A couple of years ago, when I was managing an online auto store for a major dealer group outside of Boston, I drove a Mazda RX8 GT Coupe.
It was surprising in many ways:
It sat four in a reasonable amount of comfort
It was a coupe that actually had four doors
Its engine was torquey and you had to keep the revs up to get any performance out of it
Its low- and mid-range performance was somewhat dismal given its powerplant
It’s the only line still using a rotary engine in any meaningful way
This is a long list of surprises I found one morning when I was looking for the right background for a photo shoot (It was for an eBay Motors store) and the Stone Gray color made finding just the right background important so I had to do a lot of driving before I located the site.
Getting there proved interesting because it was really the first time I spent any extended time behind the wheel of the RX-8 GT Coupe. At first, I thought it was a standard two-door coupe whose seats probably slid forward (or flipped up) so passengers could access the rear. Imagine my surprise when I found that, like some pickups, there were handles for rear swing-out doors in the B-pillar so all you had to do was open the front door and the rear door then opened allowing easy access to some of the most comfortable passenger seats I have used in years. They did their ergonomic work (the study of man and interaction with his surroundings) well and provided not only a surprising amount of headroom for the back seat passengers, but there was also plenty of legroom, shoulder room and hip and thigh room so you rode in comfort.
Up front, the seats were not only comfortable and supportive, but also provided extra bolstering so that you were firmly held in place during any spirited handling (okay, I had to do some to get a feel for the vehicle, if I was to do a meaningful writeup and I was having some fun, too).
The ergonomics up front were amazing as not only were all of the key gauges visible, but they used a reverse yellow and black display pod – it was a unipod instrument panel with all of the gauges and readouts facing the driver. The center console was also easily accessible and featured the climate control system, navigation and entertainment system. The GT had an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat so finding a good driving position was easy.
The combination of the 18-inch alloys and the low aspect ratio tires (wide patch of rubber) gave the RX-8 an incredible amount of grip through turns and corners. It was rock stable – the up-side; the downside, the ride was quite hard but it was a tradeoff that had to be made if you wanted to drive a sports coupe.
I particularly liked the six-speed manual transmission because of its positive, short throws. I didn’t like the heavy-handed clutch spring that made using the clutch a chore and with the funny skewing of the power curve toward the upper end it did make things more than interesting. Indeed, the RX-8 GT I drove had a dual rotary design. A rotary engine uses a pyramidal structure as the combustion chamber that rotated about the driveshaft and applied its power directly to the driveshaft so you although the registration read two-cylinder, the RX-8 had the equivalent of 6.
When they were operating I found that if I let the rpms drop much below 8,000, the performance was really cut way down so I just had to use the clutch and keep the revs way up. The rotary tended to bog in the lower end.
When they were offered the three-model line had a suggested price range of $26,435 to $32,050, although you could pick one up, with discounts, for anywhere between about $24,500 and $29,700. Today, you’ll find these vehicles, which are not kind to you at the gas pump, are for sale in the low- to mid-teens.
And, given the fact that gas is hovering around $3, if you want an RX-8, offer a figure in the low-teens because you’ll find your city mileage is a horrible 13 mpg and the highway is about 17 mpg for an average of 15 mpg. You also HAVE to use premium gasoline in the tank so if a dealer wants to move the RX -8, unless the buyer is areal fan, I’d suggest the low teens is probably the best figure.
Here are a couple of other suggestions, if you’re on the trail of an RX-8 right now:
Because it’s a rotary, it could cost more to fix so it might make sense to make sure the Mazda is part of their certified preowned plan where the drivetrain is covered
Watch the tires because we seen several that came through after the owner had had an impact of the crunching kind on the alloy wheels. If an alloy gets out of round, the only solution is replacement and believe me when I say they won’t be inexpensive
Other than these caveats, we just wish you the best, if your the buyer. You’ll be getting a great car that does have a few quirks that you can easily live with.