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2008 Mazda RX-8

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SPORTS CAR REVIEW: Lots of people buy four-door sedans. They want practicality, reliability and value. They are not RX-8 customers. The Mazda RX-8 is a sports car.

Amazingly it is not an irresponsible, gas guzzling, and heavily polluting two-seater. On the contrary, the RX-8 offers a unique way of enjoying driving, bringing some friends along, and not breaking the bank at the fuel pump or at purchase time.

The RX-8 is the only mass-market car that comes with a rotary engine. This tiny, 1.3-liter displacement power plant generates 232 horsepower, with 159 lb.-ft. or torque, enough to drive the 3,053-pound vehicle down the road at a thrilling clip.

Using a triangular rotor instead of pistons, the RENESIS rotary engine is smooth and quiet, and surprisingly tiny, compared to a normal six-cylinder, or even four-cylinder engine. It sports an incredible 9,000-rpm redline - you can rev the rotary up till it howls to get maximum power out of it. With the low-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive, the RX-8 boasts a perfect 50/50 balance front to rear.

The EPAís Green Vehicle Guide gives the RX-8 scores of 6 on the Air Pollution score and 5 on the Greenhouse Gas score. Thatís about average for all cars, but the RX-8 is much more fun to drive.

My test car, in bright Velocity Red, came with the standard six-speed manual transmission, but you can order up a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters as well. Iíd rather shift my own gears with a sports car, thank you very much, but thatís me. The engine horsepower drops to 212 with the automatic transmission.

With four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock, stopping power arrives quickly and smoothly. The car also has a limited slip differential to transfer power effectively. All RX-8s have a tire pressure monitor to help you keep the inflation at its optimum level for performance and safety.

With its set of rear-hinged ďsuicideĒ doors in back, you can open up a wide space for rear passengers to enter and exit. I fit my sonís teenage friends in back with no problem. Even though thereís no center pillar, the doors lock in using pins so the structure is rugged and safe for impact protection.

Mazda loves to flaunt its triangular rotary design, so you will see it as a ďgoateeĒ under the front grille, at the top of the shift knob, in the headrests, on the center console and on the emergency brake handle. Two design elements are surprising inside the RX-8. The circle theme on the center console looks like a CD. However, CDs actually slip into a slot, just as in any other car. The brake handle features an additional lower section that seems unnecessary.

The RX-8ís firm suspension makes the car handle like a real road athlete, but every surface variation is broadcast throughout the car. A sports-minded driver wonít care - just pump up the stereo - but for day-to-day cruising itís not an ideal ride.

One handy feature is the carís flat card-shaped key. It never has to leave your pocket when approaching, opening, or starting the car. Pull it out to lock the doors when you park and thatís it.

Like the beloved little Mazda Miata, now known as the MX-5, the Mazda RX-8 is fun to toss around and feels like an extension of your body. The electric power steering adds assistance when you need it and drops off when you donít. Itís easy to get used to pointing and shooting through traffic.

The RX-8 comes in three trim levels for 2008. The Sport is the first level, with a generous list of standard equipment, including a six-speaker 100-watt audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. The Touring model adds Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlamps with fog lights, an upgrade to a nine-speaker 300-watt audio system, a power sunroof, an automatically dimming rearview mirror, and dynamic stability control with traction control.

The Grand Touring model, like my test car, further sweetens the pot with heated, leather-trimmed seats. The driverís seat has eight-way power adjustment. The Grand Touring also receives an automatic transmission and the keyless entry and start system.

RX-8 pricing runs from $27,705 for the Sport to $31,705 for the Grand Touring model - those numbers include destination charges. For this level of entertainment, uniqueness, and content, thatís easy to take.

If you want to be extraordinarily entertained, this car is waiting for you now!

By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Mazda Home Page

Byline:  Sports Car Review provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net

Column Name:  A true sports car inside and out

Topic: The 2008 Mazda RX-8

Word Count:  810

Photo Caption:  The 2008 Mazda RX-8

Photo Credits:  Mazda RX-8 Internet Media

Series #:  2008 - 25


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