The 2008 Mazda RX-8 separates itself from the competition with an atypical power plant, takes its styling cues form an unusual place, and offers some real fun combined with decidedly non-sports car comfort. In its class, it won’t trounce any rivals, and the torque is lacking. But the handling is some fun without compromising a ride quality that allows the RX-8 to qualify as a daily driver.
Body Styles: sports car/sports coupe
Transmissions: six-speed paddle-shift automatic, six-speed manual
Models: Mazda RX-8 Sport, Mazda RX-8 Touring, Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring, Mazda RX-8 40th Anniversary
For 2008, the Mazda RX-8 gets a special edition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the rotary engine. This model gets special features like a gray exterior, red leather interior, a firmer suspension, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, a silver engine cover, and the obligatory Anniversary badges. The only other alteration is that the navigation system is now only available on the top trim level.
The 2008 Mazda RX-8 four-passenger sports car features two conventional front doors and a pair of small reverse-opening rear doors to access to the rear passenger compartment. It is available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Each is available with a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The RX-8 Sport starts off with 16-inch alloy wheels and the automatic transmission, while the Sport has a six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension, larger front brakes, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The other trims follow suit with the manual transmission Sport in this respect. The Touring then adds a sunroof, foglamps, and xenon headlights. The Grand Touring throws in heated side mirrors. A performance package is available on the Sport with a manual transmission that includes xenon headlights and foglamps, while the Sport with an automatic gets the limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension, larger front brakes, and 18-inch wheels and tires with the same package.
The Sport trim has amenities, including air-conditioning, a CD player cruise control, and full power features. The Touring adds a Bose audio system with six-CD changer, HomeLink, an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Grand Touring upgrades to luxuries that include a power driver seat, leather upholstery, and heated seats. Stand-alone options include a navigation system for the Grand Touring only and an in-dash six-CD changer for the Sport trim.
Performance & Handling
All models of the RX-8 use a 1.3-liter, rotary engine that sends power to the rear wheels. Oddly, the transmission really influences the power output. When mated with the six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, the rotary produces 212 horsepower and has the redline set at 7500 rpm. Those fitted with the six-speed manual produce 232 hp and have a higher redline of 9000 rpm. Torque isn’t non-existent, it just feels that way. Due to this low torque production, the performance potential is only achieved through very high revving. But an outstanding shifter and an engine comfortable with such rpms makes this situation mostly a non-factor. This Mazda is quick for a car but not for a sports car. Tests have shown a manual-equipped RX-8 will take a leisurely seven seconds to reach 60 mph and ran the quarter-mile in 15.4 seconds. This is far from class leading or posing a threat to rivals.
As far as ride quality and handling go, the RX-8 strikes a nice balance by providing a quiet and comfortable ride that is well-mannered. This could disappoint those seeking a sports car with thrills at the cost of comfort but should appeal to buyers wanting some driving fun and daily-driving usability.
All trims come standard with anti-lock disc brakes, front seat side and front side curtain airbags. Stability control is standard on the Touring and Grand Touring and optional for the Sport by means of an options package. In government crash testing, the 2008 Mazda RX-8 earned a four-star rating for driver protection in frontal impacts and five stars for the front passenger as well as four stars for side-impact testing.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mazda RX-8: 16/23 mpg city/highway
- Base price
- Room for four
- Material quality
You Won't Like
- Backseat access
- Style might not appeal to some
- Fuel economy
- Torque output
- Old design
Unusual, rotary-powered, four-seat sports car for those seeking the unique.
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