By KBB.com Editors
The RX-8 is one of those cars that can generate strong emotions. Owners love its neutral handling, unique four-door coupe design and lightweight rotary engine. Those same owners, however, often complain about the car's sometimes disappointing fuel economy and noticeable shortage of low-end torque. If you can overlook those eccentricities, and the fact that, when equipped with the automatic transmission, the engine is rated at 20 horsepower less than with the manual, the RX-8 makes a fine sports car, one that lets you take along three other adults and a bit of luggage. The RX-8's sub-$30,000 price tag, stunning interior detail and long list of standard and available features are just icing on the cake.
If you love the nimble, responsive handling of the Miata, but want something faster and with room for four adults, the RX-8 may win you over.
If you're looking for a low-involvement sports car (which is, to a certain extent, an unreasonable expectation), the RX-8's rotary engine, with its occasional fuel consumption issues and short-at-the-bottom torque curve, may not be to your liking. The compact rotary engine delivers its torque high in the rpm band, meaning you have to run the revs high when passing or accelerating.
For 2007, Grand Touring models offer Sand leather seat trim, while Touring and Grand Touring trims receive a standard six-disc CD changer.
Driving Impressions At idle, a slight, distinctive vibration is the telltale sign a rotary engine lurks beneath the hood; it's not annoying in any way and actually makes the car feel almost...alive. Slip it into first gear and you'll feel the pull of the 232-horsepower RENESIS engine, slowly at first, but then increasingly faster once the tach climbs past 2000 rpm.
Six-Speed Short-Throw Shifter
The RX-8's marvelous six-speed short-throw shifter can make other six-speeds feel imprecise by comparison.
A rear-seat console keeps siblings separate and provides storage for a navigation unit.
Slip inside the RX-8 and immediately the quality of the materials and the depth of detail will impress you. A combination of suede-like fabric and ribbed cloth inserts covers the excellent sport bucket seats, and the driver's seat features a height-adjustable cushion. Although you can opt for full leather seating, it won't have the same Velcro-like grip on your clothing of the standard seats, which is a nice attribute when hurrying around tight curves. The instrument cluster is housed in a dash-mounted binnacle that includes a center-mounted tachometer with an inset digital speedometer. Why Mazda chose this design is a bit of a mystery, as a nice analog speedometer could easily have been placed on either side of the tachometer.Exterior
The RX-8's styling will probably not appeal to everyone. Its bulging wheel arches, unusual half-doors and low profile give it a look that either draws you in or leaves you cold. The RX-8 forgoes a hatchback design in favor of a usable trunk, a nice feature if this is your only car, and it also tends to look different depending upon the paint color, with brighter colors seeming to accentuate the car's crisp lines.
The RX-8's standard equipment includes a 232-horsepower rotary engine (212 horsepower in the automatic), six-speed manual transmission, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), rear defroster, four cup holders, rear console, keyless entry, dual power mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, side-impact and side-curtain airbags, rear-seat pass-through, cruise control, sport suspension, tire pressure monitor, power windows, power locks and a tilt-wheel with touch controls.
The RX-8 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Each level features a number of pre-bundled options that can include heated leather seats, eight-way power driver's seat, power moonroof, Bose audio, MP3 player, in-dash six-disc CD changer, xenon headlamps, sport suspension, DVD navigation, spare tire kit, torque-sensing limited-slip rear axle, traction control and stability control.
The RENESIS rotary engine displaces a mere 1.3 liters by rotary measurement formulas, yet produces an impressive 232 horsepower (212 with the automatic). A maximum torque rating of 159 pound-feet is not much to brag about, but with a 9000-rpm redline (7000-rpm with the automatic transmission), you can milk every ounce of the engine's power before upshifting. What makes the rotary engine unique is its simple architecture. Instead of pistons, valves, camshafts, connecting rods and a crankshaft, the rotary requires only an output shaft surrounded by triangular-shaped rotors housed in chambers that are shaped somewhat like ovals with pinched middles. The rotary is therefore mechanically very simple, has minimal moving parts and is quite small.
