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March 2005
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2005 Mazda RX-8

The Good: Extreme sports car looks and feeling inside. Good brakes. Tire pressure monitor. Colorful interior.  Great handling

The Bad:  Too much hard plastic trim.  Seating position is uncomfortable.  Engine smell is worse than a diesel.

            Mazda has produced an award winning sports car in the RX-8.  Featuring a 238 horsepower Renesis rotary engine, and a highly emotional design inside and out, the RX-8 offers more to the buyer looking for performance and style at a low price point. 

The exterior of the Mazda RX-8 is radical and fun.  The large fenders up front with a rotary indentation on the hood looks reminds us of a concept car design brought to life.  Meshed grille work in the front bumper as well as behind each front wheel truly adds a sporty touch to this design.  The wheels look super-large even though they are only 18-inch.  The smooth roofline flows to a nicely designed rear end similar to a Miata.  The black ground effects on the rear end remind us of a Ferrari.  Headlights and taillights are designed very well with beautiful clear covers and nicely layered parts inside.  Overall it is a very muscular car that sits low to the ground with wheels pushed about as far out as is possible, all making for a exciting feeling just looking at the RX-8 standing still.

Interior styling is radical in a red and black coloring.  The seats immediately grab your attention with their bold design.  Ribbed outer edges makes this feel more like a suit you are about to get into rather than a typical car seat.  The sheets are shelled in back with a hard grey plastic much like higher end Porsche seats. 

We liked the thick two-tone steering wheel with remote controls for stereo, even though the buttons are a bit hard to push at time.  Details are done nicely from the aluminum colored gas pedals with dotted rubber, to the rotary design themes on the shift knob, to the fabric material used on the roof paneling, to the full length center console going all the way back to the rear of the car inside.  These items make the car look and feel very extreme in nature inside. 

The large parking handle was troublesome, sticking out in the center console.  The instrument gauges are done nicely in a white on black color during the day, then transforming to a red on blue background.  The center stack holds the built in CD-changer and simple manual climate controls.  We did not like the thin red digital information display screen on top of the dash.  A larger information display in full color would be much nicer. 

The seating position inside is a bit awkward.  The A pillar and windshield seems to be too close to your head in most seat positions.  If the seats are positioned all the way down, you are sitting very low on the floor, with little leg support.  If you move up, things are better but the A pillar is too close and the rear view mirror is too low.  The clutch pedal is also quite far when sitting the proper distance from the steering wheel.  The view all around is good and what you would expect for a sports car. 

            Many touches like the glossy piano black trim does look and feel very good.  However the hard plastic on top of the dash, on the doors, and the center console just takes away a great deal from the feeling of a well-built car inside.  Using leather wrapped materials on these areas rather than the very hard plastic found in most other cars would have made this a much nicer experience inside. 

            The unique ‘Freestyle’ door system provides easy access to the rear seats.  Although legroom is a tight for an adult, it is a full sized seat with a high center console which serves as an armrest.  It is a cozy feeling but not as crampt as in other very small cars.   The seat bottom is also angled for a comfortable position.  Excellent side impact protection is not forgotten as the system used vertical reinforcement beams with special top and bottom latches to create a “virtual” center pillar.

            The rear trunk is small in depth but quite deep for small bags.  There is a pass through to the inside cabin for longer items should you need to carry skis.  The lack of a spare tire saves room and is replaced with an inflation kit.  

            Get behind the wheel and turn the key on a cold morning and the engine sounds like it may not start.  But after a slight hesitation, the rotary engine starts up every time during our cold week of testing.  Shifting into reverse is difficult as the short shifter must be pushed down and then deeply to the right.  It is very much a guessing game rather than a feeling of confidence.  However once you get going into first and second, the car is all zoom zoom zoom. 

            Rotary engines are lighter and more compact than their piston driven counterparts.  Rotary engines use less parts, which often leads to longer life.  However rotary engines also give off more odor than a piston driven engine.  We found the RX-8’s 238 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 159 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm to be plenty to move the car quickly.  The 50:50 weight distribution provides a stable ride in curves and makes for a fun time behind the wheel. 

            The wide stance of the RX-8 makes for a fun-driving machine.  From the drivers seat you can view the two large front fenders, and the rotary insignia depression in the front hood.  Pressing down on the accelerator pushes forward this light vehicle easily to very quick speeds.  The high rev limiter makes for a musical journey, just be sure not to startle the other cars around you.  The sport summer tires genuinely help this car cut razor sharp corners.  Its wide stance can be felt easily behind the wheel.  Steering is very precise and although the feeling of connection to the road as felt in a Porsche is not exactly there, neither is the high price tag. 
            The driver and front passenger get protection in front-end collisions from a second generation front air bag Supplemental Restraint System (SRS)*. Additional protection is offered through standard side-impact air bags and inflatable side curtains that offer head protection in certain types of collisions. Antilock brakes as well as electronic brakeforce distribution adds a extra layer of safety. 

