Mazda RX-8 (2003-2011)Posted by Auto Perceptions on October 23, 2012 at 7:22 pm.
Mazda designed the RX-8 as a front engine, rear-wheel drive sports car with four seats and four doors. The car has 50:50 front-rear weight distribution and is powered by a non-turbo rotary engine. It is the RX-7’s successor as Mazda’s rotary engine sports car.
Mazda has built rotary engine vehicles in the US since 1971. However, the lack of creature comfort and user-friendliness, coupled with the high price tag and declining interest in sports cars and coupes led Mazda to pull the RX-8’s predecessor, the RX-7, from most major markets except Japan. In the late-1990s, popular interest in import tuning and performance cars resurged. Japanese automakers ventured back into the performance and sports car market in the US, and the RX-8 was given the green light.
This time around, designers aimed to make the car more comfortable and user-friendly. As a result, one of the RX-8’s most distinguishing features is a pair of small rear-hinged “freestyle” doors to provide easier access to the rear seats. Having no B-pillar between the front and rear doors, the leading edge of the rear door acts as a “virtual pillar” to maintain structural rigidity. As a consequence of the overlapping design, the front doors must be open before the rear doors can be opened.
The RX-8’s predecessor, the RX-7, was designed as a no-holds-barred, no-compromise performance machine. Its awesome performance earned it legendary status among car enthusiasts.
The RX-8, on the other hand, does not feature the same level of performance. But it is still the RX-7’s successor as Mazda’s rotary engine sports car.
It seems as though Mazda needed a sporty car to fill a gap in its lineup, but learned some lessons from its experience with the RX-7 in the North American market. In an attempt to cater to
a broader audience this time around, it softened the vehicle’s performance level and added more creature comforts.
The result is, the RX-8 is not the best looking car it could have been. It’s neither a coupe nor a full 4-door, and has been given asymmetric lines and edges galore in the quest to include
its freestyle doors and increased cabin space. It’s like a mish-mash of everything from the customer suggestion box at Mazda.
To the RX-8’s credit, however, it received good performance reviews as a sports car. The updated wankel engine and power output have received much praise and the car has maintained a well-balanced construction. It also helps that the car was competitively priced and equipped.
The RX-8 has been campaigned and used in various racing series, and has seen a considerable amount of success. Mazdaspeed, Mazda’s in-house tuning and high-performance arm, has also produced various aftermarket performance parts and accessories for the RX-8. Eventually, Mazda remained true to the RX-8’s roots, and a high-performing Mazdaspeed version of the RX-8 was released.
Despite this, the RX-8 will forever be compared to the RX-7. Perhaps it can’t be considered as much of a hardcore performance machine as its predecessor, but the RX-8 has had a chance to create its own definition of cool; a customized RX-8 has even played a role in one of the X-Men movies (below).
Statement: It ain’t no RX-7, but it carries on the rotary torch with a flare all its own.