2011 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring

The RX-8, to me, is what every mainstream automaker's halo model should be. Not only is it attainable at some $27,500 (for the base model), it also embodies the best qualities of the brand. Pilot an RX-8 down a twisting road, and you instantly understand and appreciate why all Mazdas, from the 2 through the CX-9, are charismatic, relatively lightweight, and generally better to drive than their competition.

The practical side of me, like Eric, understands that there are aspects of the RX-8 that make it a poor halo model. It uses as much fuel as (and more oil than) the aforementioned CX-9, which weighs 1500 pounds more. And if a halo model is going to be affordable, it must also sell in strong volumes. As Phil noted, fewer than 1200 people purchased an RX-8 last year. That's about 10 percent of the Nissan 370Z's volume and 1.4 percent of the Chevrolet Camaro's volume. What makes this truly sad is that the RX-8 is more enjoyable than either of those cars, and more usable, too, thanks to its relatively spacious interior and four doors.

It's probably a bit much to expect a small, independent automaker to invest in not one but two affordable sports cars. If the Miata and the RX-8 are both thrown off a boat and I'm able rescue only one, I'm chucking the life preserver over to the Miata. From conversations I've had with Mazda people, it seems they're thinking along the same lines.

All of this goes to say that life is unfair. The RX-8 deserves to survive simply because it's so unique and so brilliant, but the cutthroat realities of the modern auto industry don't recognize such subjective qualities. Nevertheless, here's to hoping against hope that Mazda scratches together the cash to update it and find more fuel economy in the weird but wonderful Wankel.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Facelessdrone2005
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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