Caugh in the classifieds: 2008 Mazda RX-8
Following the RX-7ís success in the late 90s and the early 2000s, Mazda decided to transplant the revolutionary ďWankelĒ rotary engine into something a little bit more grown-up. What they came up with was a 2+2 sports car coupe, affectionately named the RX-8, as a completely new model in the RX lineup having discontinued the now-iconic RX-7.
The RX-8 made its debut in 2003 and it was met with both criticism and praise. While many automotive journalists raved on about how light it felt, how involving it was to drive, and how fun it was, the car did have its issues. In this weekís ďCaught In The ClassifiedsĒ section weíll go over the RX-8ís pros and cons, but needless to say, the pros far outweigh the cons. This particular example I found has just 14,000 miles on the clock and it goes for a very reasonable £6,000, making it four times less expensive than it would have cost you brand-new.
I wouldnít call the RX-8 pretty or particularly good-looking, but it is stylish. Compared to the RX-7, it lacks both character and charisma, something the old car had an abundance of. Take a look at an RX-7 and tell me it isnít a great piece of design. You canít, can you? Itís so smooth, so effortlessÖ itís timeless. And who in their right mind wouldnít like a car with pop-up headlights?
The RX-8 is a little bit more modern, more contemporary, but itís also a little bit more boring because of it. The RX-7 looked raw and pure because it was an out-and-out sports car from the get-go. The RX-8 looks much more ordinary and constrained. It blends in with other cars on the road too well.
The front end lacks any sort of appealing features like a splitter or giant air vents, and the rear taillights are a bit boy-racer-ish (although I personally like them). I guess thatís the point of the RX-8 though because itís a much more comfortable car than an RX-7, so itís only natural that itís calmer. Itís a bit like an S63 AMG Coupe. The people who know what it is know that itís special. To everyone else, itís just a Mercedes.
The cabin of the RX-8 is a weird mix of ingenuity and restraint. Take the doors for instance. To give the car a coupe-like design they gave it suicide rear doors, so although the actual door itself is narrow, when you open the front and the rear door together, the entry point into the cabin is vast.
Unlike a 911 or a Lotus Evora, the RX-8ís rear seats are usable, but thereís not a lot of legroom. The seats are incredibly designed though. The fronts are wonderfully supportive but they offer amazing comfort levels. I love how the headrest design mimics a rotary engine too. The attention to detail is simply superb.
Elsewhere, thereís not a lot to talk about really. The gauge cluster is simple and easy to read, the materials are decent, and the build quality feels like itís up to the usual Mazda standards. The seating position is great since you can get nice and low, something very few sports cars in this price bracket offer.
Engine and Performance
The 1.3-litre RENESIS rotary engine in the RX-8 is naturally-aspirated, unlike the RX-7ís twin-turbo design, so it only produces 192 or 231 horsepower depending on the trim. This particular example is the more potent version with 231 hp. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual, and it has a proper limited-slip diff. The sprint to 62 mph takes roughly 6.2 seconds and itíll top out at 145 mph.
Like the Lotus Elise we featured a few weeks ago, numbers only tell half the story though. The RX-8 has a near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, thanks to an engine thatís mounted behind the front axle and a fuel tank thatís mounted in front of the rear one. The front suspension is a double-wishbone setup and the rear is multi-link. All in all, the car weighs in at 1.3 tons.
The RX-8 is whatís called a momentum car. It makes up for its straight-line deficit by being able to brake late and corner a lot quicker than most cars. The engine isnít torquey at all and it lacks power below 5,000 rpm, but get it above that and it starts to absolutely sing. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sounds like a rotary engine hurdling towards its 9,000 rpm limit with fury and steel determination.
I know I said it isnít quick, but get in the upper spectrum of the rpm range and it moves along far quicker than its 231 horsepower will have you believe. This car doesnít just want to be driven hard, but it demands it. Treat it like a torquey motor and you wonít get what all the fuss is about. To experience the full RX-8 sensation, you have to be on it 100%.
The chassis is sweeter than just about anything else Iíve ever driven too. Itís so neutral I was staggered how easy it is to make it behave any way you want to. Thereís oversteer on-demand in the wet, and thanks to the LSD and the lovely steering, youíre never worried about losing the rear end. It feels borderline hypnotic when driven on a good stretch of road in maximum attack mode. Shame it gets such bad notoriety about being unreliable because itís an utter peach to drive.
Model: Mazda RX-8
Trim: 2+2 Quad Coupe (231 hp)
Why buy one
If you donít mind that it drinks fuel at the same rate as a Ferrari yet only has a third of the power, or that youíll eventually need to do an engine rebuild, then itís one of the sweetest cars for under £10,000. Having just 14,000 miles on the clock, youíll be able to enjoy this particular car for tens of thousands of miles before even thinking about a rebuild. The rotary engine is both a pro and a con in my opinion. It renders the RX-8 special and unique, but itís one extra thing you have to worry about as the car gets older. Explore some used Mazda RX-8 cars for sale right now on DesperateSeller.co.uk.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8 out of 10