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 stan on Saturday, March 14, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love this car as a fun, sport, no frills car. All service done by Mazda dealer. Must be driven to understand the smoothness of the rotary engine. So many myths have been said about this engine that are not true with these models. Just good normal care is all that's needed, as you would with any auto."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
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"
5 people out of 9 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 10 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