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Review: 2011 Mazda RX8 R3

The Mazda RX8 is a love or hate type of car and for me it keeps jumping between the two.

Photo Courtesy Mazda Motor Corporation

Performance – Obviously the reason why this car stands apart from all other “coupes” is because of the engine. The 1.3L Renesis Wankel engine is an engineering masterpiece for the fact that there’s really only one moving part in the entire engine. The triangular pistons are attached directly to the crankshaft so there are no rods and a rotary does not have any valves or camshafts. The actual size of a twin rotor engine is roughly the size of a microwave which is smaller than your dad’s 4 cylinder Honda Civic. And yet for something that small, it can still produce 232 HP and 160 ft-lbs of torque. In my opinion the power is enough for the car considering that it comes standard with only 225 wide tires in the back and on wet roads it feels very nervous and twitchy like as though the back end wants to step out of line. On dry roads however, the chassis was made to go around corners like it was on rails. The steering feels very precise and it gives you confidence when going through a corner and you can put your foot on the “go faster” pedal much sooner than in other cars.

Photo Courtesy Mazda Motor Corporation

That’s the reasons why I love this car, now for why I hate it. It’s all because of that engine. I use to work at a Mazda dealership and almost every month for the 3 years I had worked there, an RX8 would come in for either a flooded engine or no start because of failed apex seals (basically the rotary version of compression rings in a normal engine). A flooded engine is a relatively easy fix, a few hundred dollars and the car is ready to drive off in the afternoon. However failed apex seals require either a new engine or a rebuilt which will leave a big, gaping hole in the owner’s wallet… and it’s not like these cars are cheap to begin with, the starting price of an RX8 is around $40,000.

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Photo Courtesy Mazda Motor Corporation

Comfort – The standard RX8 comes with the traditional leather and somewhat bolstered seats. This R3 however, has specially made Recaro bucket seats which are surprisingly comfortable considering that they look like you’re ready to take the car to the race track. The back seats are just like any other coupe, you can’t fit in them unless you cut your legs off but getting in and out of the back is much easier due to the rear suicide half doors. The trunk is sufficient for an owner of a coupe, a set of golf clubs won’t fit but two carry-on luggages will fit if you want to take the Mrs. For a weekend getaway to a tropical location. Overall, the car feels closer to a grand coupe costing $70,000 when you’re just driving around town but it feels like a proper sports car when you’re pushing it on a race track.

Photo Courtesy Mazda Motor Corporation

Odds and Ends – The second generation of RX8 looks greatly improved over the first generation and the new 19” BBS forged wheels are one of the best looking OEM wheels on any car today, I’d even go as far to say that they’re slightly better looking than the OEM wheels on a Lamborghini Gallardo.

Unfortunately, Mazda decided to discontinue production of the RX8 (hence the reason why this review is of a 2011 model) but there are rumors around the internet that a new generation rotary powered coupe is starting development and will be on sale in 2017… but these are just rumors, so don’t hold your breath for 5 years.

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