2010 Mazda RX-8 R3 Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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Mazda's "fun-to-drive" rotary-powered, four-door, four-seat RX-8 sports car first bowed in 2003, and has since won 52 global awards.  To date, nearly 158,000 RX-8s have been sold around the world. 

The RX-8 for 2009 evolved further, receiving a freshened exterior and interior design as well as enhanced performance.  Add to those improvements a new R3 model aimed at the true driving enthusiast. 

The design continued to reflect an athletically sculpted exterior with a unique sense of originality, but with restyled front and rear bumpers and front fascia, sporty, LED headlights and taillights and larger exhaust pipes.  A new 10-spoke wheel design was offered in a motif that symbolized the rotary engine.  The "freestyle" four-door design remained with its unique "suicide" rear doors.  The muscular lines maintained overall classic sports car proportions, while displaying a bold, athletic stance. 

Unchanged however, was the core of the RX-8 – a high-powered, lightweight and near perfectly balanced machine powered by the world-renowned 1.3-litre, twin-rotor RENESIS rotary engine, delivering 232 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 159 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm when mated to the six-speed manual gearbox.  RX-8s equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission continue to deliver 212-horsepower and come with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a Formula 1-style driving experience.  Both automatic and manual transmission cars also feature power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control and an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, but it should be mentioned the R3 has never been available with an automatic.  You'll need to step up to the GT for that, as last year's base GS model has been discontinued. 

The 2010, RX-8 sports structural reinforcements for improved body rigidity with the rear suspension geometry reconfigured for better handling performance.  Driveshaft rigidity is also improved.  Performance benefits from a change in final gearing for the manual transmission.  The 2010 Mazda RX-8 remains the only mass-produced rotary-powered passenger car in the world. 

The rotary engine efficiently performs the four processes of intake, compression, combustion and exhaust by turning a triangular rotor in a cocoon-shaped combustion chamber.  The RENESIS engine is both smooth and high revving -- all the way to 9,000 rpm  (7,500 rpm on Sport A/T–equipped models) -- while offering a smaller engine footprint than traditional internal combustion engines (some 60 percent smaller and lighter than a comparably powered V6, and 40 percent smaller and lighter than a four-cylinder).  The RENESIS engine features side intake and exhaust ports with nearly 30 percent more intake area and twice as much exhaust area than its predecessors.  The efficiencies gained through larger intake and exhaust ports exclude the need for forced induction. 

The interior consists of a comfortable and intelligently designed cabin with a driver-oriented cockpit.  Enhancements to the interior include a redesigned steering wheel, front and rear seats, and center instrument panel and a new LCD touch-screen navigation system.  A variable red zone was also added to the tachometer.  The rotary design element is incorporated throughout the interior of the RX-8 in creative ways, appearing in the seats, centre console, shift knob and emergency brake, mirroring subtle exterior detailing in the same rotary motif.  Soft blue lighting is used in the RX-8's instrument cluster, which has been found to reduce eye fatigue and strain. 

My RX-8 R3 tester provides the ultimate in rotary-powered motoring by adding a sport- tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and front suspension cross members filled with urethane foam for better ride comfort.  A rear spoiler, side sills, fog lights, Xenon headlights and sportier front bumper are added to enhance the R3's appearance along with 19-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels shod with high performance tires.  Inside, the R3 model adds a Bose audio system, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, front Recaro sport seats with leather side bolsters, leather-wrapped parking brake and Mazda advanced proximity sensing keyless entry and start system, complete with credit card-like remote. 

Active safety features include the use of large ABS-equipped disc brakes on all
wheels as well as precise steering and suspension systems, and Dynamic
Stability Control with TCS; standard across the two-model range.  Passive systems include front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags. 

My test 2010 Mazda RX-8 R3 (a US example) was finished in Aurora Blue Mica (no longer available in Canada) with a Gray and Black interior.  The R3 base sticker is set at $41,995, which includes an impressive inventory of standard equipment and features.  Destination and PDI fees of $1,595 bump the final total to $43,590. 

While rear headroom is surprisingly good for those up to six-feet, the RX-8, though technically a 4-door, four-seater, really doesn't allow a lot of back seat legroom, especially behind tall front seat occupants.  Front seats are highly supportive and firm, however, while managing to provide a satisfactory level of comfort. 

The 1.3-litre RENESIS rotary engine is most responsive in the higher rev ranges, where it seems happiest.  Changing gears goes smoothly when paying attention to the side spring load, otherwise, it comes across as a tad on the notchy side and selection of the desired gear may be missed. 

The ride quality of the R3 is stiffer than other RX-8 models due to the specially tuned suspension, but the greater stability gained really doesn't sacrifice comfort to an objectionable level.  Handling is crisp, giving the R3 an admirable athleticism.  The R3 model definitely takes the RX-8 to new heights.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Mazda, 2010, RX-8, $30,000 - $39,999,

Organizations: Mazda

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