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.
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.
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.
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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