When the prototype first appeared in 2001 it was seen as the replacement for the legendary RX-7, but the reality is the RX-8 is a different car altogether. Where the RX-7 was an out and out two-seat sports car, the RX-8 is a truly useable four door, four seater, albeit with the two small rear doors unusually opening backwards to provide one large entry per side.
It does share a lot of the things that made the RX-7 such a great handling car, such as 50-50 weight distribution, multi-link suspension, and many weight saving parts. A big difference from the last generation RX-7 is the lack of turbos.
As standard this doesn’t make too much difference, thanks to the updated 13B rotary engine, named ‘Renesis’. It has an impressive 231bhp and a huge 9500rpm rev limit, and with the engine technically being 1308cc, that is an amazing 176bhp per-litre.
With no turbo, tuning options aren’t as cheap as the RX-7, but the potential is still there, especially if you choose to go down the forced induction route. On the outside the car is sporty but quite restrained, and should look fresh and modern for years to come.
The inside is fantastic too, with a nice dash and supportive leather sports seats. With a slick six speed manual gearbox and such exotic parts as a carbon fibre propshaft, this really is a car that Mazda was serious about performing well. Just bear in mind RX-8s are quite thirsty and you’ll get through a lot of oil.
MAZDA RX-8 (2003 – 2012)
Engine: 1308cc Renesis twin rotor
Top speed: 146mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Most worries revolve around the engine, as although it can last a long time and be very reliable, being such a specialized thing they can have issues. If you possibly can, getting a compression check done is a good idea, as if both rotors have equal compression then generally it should in good condition. If you can, try and get a low mileage one, as a full service history alone isn’t the best indication of condition, and a hard used but well serviced RX-8 usually lasts far longer than a very gently run car with service history but no other maintenance.
TUNING AN RX-8
This latest rotary engine is technically the best yet so has lots of potential, but unlike the others it doesn’t have a turbo which makes cheap upgrades less plentiful. For big power forced induction is the way to go, but an exhaust system, induction kit, and remap, will give some gains and make the car sound much better. Petit Racing do supercharger conversions, and many companies do turbo conversions, with some managing over 550bhp in the USA.
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