The 2004 Mazda RX-8 is an unusual sports coupe. Available in two trims based on either an automatic or manual transmission, the RX-8 has a number of interesting features. It has four doors, although the design keeps this from being obvious at a glance. There is a backseat, and the engine is a unique rotary design, something Mazda has much experience with but is rarely seen elsewhere. The RX-8 isn’t the most athletic or famous sports car out there, but it is very unique, offers a lot of driving fun, can fit four in a pinch, is reasonably economical, and the base models are very reasonably priced. All of this makes the RX-8 a unique sports car for the masses.
Body Styles: coupe
Engines: 1.3-liter rotary
Transmissions: six-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Models: Mazda RX-8 manual, Mazda RX-8 automatic
The RX-8 itself is all new for 2004. The RX-8 brings with it Mazda's rotary engine, also in a return to the U.S. market. Priced less than its rival, the Nissan 350Z, the RX-8 also offers four doors and a somewhat usable backseat.
The 2004 Mazda RX-8 sports coupe comes in two trims that denote the included transmission: manual and automatic. The automatic trim starts off with 16-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, sport-tuned suspension, and dual exhaust. The manual trim is similarly equipped, except for transmission changes and 18-inch alloy wheels. There is a Sport package that includes xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, fog lights, and Dynamic Stability Control. Stand-alone options for the exterior include a moonroof, rear spoiler, and heated door mirrors. A limited-slip differential is standard on the manual trim and optional for the automatic.
According to Mazda, the exterior of the RX-8 has dimensions similar to a Porsche 911, and the driver can see all four corners of the car. The exterior design also has the unique feature of four doors, the front two are hinged in the front and the two rear doors are hinged in the rear, and there is no door pillar. This allows easy entry to and exit from the rear seat. Such design cues make the RX-8 a rare and interesting sports car with a really sharp and stylish appearance that offers some interesting functionality.
Both trims offer cabin features, such as a tilt steering wheel with audio controls, cloth seats, an audio system with CD player, leather trim on steering wheel and shift knob, air-conditioning, and most power toys. Options for both trims include leather seats, navigation system, more speakers, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat. The RX-8’s cabin is snug in the front and tight in the back. Not as ergonomic as it could be, the interior does have a nice design and some sporty style.
Performance & Handling
The 2004 RX-8 sports a new Renesis 1.3-liter, twin-rotor engine that produces 197 horsepower and 164 lb-ft of torque when mated with the four-speed-automatic transmission. With the six-speed manual gearbox, the same engine cranks out 238 horsepower and 159 lb-ft of torque. All models are rear drive. The RX-8 offers solid performance with either transmission, but the power doesn’t translate well until higher RPMs are reached, meaning it’s not so quick off the line. This may be a function of the unique rotary engine.
The ride is bumpy with some vibrations over rough roads, but not nearly as harsh as many of the rivals, especially the Nisan 350Z. The handling is what one expects from a sports car. The steering is precise and well-weighted. The turning and corning is sharp with little body roll. The brakes are strong with a short pedal throw and bite well. All in all, the RX-8 is as fun and exciting to drive as a prospective buyer would expect from a sports car made by a company that makes fun to drive minivans and puts its ""zoom zoom"" performance philosophy into everything.
Both models of the RX-8 have standard safety equipment that includes anti-lock brakes, dual-front airbags, overhead airbag, dual-front side-impact airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, electronic brakeforce distribution, low tire pressure warning system, child seat anchors, and an anti-theft system. Stability control is an available option for both models. The IIHS has not performed crash safety tests on the RX-8. In NHTSA tests, this Mazda sports car earned either four out of five stars or five out of five stars on all of the performed tests. These are rather good test scores especially for a sports car.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mazda RX-8 manual: 16/22 mpg city/highway
- Base price
- Agile handling
- Comfortable enough for daily use
- Room for four if absolutely necessary
You Won't Like
- Options get pricey
- Interior ergonomics
Affordable and unique performance car for everyone.
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