2011 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring Review and Last Ride

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Mazda RX-8 One of the Sweetest Cars on the Market Today

Mazda Specs, Comparisons and Prices-Mazda Buyers Guide

2011 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring Review and Last Ride
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The typical test vehicle “drive window” for an auto writer is one week. Drives are scheduled well in advance and carefully choreographed by the car handlers. Consider that every vehicle must be in perfect operating condition, spotlessly clean, fully fueled and the appropriate and required loan-documents prepared, thus any change or glitch can become a small disaster.

Additionally, my job is to drive a vehicle, fully understand what it is intended and designed to do and not do, understand its operation and features and then assess and draw an objective point of view. The best way for this to occur is on a long road trip. I am always pleased when a needed road trip falls into place with a scheduled drive. Conversely, I then really need the car to show up as planned.

My drive in the Mazda RX-8 had been scheduled for some time and I had made plans for a road trip with an overnight stay about 250 miles south of Chicago. I was looking forward to the time behind the wheel. What occurred between the car scheduling and my trip was Mazda’s announcement in August that the 2011 RX-8 would be the last. However, I was locked-in to my trip.

2011 Mazda RX-8 One of the Sweetest Cars on the
Market Today (select to view enlarged photo)

The RX-8 was dropped from the European market last year. With the loss of that volume combined with the rising Yen, continuation of the RX-8 didn’t make for a good business case. The RX-8 was first shown in 2001 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and sales in North American began in 2004. Close to 200,000 have been sold around the world. Its predecessor was the RX-7 and, like it, is powered by a Wankel or rotary engine.

Mazda introduced rotary engine vehicles in the US in 1971, beginning with the RX-2, RX-3, RX-4, RX-5, and finally three generations of the RX-7 sports car.

With this long history of the RX model line it’s natural to think if there will be an RX-9. Probably the more interesting thought to ponder is that if there is an RX-9 what would be the powertrain. The Wankel is not very fuel efficient and is problematic to meet today’s very stringent emission requirements around the world. For example, the EPA ratings of the 6-speed I drove are 16 City mpg and 22 Highway mpg on premium gas. Today, 40 mpg is all we hear.

Mazda has indicated that they will continue to develop the rotary engine. As to where that might appear and when is open at this point. There was a few-years gap between the RX-7 and RX-8, so we’ll just have to wait and see what comes next.

2011 Mazda RX-8 One of the Sweetest Cars on the
Market Today (select to view enlarged photo)

The RX-8 was the first Mazda to express a design language that eventually found its way to other Mazda carlines. As a sports car the RX-8 does its job extremely well. The rigid chassis, low-slung body, taught suspension, responsive steering and an engine that loves to rev makes for a real driver’s car. The rear wheel drive allows corners to be easily taken at speed and driven through with minimal steering input along with some throttle application.

The 2011 RX-8 is available as either a 232-horsepower model fitted with a six-speed manual transmission or a 212-horsepower model fitted with an optional six-speed automatic and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a Formula 1-style driving experience. The exhaust note is so very sweet especially up in the high rev range towards 9000 RPM.

2011 Mazda RX-8 One of the Sweetest Cars on the
Market Today (select to view enlarged photo)

Think of a sports car and you think of two doors and two seats. The RX-8 has a unique four-door design that makes it very easy to live with. Mazda calls it “free-style”. Ingress and egress for driver and passenger is very comfortable. The rear seats are designed for adult-sized passengers. The hinged rear doors make for a large opening. For my road trip, stowing and accessing items in the rear seat was a breeze. And, a baby or child can easily be secured in the back seat. The RX-8 would make a nice second or third car in a household. The trunk is roomy, too.

The RX-8 Grand Touring test car I drove had an MSRP of $32,260. An entry-level Sport model is priced at $26,795 and an R3 model targeted at the driving enthusiast is priced at $32,290. And, color choice is simple, Red, Black or Silver.

2011 Mazda RX-8 One of the Sweetest Cars on the
Market Today (select to view enlarged photo)

In spite of the end of production the RX-8 remains worthy of consideration. New RX-8s are still available. I wouldn’t hesitate track one down at a Mazda dealer or perhaps consider a previously-owned RX-8. The RX-8 is a fun car to drive with lots or practicality whether for a single person, a young couple, or an active-lifestyle empty nester. This is still one of the sweetest cars on the market today.

True zoom-zoom.

Larry Nutson

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