfortunately, the power-hungry engine drained fuel at 15L/100km. However, that SUV-type rating could be due to my need to keep pushing the car just a little bit further and a little bit faster.
And the practical elements? Well, there is a backseat, accessed through the “suicide doors,” which could fit your grandkids or squeeze in a willing adult. And, surprisingly, there’s enough space in the trunk for your weekly grocery run or weekend trip out of the city.
The RX-8 is an acquired taste – from its rotary engine to stiffer sports feel – but if you take the time to savor its unique taste, and have the open road to fully utilize its power, you won’t be disappointed.
— Travis Persaud