1.3-liter RENESIS 2-rotor rotary
232 horsepower @ 8500 rpm (manual)
212 horsepower @ 7500 rpm (automatic)
159 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (manual), 18/25 (automatic)
By 7 year rx 8 driver (CA) on Monday, December 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 89,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive"
Cons: "Engine needs replacement that exceeds value of car"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"I've owned this car for seven years. The rx-8 is a fun car. It handles great, though it's not the fastest in acceleration. However, it demands constant maintenance. Usually about $500-$700 twice per year, almost all related to the engine. The engineering is just not there to the level it needs to be. Enthusiasts will rave about how high it can rev, and how much fun it is, but it's only fun if you have a garage to work on it. I've been very disappointed in Mazda and the Rx-8. After seven years of ownership, the engine lost compression, and therefore, the car needs a new engine that is more costly than it's value. In the end, it turned into a paperweight. When I made the decision to buy the car, I wanted something that was unique and in the entry-level sports car range. I regret choosing the Rx-8."
By jim (MA) on Monday, October 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 118,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "unbelievable handling."
Cons: "16 mpg. The car wont last longer than your loan"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"mostly highway driven never raced it. oil always changed at 3000 miles. quality: I went through the clutch recall and the clutch broke again 2 months later. reliability: experienced multiple engine power losses at 90,000 and Mazda dealerships were a terrible experience. value: engine ruined at 119,000. still owe 7,000 on it. it lasted 2 years bought it at 86,000 miles."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By JB (TX) on Wednesday, September 04, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "design, comfort, reliability, style"
Cons: "more factory support for engine, nav system."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased this vehicle new after researching it for a year. The style and design was and is top notch. Had to have the engine replaced twice, under warranty. The third engine is running as the first should have. Found that using 5W oil may have caused problems and switched to 5W-30 which seems to have solved the engine issues. Have thoroughly enjoyed driving the RX throughout the last nine years. The vehicle has held its value throughout. Too bad Mazda ceased producing this vehicle. I'm sure they could have worked out the engine issues and overall, improved the car to a superior performer in every area."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By jj (WA) on Tuesday, August 06, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, Drives awesome, Interior Design"
Cons: "Too tempting to burn out the clutch and tires."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love this car. I have had this car for a year and i wouldn't trade it for anything. Love the looks, the interior design is spot on. Love how the rotary operates. I wish Mazda would start producing rotaries again soon."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By FUN ALL DAY LONG (WA) on Saturday, June 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "BLAST TO DRIVE, LOOKS SEXY, GREAT INTERIOR"
Cons: "AVG 21 MPG, and PAINT QUALITY"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car is unique in so many ways. The 1.3l rotary is exhilarating and simply a blast to drive with 232 hp. The suspension and feel of the car is honestly flawless, and if you don't believe me just watch Jeremy Clarkson's top gear review of the car. Jeremy Clarkson drives the worlds fastest cars and for him to love this car says so much about it. This car is comfortable and extremely well equiped even by today's new car standards. The only downsides to the vehicle that I can think of is the paint quality (the paint seems to chips easily) and the cars maintance is unique. It burns oil by design so every 1,500 miles you need to add a half a quart and a light will come on telling you if you get quart low. Also if you run the car hard and don't either let the motor cool down or rev the motor to 4k rpms before shutting off, then you will flood the car. This is becuase the motor is extremely unique and now after driving it for so long it makes me sad that there may never be another wankel rotary production car. 2006 RX8 with Sport and Touring Package in Velocity Red."
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By DP (WI) on Saturday, April 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 112,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "corners like on rails. An absolute blast to drive"
Cons: "Everybody wants to race you at the stop lights"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I bought this car used with 30,000 miles on it. I have had it for 7 years and have over 112,000 miles on it. It is the funniest car that I have ever driven. It turns heads and I frequently get asked about it. That being said, it guzzles gas and oil. It is not the car for the person who wants to just jump in and go and forget about the maintenance on a car. It should also NEVER be driven on snow or ice. I can't begin to explain how bad it is on ice, even with snow tires. I have had no problems with any of the other frequent complaints I have read here. The air conditioner is still cold, it idles great even with the air running."
9 people out of 10 found this review helpful