By KBB.com Editors
Many car companies assign the word "unique" to their cars, but in the case of the 2011 Mazda RX-8, the term truly applies. What makes the RX-8 unique? The answer is a combination of attributes beginning with Mazda's RENESIS rotary engine, the only such engine offered in a production car. Then there are the RX-8's small reverse-facing rear doors, another feature you won't find on any other sports car in its class. Of course, the RX-8's lightweight and impressive handling have earned it praise from owners and enthusiasts alike, but there is a dark side to being unique. Despite improvements made last year, the rotary engine still consumes oil at a greater rate than a traditional piston engine, and the RX-8's fuel economy can be downright abysmal. Still, if you can live with these eccentricities, the RX-8's cool look, roomy rear seat and good size trunk make it a very easy sports car to live with.
If you love the idea of a lightweight sports car with neutral handling and a high-revving engine, the 2011 Mazda RX-8 makes a wonderful companion.
If you're looking for a sports car with strong low-end torque or a deep, rumbling growl, something like the Nissan 370Z or Chevrolet Camaro SS might be a better fit. Those who prefer an automatic transmission will find they must give up 20 horsepower compared to the RX-8 equipped with the six-speed manual.
There are no major changes for 2011.
Driving Impressions While resting at idle, the RX-8 exhibits the distinctive vibration that is the calling card of its rotary engine. The vibration is not intrusive in any way, and actually makes...the car feel as though it has a beating heart. Slipping into first gear, the 232-horsepower RENESIS engine is slow to pull away at first, but as the rpm rise, the 2011 Mazda RX-8 is swept up in a rush of power that propels it forward. Given the RX-8's 9000 rpm redline, keeping the engine between 4000 and 6000 rpm will ensure there is plenty of power (and torque) on hand when needed. Mazda's six-speed manual is one of our favorites, requiring only the slightest flicks to slip from gear to gear. The electrically controlled 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.
The 2011 Mazda RX-8's interior design is nearly ten years old, yet it still looks fresh and original. Beyond the high quality materials and intricate design elements (the triangular rotary piston shape is repeated throughout the cockpit), the RX-8 offers an excellent set of front and rear bucket-style seats covered in either ribbed sport cloth or leather, a rather roomy rear seat and, on the R3, Recaro front sport seats. The RX-8's instrument cluster is clearly influenced by the track, with a large tachometer front and center, flanked on either side by gauges for the temperature and fuel. The RX-8's speedometer is located inside the tachometer housing in the form of a small digital readout. One drawback of the RX-8's aging design is the lack of some more modern audio features, such as an iPod integration cable to permit iPod control via the stereo. Currently, the only way to listen to music from an iPod is through the auxiliary audio input jack located in the center console.Exterior
The 2011 Mazda RX-8's styling has aged well and still carries the same bulging front wheel arches, reverse-facing rear doors and low roofline as when it first debuted back in 2003. Whereas many fastback coupes employ a hatchback design, the RX-8 has a proper trunk, which allows valuables to remain secure. 18-inch, ten-spoke wheels are standard on the Sport and Grand Touring trims, with 19-inch wheels standard on the R3. All models show off LED tail lamps and large chrome exhaust tips.
The 2011 Mazda 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, six-speaker 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. Grand Touring models gain a power moonroof, heated leather front seats, rain sensing wipers, traction and stability control, auto on/off HID headlamps, automatic air conditioning, torque-sensing limited slip differential, heated side mirrors, power driver's seat and a 300-watt, nine-speaker Bose Centerpoint audio system with six-disc CD changer. The R3 adds to the Sport's standard equipment a sport tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, side sills, fog lights, 19-inch wheels wrapped in performance rubber and Recaro sport seats.
The Grand Touring model can be equipped with a DVD navigation system, while Sport and R3 trims can have Sirius Satellite Radio and a six-disc CD changer installed.
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 (7500-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 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