            Overall if you are looking for an amazing exterior shape, with a fun design on the inside, then this is a car that is not going to put you to sleep.  There is little else on the market in this price range that offers such a good sporty driving experience.  The RX8 is not bland inside, with a nice touch of custom car like materials used throughout.  A slightly higher and taller cabin would probably do wonders for this car giving you a better driving position.  However overall quality and workmanship of materials used is very good. 



Base Pricing 24,844 26,875
Destination 560 560
Appearance Pkg
Includes Front Air Dam & Side & Rear Aero Flares.
775 970
Grand Touring Pkg • Base w/Manual Trans  Includes Touring Pkg, Leather Surfaced Seat Trim, 8-Way Power Driver's Seat Adjuster, Heated Seats & Heated O/S Mirrors.
3,656 4,250
Sport Pkg • Base w/Manual Trans Includes Fog Lights, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, HID Headlamps, Limited Slip Rear Axle, Sport Suspension, Larger Brakes & (4) P225/45R18 Tires. 1,118 1,300
Touring Pkg • Base w/Manual Trans  Includes Sport Pkg, Bose Radio System, Automatic Day/Night Mirror, Garage Door Opener & Moon Roof.
2,559 2,975
Navigation System 1,721 2,000


  2005 Mazda RX-8
Manual 4dr Coupe (1.3L 2rtr 6M)
2005 Ford Mustang
GT Deluxe 2dr Coupe (4.6L 8cyl 5M)
2005 Nissan 350Z
2dr Hatchback (3.5L 6cyl 6M)
2005 Honda S2000
2dr Roadster (2.2L 4cyl 6M)
2005 BMW 3 Series
325Ci Rwd 2dr Coupe (2.5L 6cyl 5M)
MSRP $26,875 $24,945 $26,700 $33,150 $31,700
Invoice $24,844 $22,855 $24,972 $29,820 $29,025
Basic 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi.
Base Engine Displacement 1.3 liters 4.6 liters 3.5 liters 2.2 liters 2.5 liters
Valvetrain   24 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
16 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
Horsepower 238 hp @ 8500 rpm 300 hp @ 5750 rpm 287 hp @ 6200 rpm 240 hp @ 7800 rpm 184 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 159 ft-lbs. @ 5500 rpm 320 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 274 ft-lbs. @ 4800 rpm 162 ft-lbs. @ 6500 rpm 175 ft-lbs. @ 3500 rpm
Tires P225/45ZR18
all season
all season
Wheels alloy rims
18 x 8.0 in.
painted alloy rims
17 x 8.0 in.
alloy rims
17 x 8.0 in.
alloy rims
17 x 8.5 in.
alloy rims
16 x 7.0 in.
Driver Seat Power Adjustable 8 - Optional 6 Not Available Not Available 8 - Optional
Navigation System DVD navigation system - Optional Not Available Not Available Not Available DVD navigation system - Optional
City 18 mpg. 17 mpg. 20 mpg. 20 mpg. 20 mpg.
Highway 24 mpg. 25 mpg. 26 mpg. 25 mpg. 29 mpg.
Exterior RX-8 Mustang 350Z S2000 3 Series
Length 174.3 in. 187.6 in. 169.6 in. 162.2 in. 176.7 in.
Width 69.7 in. 74 in. 71.5 in. 68.9 in. 69.2 in.
Height 52.8 in. 54.5 in. 51.9 in. 50 in. 53.9 in.
Weight 3029 lbs. 3450 lbs. 3188 lbs. 2835 lbs. 3197 lbs.
Wheel Base 106.4 in. 107.1 in. 104.3 in. 94.5 in. 107.3 in.
Ground Clearance 4.7 in. 5.7 in.   4.2 in.  
Front Headroom 38.2 in. 38.6 in. 38.2 in. 34.6 in. 36.3 in.
Rear Headroom 36.8 in. 35 in.     36.2 in.
Front Shoulder Room 54.9 in. 55.4 in. 53.6 in. 50.7 in. 54.5 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 54.9 in. 53.3 in.     52.7 in.
Front Hip Room 53.4 in. 53.6 in. 53.9 in. 49.8 in.  
Front Leg Room 42.7 in. 42.7 in. 42.6 in. 44.3 in. 41.7 in.
Rear Leg Room 32.3 in. 31 in.     33.2 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 7.6 cu.ft. 12.3 cu.ft. 6.8 cu.ft. 5 cu.ft. 9.5 cu.ft.


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