2005 Mazda RX-8
The Good: Extreme sports car looks and feeling
inside. Good brakes. Tire pressure monitor. Colorful interior. Great
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
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
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.