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 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!"
3 people out of 7 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."
2 people out of 4 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."
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By akat on Saturday, August 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 82,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "So much fun to drive, handles corners well, fast"
Cons: "ROTARY ENGINE"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I bought this car because it's obviously pretty and fast. I quickly learned that these cars have many problems. I learned they don't run well when in places where it is hot. My car broke down three days after purchasing it. The rotary engines are garbage."
6 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By SaRX8ah on Tuesday, July 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, superior handling, rare"
Cons: "not fuel efficient, lacks torque"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I fell in love with this car when I was twelve and finally got one when I was 19, I have no complaints. Its not meant to be the fastest car on the road, the Rx8 was built for driving, it rides on rails and will put any AWD car to shame. It is not my daily driver as I want to keep it nice and it sucks on gas but again its not meant to be a prius, People generally shy away from Rotarys, but like anything else in life it will last if you take care of it, keep up on maintenance and ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OIL! ~SaRX8ah 2010 RX8 R3"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Toad on Thursday, July 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 64,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "good handling with no modifications"
Cons: "have to learn to drive again, i.e. rotary motor"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I purchased my car to run autocross in a stock class. With a set of really good tires it handles well. With the same set of tires my 2000 Crown Victoria handles about the same. My Crown Vic is lowered with high end aftermarket springs and has expensive shocks, etc., but at the same time cost me half as much with the modifications. The condition of the vehicles is similar so performance per dollar i'm getting more from the boat. I suggest that weigh your options and consider what you want to do with the car before buying. If you just want to go fast on the street get something else."
6 people out of 13 found this review helpful