2010 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring Review


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2010 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring

SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Top 5 Reasons to Buy this Car

THE AUTO PAGE
By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2010 Mazda RX-8
Engine: 1.3-liter rotary
Horsepower/Torque: 232 hp/159 lb.-ft.
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length/Width/Height: 174.2 x 69.7 x 52.8 in.
Tires: P225/45R18
Cargo volume: 7.6 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway
Fuel capacity: 16.1 Gallons (61 liters)
Sticker: $32,710 (includes $750 delivery, processing and handling fee)

The Bottom Line: The RX-8 has been around for a while, but it still inspires with its styling and performance. After all, it’s the only production car available with the rotary engine and this fact alone makes it worth the price of entry.

It’s no secret that the Mazda RX-8 is a unique car. Stylistically, it has unique “cooling vents” in the fenders behind the front wheels. Well, they were cooling vents at one time, but they’re as useful as Buick portholes now. It has a back seat, maybe slightly larger than most sports coupes, but access to that back seat is through “access doors” rather than “normal” doors. And it has that beautiful Wankel rotary engine.

Is the RX-8 a sports car? No, not in the style of the Miata. But it is a sports car in the sense that it offers sporty performance that exceeds much of the competition in the sports coupe market.

The RX-8’s styling is unique in that there are front fender flares where most manufacturers flare up the rears, usually for wider rear tires. It’s a coupe, with vestigial rear seats that will accommodate a couple of tiny passengers. In fact, my granddaughters loved it.

The charm of the RX-8 though is its performance, and the charm of the performance is the engine. You see, the RX-8 is the only production car available in the US that is powered by a rotary engine. I’m not going to go into the engineering behind this engine, but suffice it to say that the 1.3-liter engine in the RX-8 develops about the same level of horsepower as a 3.5-liter V6 internal combustion engine.

Mazda engineers devoted tons of hours and energy into perfecting this engine. It didn’t make the mark as an economy engine, but its performance more than overcomes that. As far as economy goes, 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway is pathetic for a 1.3-liter engine, but that’s not why you buy an RX-8.

The engine winds up quickly and has the requisite power for a sports coupe. There’s a nice high-revving sound that emanates from the exhaust pipes. There’s good torque at low rpms. The6-speed manual transmission has good shift points and the ratios allow the driver to gain the most from the engine.

As might be expected, the suspension is firm, which leads to great handling. The on-the-road ride is hard, but not harsh. The front suspension is a double wishbone affair while the rear wheels are set through a multi-link design. This isn’t just a sports coupe. I liked the Interstate ride as well.

Up front, the seats offer excellent side support, which is what you want in a car that has great handling. Headroom is limited, however. The rear seats also hold you in, but the minimal leg room puts you off.

I liked the interesting instrument panel. In the center is a large tachometer with a digital speedometer inset. This way you can concentrate on the tach for good shifting, and on the speedometer for keeping your wallet intact, and all by looking in the same place.

Like many manufacturers, the RX-8 has a control center to manage the audio and HVAC. The readout for both is a large oval with intuitive controls. I feel the readouts could have been more informative, though.

The RX-8 is due for a re-do. But even as a near-dinosaur, it has so much to offer that you can’t get anywhere else that it’s still worth considering.

2010 The Auto Page Syndicate

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