I'm glad this RX-8 found its way to our offices -- I'd never driven an RX-8 (or a Wankel-powered automobile, for that matter) before, and considering that the RX-8's future is shrouded in uncertainty, it's better to get into one now than to wait.
The rotary is one rev-happy engine, but it's also one that loves to sip oil. I thought this was a mere stereotype until my commute home: thirty minutes in to it, the dreaded "low oil" tell-tale came on, and sure enough, the engine was frightfully low on 5W20. Not a big deal, except that Mazda's designers thought it a good idea to bury 90 percent of the engine compartment beneath molded polyurethane; an access door is provided for the dipstick, but reaching the oil fill (or the battery, for that matter) requires ripping away all sorts of beauty covers.
Apart from this minor hiccup, the RX-8 proved flawless and incredibly enjoyable. I can't recall the last time I drove a sports car that gripped the road half as well as this, let alone one that can be had for under $30,000, and is actually somewhat usable in everyday life (those rear-hinged half-doors are a boon for loading cargo, even if passengers can't be convinced to squeeze behind the front seats). Enthusiasts eyeing a $24,000 Volkswagen GTI should give serious thought to picking up a $27,000 RX-8 Sport instead -- it's a completely different level of sports car for essentially the same money. That's arguably a bargain, but like most deals like this, you'll have to act fast. RX-8 production ceases at the end of this year, and as my colleagues note, it may be a while before a similar proposition arises again.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The RX-8 hasn't seen all that many changes since hitting American dealerships in 2003, but this car remains a total joy to drive. You have to rev the hell out of it, but it's pretty fun to spin the Wankel beyond 9000 rpm. It probably wouldn't be so fun to put fuel in the car, however; the EPA rates it at 16/22 mpg city/highway, which is as bad as some full-size pickups.
But no pickup could ever match the RX-8's nice steering, slick manual gearbox, or fantastic balance and grip. This Grand Touring model allows slightly more body roll than I expected, but it's more than acceptable and permits ride quality that's quite comfortable. More than comfortable enough, I decided, to shuttle around my two kids for the weekend, which I blogged about elsewhere on automobilemag.com (Mazda RX-8: The family man's sports car).
Like my colleagues, I'll be sad to see the RX-8 disappear. Heck, I still even find its good -- and weird -- looks to be pretty eye-catching, a feeling that's surely helped by the fact that so few of these cars are on the road.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor