2008 Mazda RX-8 Review – Japanese Rocket Ship with Turbine Smooth Rotary

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2008 Mazda RX-8
By Gary Chan


  • Rigid car
  • Driving dynamics
  • Driving position/seating
  • Engine is turbine-like


  • Fuel economy
  • Oil consumption
  • Small trunk and back seat
  • Low height
  • Low torque

I remember when a high school classmate got a brand new RX-7 in the mid 80’s … that was back when the BMW 320i and the Porsche 944’s were out … and have always liked the car especially the 3rd generation RX-7. Well, a lot has changed since then with updates and technology advances so I was excited to be able to drive this 40th Anniversary Edition. Having never driven a RX-7/8, I was excited to learn how a rotary felt and the driving dynamics of the RX-8. The last Mazda I drove was the phenomenal Mazdaspeed3. Thus, the bar was set high.

Driving Impressions
Mazda RX-8 40th Anniversary Emblem The gray metallic color of the car camouflages the sportiness of the car. Who would suspect a gray-colored Japanese car to perform so well; lucky for me, I never garnered any interest from the police.

Being a 40th Anniversary Edition, this RX-8 was endowed with a firmer suspension, larger 18” alloys, and badges commemorating the edition. The wheels and suspension dampers definitely transmitted small undulations to the passenger; my girlfriend and I joked as we made monotone sounds (over closely spaced expansion joints) that sounded like someone karate-chopping our backs. You could feel the firm suspension trying to absorb these small bumps as the car teetered ever so slightly back-and-forth. On the smooth, open road of Highway 5 heading up to Chico State, the ride was quite comfortable (partly due to the supportive, leather seats). Hard braking was controlled and strong. The HID lights are amazingly bright and cast a wide blanket of light (just like the Mazdaspeed3) making the included fog lights almost useless in additional illumination. The steering system is responsive and provides very good feedback to the driver. Linear in effort, the steering remains on center regardless of the road conditions. The low hood height and expansive windshield provide an excellent view of the road ahead.

Mazda RX-8 leather seats Mazda RX-8 gauge cluster

I liked the dash with its three circular pods. The center pod housed the analog tachometer and a digital speedometer. Both displays were easy to read regardless of the lighting condition. The storage under the center armrest provides two covered storage areas with an additional 12v outlet in the aft compartment. This came in handy for the phone while the main outlet , located on the center console, was used for my GPS unit.

With its diminutive size, the RX-8 is very rigid. The engine compartment bracing and the additional bracing that Mazda uses to compensate for the lack of door pillars combine to produce a chassis free from detectable flex. Zero-flex equated to responsive driving dynamics. Everything closes and opens solidly, although opening both of the doors (front and rear) in a parking lot (to access the back seat) creates a problem: you have to close the front-facing rear door otherwise you’ll be trapped between the two doors (assuming a car is parked next to you). The red/copper-colored leather and the aluminum trim pieces are of high quality. I did notice an annoying rattle behind the center console that would rear its head on harsh bumps. For a brand new car (with only 750 miles on the odometer), the noise was surprising.

Mazda RX-8 - Freestyle doors Mazda RX-8 - tail lights Mazda RX-8 - 1.3L Renesis Rotary Engine

The engine compartment is heavily disguised with various plastic covers. The main engine cover easily pops off revealing the yellow oil filler cap/tube, but finding the oil dipstick required a private investigator. I finally found the very small dipstick (with small pull ring) under some tubing on the right side of the engine. For an engine that requires regular oil checks, burying the dipstick is an ergonomic “no-no”.

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  • Gerald Williams says:

    I have owned a 40th Anniversary edition RX8 since May 2008, and I love it more each day. The only thing I have had to replace is the battery. Since i also owned a 2008 Mazdaspeed3 GT, the RX8 had stayed in the garage most of the winter, and the alarm system et all drained the battery. After charging it up a few times my Mazda dealer replaced it under warranty, no problem. I have added the Mazdaspeed Cold Air Intakes to both cars and it has giving me a boost in performance. more so in the Mazdaspeed3 GT, less in the RX8, but still noticeably faster.

    I have owned seven rotary Mazdas since 1973 , an RX3, two Rx4s (both sedan and coupe), all three generations of RX7; first gen RX7, later modified and raced; second gen RX7 Turbo II, later modified and raced; third gen RX7 Twin Turbo FD, later modified. And now the 40th Anniversary edition RX8. My race car RX7s were the fastest. The third gen RX7 twin turbo was the fastest and best handling straight out of the box unmodified, TRULY AWESOME. This RX8 is the most refined overall of them all, and handling is track ready and truly inspiring.

    I love these rotaries and will get the next generation with the 16X engine when it comes out, but also will keep my 40th Anniversary edition forever. It is unique and special.

  • GR8-RX8 says:

    I have owned the 40th Anniversary Edition for 3 years now, it is an incredible car that just keeps getting better and faster as time goes by.
    I have replaced the battery twice (I live in a warm climate), no other repairs or bad surprises, very happy with this car.

    Its sad that Mazda has discontinued the RX-8, it was a unique car, misunderstood by those who never owned one or drove it, loved by those that have.

  • a Mazda RX8 Driver says:

    i had this car since a year now and i think i have changed everything on the car its such a crap everything they fit standerd is so much rubish that even starter motor is changed too by me cost £300+ mazda R.I.P. my pocket will once i have paid enough installments to trade it back in and get a PROPER CAR. NOT TOY LIKE RX8

  • Gary Chan says:

    Hi Hayden,

    Don’t get me wrong, it is a very fun car to drive as a performance car, but as a daily driver, I would choose differently. Only the BMW 335 has driving dynamics that equal the RX-8 (though I have to give a slight nod to the Mazda for responsivenes). Have fun when you get your own and thanks for the feedback!

  • hayden hughes says:

    Im looking to buy an rx8, also the cons of this vehical dont put me. I just cant wait to own my very own MAZDA RX8

  • Željko says:

    Drago mi je što imam jednu ovakvu ljepoticu!

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