By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Mazda 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 loses 20 horsepower, 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 2009 Mazda 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 2009 Mazda 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.
The RX-8 receives a slight freshening, with new wheels, a new nose and taillights, and improvements to the car's suspension and body rigidity. An enthusiast-oriented R3 model is also added to the lineup.
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. With a 9000-rpm redline, all you have to do is keep the engine between 4000 and 6000 rpm and you'll always find more than enough power on tap for quick bursts of acceleration. The six-speed shifter requires only the slightest movement to change gears, and the clutch engages so smoothly it's easy to execute neat, clean shifts. The steering is neutral and extremely precise in both its execution and feedback.
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 2009 Mazda 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 2009 Mazda 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 with 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 four trim levels: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and R3. 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 R3 adds Bilstein shocks, 19-inch wheels with performance tires and a 300-watt Bose audio, keyless entry and start and xenon headlamps.
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: 16/22 (manual), 16/23 (automatic)
By robert on Thursday, February 26, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "BRAND NEW MOTOR INSTALLED BY THE DEALER IN JANUARY"
Cons: "MAY NEED SOME BRAKES SOON"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"2007 MAZDA RX8 WITH NEW MOTOR FROM MAZDA DEAL ISTALLED BY THE DEALER IN JANUARY 2015 DUE TO A DEFECT THAT WAS COVERED BY WARRANY. I HAVE THE PAPER WORK FROM THE DEALER. CAR IS IN VERY GOOD CONDITION INSIDE AND OUT WITH GOOD TIRES HAS GOOD RIMS JUST A VERY GOOD CAR THAT IS IN VERY GOOD CONDITION"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By RX8 2005 on Thursday, February 05, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,520overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Paid $9990 with 48K miles in the dead of winter."
Cons: "only 2 ft could use more. has 2 rear as well."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I own a 2005 RX8 GT. I bought it 2 1/2 years ago with 47,000 miles. I only had it for 4 months and at 48,200 miles the engine was replaced along with the engine motor mounts upgraded to polyeurothane, throw out bearing, passenger rear suspension, and exhaust. Since then the clutch has been replaced and the heater controler as well as buying a really good set of blizzak snow tires. The car handles extremely well in any condition as long as the stability control/tracton control is on. I havent done any mods to the car as the more I read on the RX8 the more people state its very very difficult to make reliable horsepower gains while keeping it healthy and keeping the warranty valid. Speaking of warranty, im lucky I bought an aftermarket warranty as I have only spent a minimal amount to fix ALL the issues this car as had in the short 2 years ive driven it."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By Tony on Wednesday, January 14, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 46,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, Looks Amazing, Cheap Sports Car"
Cons: "Small Interior, Front Cup Holders almost unusable."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car is very great. It handles amazingly, that is basically what it is designed to do. It revs to 8500 RPM and that just makes it all that much more enjoyable. One thing to remember is that, as others have stated, it does lack in horsepower, however when modified properly it is fairly inexpensive to get 4-500 hp out of these things! Another tip is if you do buy this car, most of the power is made in the 5500+ RPM range, so you have to run it hard to get anything out of it. That comes to another point that I love about this car, is that it is MEANT to be run hard. A common phrase among "rotary" fans is "A redline a day keeps the carbon at bay" and I stand by that. These cars are prone to carbon buildup causing engine failure (especially in automatics as they dont rev past 6500) so every now and then get on it, it keeps it running right! Now on to comfort and aesthetics. The interior is fairly small, I've had many friends that are too tall and hit their heads on the roof and there is very little leg room for passengers in the rear. Overall great car, never had issues with mine other than needing to replace ignition coils and spark plugs because it didn't start well in the cold, which cost around $300, and I have put an aggressive 30k miles on it. Would definitely recommend to a friend."
4 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Al on Thursday, December 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "weight balance, smooth acceleation, Outstanding."
Cons: "Premium fuel. MPG 18-20"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"A real different experience when driving a rotary engine. Genuinely amazing handling. Outstanding profile. True Sporting looks. Ample rear seating; Four doors!"
7 people out of 16 found this review helpful
By Peter on Thursday, November 13, 2014
I don't own this caroverall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good condition, fun to drive,new tires sterio"
Cons: "needs some cosmetic work ,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"Good condition , sport package, great sound sterio, good easy drive and handleing. two tone interior leather. sun roof."
6 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Jen on Tuesday, September 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,900overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great driving experience"
Cons: "Inside is laid out with everything for cruising."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love driving this car. Has plenty of get up and go. Can make you forget for a little while about other stuff you don't want to think about. It handles great on dry roads, but honestly is a bit touchy when wet, and forget about snow. This is a warm weather sports car and is my favorite car, even with its little quirks."
11 people out of 19 found this review helpful