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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
handles like a true sports car
anemic low-end torque...oil and fuel thirstiness
Car and Driver
you may be in heaven with a rotary engine
Whether or not you'll appreciate the performance of the 2008 Mazda RX-8's Wankel rotary engine depends a great deal upon what you're willing to put up with. The 2008 Mazda RX-8's rotary engine has a great deal going for it--and just as much working against it.
On the plus side, there are far fewer moving parts, and because of its motion, there is much less vibration. Because of this, whereas conventional engines redline around 6,500 rpm, the Wankel motor can be taken all the way to 9,000 rpm. According to Edmunds, this allows for "very high output with small displacement" (232 horses, despite the fact that the displacement is a mere 1.3 liters). ForbesAutos considers it among the "most efficient mass-produced power plants in history."
The drawbacks, however, are serious and have much to do with why Dr. Wankel's engine did not catch on. Road & Track acknowledges that "the normally aspirated Wankel twin-rotor engine is an engineering marvel," but warns that the Mazda 2008 "consumes a quart of oil nearly every 3000 miles."
Earlier, TheCarConnection.com pointed out that the Wankel rotary engine could be revved up to 9,000 rpm. According to ConsumerGuide, you'll need this capability: The Mazda RX-8 "requires lofty engine speeds for maximum acceleration. Its low- and mid-range power is lacking, making it difficult at times to negotiate heavy traffic."
The Mazda RX-8's "most significant update since then is the six-speed automatic transmission," first made available in 2006, reports Automotive.com. According to ConsumerGuide, that "shift action is smooth and precise." One nice feature that you won't find on many vehicles today is the six-speed standard manual transmission--a real one that actually requires the use of a clutch. This features a short-throw shifter, which according to Kelley Blue Book, "can make other six-speeds feel imprecise by comparison."
Gas mileage is not stellar: Road & Track reports that this year's Mazda RX-8 "sucks down fuel like Homer Simpson chugging Duff at Moe's -- returning just 16 mpg city and 22 highway."
Jalopnik says that the ride should be "far worse than it is," advising drivers that they'll "know it when there's bad pavement underneath" but "won't worry about it too much." ForbesAutos opines that Mazda 2008 drivers will not have to "suffer through a brutally rough ride in unreasonably cramped quarters." AutoWeek assures prospective buyers that they'll "adore the RX-8 for the chassis's handling prowess and the high-strung nature of the rotary engine," while Road & Track praises its "quick and accurate steering" and "right-now braking."
The 2008 Mazda RX-8's rotary engine produces lots of power, but has poor fuel economy; handling is enjoyable, and the six-speed manual is a delight to shift.