Better than: a Hyundai Genesis
But not as good as: a Nissan 370Z
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 82.20
The Mazda RX-8 R3 is a nice, solid performer. It handles great and is a good on-track partner when the revs are up and the rotary is humming along. That said, it’s an odd mix of love-it-or-hate-it styling, an almost practical layout, and abysmal gas mileage.
With a world-class suspension and a fun, rev-happy rotary engine, this car is at home on the track and around the cones. The fat, low-profile tires, 19-inch rims and Bilstein shocks make quick work of switchbacks and hairpin turns. The R3 package adds a sport-tuned suspension and the aforementioned Bilstein shock absorbers--these make the ride a little choppy over expansion joints, but they do help the car’s handling
The layout of the car, with its small, front-opening rear doors, seems practical. However, the rear roofline makes the trunk opening impossibly small. On a recent business trip, we had to stow our small suitcases in the back seat, as they simply wouldn’t fit through the mail slot of a trunk.
The EPA fuel economy estimates are a dismal 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. We returned 15.1 mpg on a series of recent fill-ups with this car. That’s really what brings down the car’s daily driving score in our book.
We’re ready for a new coupe from Mazda. The RX-8 has been nearly awesome since its debut in 2002, and we love the basic concept. Mazda, bring us something fresh.
Other staff views
I disagree that the RX-8 is better than the Genesis Coupe, but that doesn't mean I don't like the RX-8. The Mazda feels terrific once underway, and I really like the interior. The direct, communicative steering helps the car feel very capable, even when you're just poking around in town. It really comes alive when you have some room to play, such as an autocross or track day.
The torque-deficient nature of the rotary engine doesn't make the most sense to me in this chassis, especially since Mazda obviously went to great pains to creating a great handling car that offered room for 4 (small) adults. I'd prefer piston power for my family hauler, even if I'm only hauling them part of the time.
Add my voice to the chorus looking for a new RX-7 instead. There's an awful lot to like about the character of the RX-8, but the hybrid sports car and sports sedan seems to be a tough target to hit. The RX-8 is a car that I really wanted to love (crazy triangles and all...) but can't really justify in the end.
I think the RX-8 looks pretty cool, and if anything the quirky styling has grown on me over the years. You're not going to mistake it for anything else on the road, and that's an increasingly rare quality these days. I've never had to put the quasi-four-door practicality to any real test, but rear seats do come in handy if you know more than one other person.
The RX-8 is also a heck of a lot of fun to drive, and it offers a surprisingly pure driving experience in an era where cars are trending towards isolation and the defiance of physics with pure technology (see GT-R).
The abysmal fuel economy of the RX-8 is the one reason I don't think I'd ever consider one for my own garage.
Call me a weirdo, but I like the RX-8 better than the Genesis Coupe and the 370z. The RX-8 has always delighted drivers with its wonderful (Miata-like) steering feel and light-on-its-feet responses. It feels like it weighs about 1000 pounds less than the Hyundia or Nissan.
The gearbox is just about perfect, and the Mazda is a joy to drive on track or on twisty, uninhabited roads. Unfortunately, the majority of the time we spent in this example was in "real-life" driving conditions: slogging through thick L.A. traffic, the lack of torque and 3/4 visibility make this car a pretty miserable commuter. Couple this with the horrid fuel economy, and there are many, many better choices for a daily driver.
However, with used RX-8 prices dropping faster than Markie Mark's pants, picking one up as a secondary car or track toy makes a lot of sense.
As a toy, the RX-8 pushes all the right buttons. As a DD, it leaves much to be desired.
David S. Wallens
I didn't drive this particular one, but I figured I can pull rank and chime in on the RX-8 in general. The first time I drove an RX-8, I was in love by the time I had gone 100 feet. Seriously. While it's not a roadster and has more than two seats, the Miata DNA is so apparent. It just has that familiar feel regarding handling and ergonomics. If you like Miatas, then you'll probably like the RX-8.
Yes, it doesn't have a ton of torque--neither does the S2000. The RX-8 isn't a Z06 Corvette, but I still dig it. It's fun to wind out. The shifter perfectly moves from gear to gear. I love the steering.
As others have mentioned, two things hurt the RX-8's daily driver manners: fuel economy and carrying room. Even so, I give it five stars for overall.
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