Drive – Mazda RX-8 GT Review

18 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Mazda RX-8 GT Review
Mazda RX-8

Cameron McGavin

Make MAZDA Model RX-8 Price $57,625 (man. only) Series 2.6,2.6 GT,2.6 LUXURY,2.6 LUXURY ACTIVEMATIC Series Year 2008 Body Group coupe Fuel Consumption 12.9L/100km Power 170kW Torque 211Nm

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It doesn’t seem so, but the innovative Mazda RX-8 is already five years old. In automotive terms that’s getting on and by now you’d expect a bit of mid-life fettling.

Which is exactly what Mazda has done with the RX-8. The new version is still recognisable but has sharper styling, interior improvements and a host of engine and suspension changes.

Price and equipment

The range has expanded to three models with the arrival of the new GT tested here.

Priced at $57,625, it tops a line-up that includes the $49,720 RX-8 and $55,520 Luxury versions.

The GT is the unashamedly driver-focused RX-8, eschewing luxury toys for hardware such as lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers, front suspension brace, grippy Recaro seats and sports body kit.

There’s no sign of the cheaper Luxury model’s sunroof, Bose sound, power driver’s seat or full leather trim. Still, with air-conditioning, cruise control, six-stack CD player and xenon headlights with washers standard, the GT is competitive with similar level sporties.

Under the bonnet

This is where things become complicated. The original RX-8’s power was downgraded from 177kW to 170kW late in its life, and this new model has the same output.

So if you’re expecting a more powerful or quicker RX-8, prepare to be disappointed.

However, revised gearing and several engine changes have delivered more low-rev power and better flexibility.

While the 1.3-litre Renesis rotary is still a long way from snappy response below 4000rpm, it’s more than happy to let the tachometer linger in its lower ranges for relaxed urban runs.

The flip side of the RX-8’s unremarkable urban character is a unique and intoxicating experience when pedalled hard. As the tacho passes 6000rpm it comes alive, racing to the 9000rpm red line with free-spinning glee, otherworldly smoothness and a maniacal soundtrack to boot.

However, in true rotary tradition, it likes to drink. Mazda’s 12.9 L/100km combined average claim is well behind par and we couldn’t match that, even averaging 14.2 L/100km during a stint that included highway driving. Expect it to slurp even more premium unleaded around town.

How it drives

Mazda’s attention to detail means the GT weighs just 5kg more than the base RX-8, although it has more features and equipment.

With its improved suspension, wheels and rubber, Mazda says the GT has lapped Calder Park racetrack a hefty 1.9 seconds faster than the old model.

So, despite being no faster in a straight line, the new RX-8 is a quicker package point to point.

However, while the news is great for track-day addicts, the advances aren’t always obvious on the open road.

The top RX-8 is brilliantly precise, beautifully poised and massively grippy on smooth surfaces but the stiffer suspension doesn’t always feel at home when pushed hard over craggy B-grade tarmac. And there’s plenty of road noise.

The GT’s ride is noticeably lumpier than those of the standard – and surprisingly supple – RX-8s around town. However, with Audi’s TT, BMW’s Z4 Coupe and Nissan’s 350Z all suffering from similar ride problems, the Mazda is not alone.

Comfort and practicality

With no B-pillar to negotiate and those handy rear suicide doors, the RX-8’s back seat is surprisingly easy to access, though foot space is tight.

In the back seat, a big dividing console and small windows contribute to a claustrophobic atmosphere. But the Mazda can take two six-footers in the back without too much fuss.

The boot, too, is big enough to cope with shopping expeditions and a weekend away’s worth of soft luggage, though the tight opening means it struggles with bigger, less flexible objects.

Mazda RX-8

In the front, the GT’s main attraction is the Recaro seats, which provide sensational support and are comfortable, even if their bulky shape makes grabbing the seatbelts a pain.

The RX-8 would benefit from reach adjustment for the steering wheel, but the basics are pretty good and most shapes and sizes should have few problems finding a satisfactory driving position.

Like the back seat, the Mazda’s front seat is rather cosy for bigger folk. But sporty design, beautiful detailing – check out the rotor-shaped gear knob – and good quality add an endearing sense of occasion.

Safety

All RX-8s have twin front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability/traction control. However, parking sensors would be nice to balance the poor rear vision.

The Mazda has not been put through the NCAP crash-test program, so an independent rating is not available.

Audi TT 2.0 TFSI

BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe

Nissan 350Z Track

ENGINE: 3.5-litre V6; 230kW/358Nm; 11.7L/100km; 278g CO2/100km. SAFETY: No NCAP rating. Six airbags, stability/traction control, ABS. WHAT IT’S GOT: Climate control, cruise control, trip computer, power heated seats, leather, six-stack CD player, 18-inch alloys.

FOR: Muscular performance, no-nonsense handling, comfy cabin, well equipped. AGAINST: Noisy, firm ride, no back seat, compromised boot. OUR SCORE: 4/5. Price From $68,990.

Overall verdict

Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars

The RX-8’s frankly mediocre fuel economy means it isn’t going to win any environmental awards. If you’re a green-minded buyer, chances are you’ll sidestep it and look for thriftier options.

The reality, though, is that sports cars are judged more on their ability to entertain than save the world. And in this respect the Mazda succeeds brilliantly.

Best of all, these considerable thrills don’t necessitate much of a sacrifice in practicality – a unique strength for a sports car that remains enticing five years down the track.

Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
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