You can't help but wonder how much longer the rotary-powered Mazda RX-8 will survive. The unique engine burns through far too much fuel (and, historically, oil) for its small, 1.3-liter displacement. That's not a good thing given the price of gasoline these days. On top of that, the ever-increasing need (and want) for weight-adding luxury and safety items in modern cars severely dulls the rev-happy nature of the low-torque rotary engine. But we still like the RX-8 for its light, nimble handling and surprising functionality. For 2009, Mazda splashed a bit more life into the RX-8 by gifting it with a few notable upgrades including a driver-focused R3 model.
The RX-8 carries on with only minor changes to the exterior. The bumpers, headlights, and taillights are new. R3 models get a more aggressive front fascia, side sills, a rear spoiler, and larger wheels. Inside, we find a redesigned instrument panel center stack as well as a variable redline based upon the engine operating temperature.
The R3 model has aggressive Recaro seats and comes standard with Bluetooth, Bose audio, and a keyless entry and starting system. Other RX-8 models gain redesigned seats and are available with a new navigation system. The RX-8's rear seats remain a defining feature. The Mazda is a proper low and small, rear-wheel-drive sports car yet it can carry four adults. There is even enough room in back for a child seat or two and the clamshell doors make it easy to plug junior in.