Have you ever had mixed feelings on a car before? It’s actually quite a weird feeling and one that I am not accustomed to. Generally when I road test a car the results are cut and dry with very little in the way of middle ground to play with. Most cars, like people have very distinct personalities and the more you get to know them the more they tell you about themselves. There are some cars however that like to throw a monkey wrench into the works to keep you guessing, which is exactly the case with the 2010 Mazda RX-8.
This particular car was a 2010 model that was full loaded with a 6-speed manual transmission, black leather interior and all the bells and whistles you could want. Mazda as a whole is known for putting some beautiful interiors in their cars and the RX-8 is no exception. The materials, dash gaps and overall fit and finish are all first rate which means that you feel like your driving a car costing thousands more than the $32,000 price tag.
At first glance the center dash console looks to be a bit busy, but in reality it’s just a bit over stylized in my opinion. Out of everything in the center stack the climate controls are by far the most straight forward. They’re laid out very well and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure them out. The audio controls though are bit of a different story. Everything is relatively easy to master, but like I said it’s just very busy and will take you a few minutes.
The RX-8’s layout is anything but conventional. What that means is that you get two normal full sized doors in the front followed by two half-sized suicide doors in the rear that allow for easier access. Anyone taller than 6 feet is going to find the interior of the RX-8 to be a bit cramped with their knees looking for places to go. At 6’4″ I fit in the car, but I can’t say that I was overly comfortable.
The RX-8 also comes equipped with rear seats, but for the life of me I don’t understand why, as they are completely useless. Even little kids are going to find it cramped back there which made me wonder why Mazda decided to incorporate them into the design in the first place. Simply stated, they are completely useless. Trunk space in the RX-8 is a bit on the small side as well. Fill that sucker with anything more than 2 medium sized duffel bags and you’re screwed, so keep that in mind if you plan on taking any road trips with this thing.
The fun of the RX-8 really begins with the driving experience. Quite honestly I had no idea what to expect from this car. I’d heard good things about them, heard they handled well and also heard they were a bit down on power due to the rotary engine. Power wise we’re talking 232 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of tq, so a stump puller this thing is not.
It is however quite fun to drive, but it took me awhile to figure out how to get the most out of it. Keep in mind that I’m used to big cars with V8 engines and a minimum of 400 lb-ft tq, so when I got into the RX-8 with its 152 lb-ft of tq I thought something was broken. The key to driving the RX-8 and driving it properly is to simply rev the shit out of that little 1.3-liter rotary, do that and all of a sudden everything changes.
First off let me say that from a handling perspective, this thing is simply sublime. Its front engine, rear-wheel drive layout and 52:48 front-rear weight distribution make this thing an absolute hoot to drive fast, and because the car is so well balanced it handles like a dream. I actually found it really hard to get the car out of shape and believe me, I was trying. Keep the revs between 6500-9000 rpm and all of a sudden this car comes alive with an exhaust note that is simply addicting. Between 65 mph and 110 mph is where the RX-8 finds its happy place. Keep that little mill churning at high RPMs and you’ll be rewarded with a smile that will stretch from ear to ear. The problem though is that when this happens, you’ll most likely be speeding, so keep that in mind before you start playing with the go pedal.
Another thing to keep in mind is that since you’ll always be beating the piss out of this thing, it means that your fuel economy is going to go right into the crapper. 16 mpg city and 23 mpg hwy is what the car is rated at by the EPA and after a week with the car I’d say that’s about right. The other thing to look out for is oil consumption. I ended up putting in two quarts when the little “pull over” light came on. I then did some research and found that apparently these little high revving rotaries are know for burning a bit of the black stuff. If however you can live with crappy fuel mileage and a few extra quarts of oil every now and again then you’ll be just fine.
I had the little RX-8 for a good solid week and in that time I went from simply thinking the car was ok, to really falling in love with the little bugger from a drivers perspective. Now, could I live with the RX-8 as my only car and as an everyday driver… well, the answer is most likely no. If however I was looking for a nice Sunday morning fun run car or something that I could take to the occasional track day then I might give the RX-8 a very serious look. Like I said, the car is well balanced, handles great and really was a lot of fun. My only real issue would be the lack of interior space and possible maintenance of the rotary engine. Otherwise it’s a great car that you may want to investigate if you’re in the market for a quick, fun and very sporty ride that will leave you smiling all day long.