2011 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring

Within minutes of leaving our parking garage I wished for a chance to take this Mazda RX-8 to a road course. It's rare to experience a car that likes to rev as much as this one and has such a great chassis. The rotary engine is much better suited to track use than street driving because it drinks gas and oil at an impressive rate and doesn't ever produce much in the way of torque. But keep the revs up and this Wankel will provide power exactly where you want it for a track day. There's a lot of shifting required to daily drive an RX-8, but this particular example seemed more powerful than others I've driven. Maybe it's because I've been driving so many four-cylinder compact cars lately that I'm used to not having much torque.

Mazda only managed to move 1134 RX-8s off dealer lots in 2010, so it's very possible this will be one of the last times I experience a new RX-8. Although the rotary engine fails to meet the fuel-economy, torque-delivery, and oil-consumption expectations of modern car shoppers, there's an abundance of personality in this wacky powerplant that you'll never find in a piston-driven engine. I would almost like to buy an RX-8 to preserve this interesting specimen once it inevitably falls out of Mazda's production portfolio, but I don't really fit behind the wheel. When a sunroof is present, I find my head brushing up against the headliner, and there's no telescoping wheel to allow me to slide the seat farther back. Since I'd really want to take this car to a track, that's a bit of a problem. I can't imagine trying to drive an RX-8 with a helmet on if I can just barely fit in the car without one. I suppose drivers shorter than six feet won't have a problem with this, though.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

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Phil Floraday is 100% right about the sunroof and headroom. The Infiniti G37 has the same problem. Theoretically either car is available without a sunroof, and I couldn't care less about having one -- but good luck finding either car equipped without one. You have to wonder how many American sales this costs them in a market that is already slim. Both companies lost my business in 2009 for that reason, and I ended up with a Cayman, which has no sunroof and practically allows me to wear a top hat.

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