Last post on Mar 13, 2012 at 4:42 PM
You are in the Mazda RX-8
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Mazda RX-8, Coupe
#2907 of 3618 Test Drive - Excellent Car Overall
Sep 19, 2005 (3:18 am)
So I finally got myself down to the Mazda dealership. I live in Los Angeles, home of the automobile, but there are a half dozen makers that are actually hard to find nearby. Subaru and Mazda are actually a bit hard to get to.
I came in looking at the 3 series as a possible Matrix competitor. BLEGH. Moral: Leave the econoboxes to the guys who do it best. Mazda should just drop the 3 series, actually. Nobody would miss it.
Then I saw the RX8 in the corner. Nice lines. So I poked around and drove it.
-Interior/etc - very nice. Leather is unnecessarry, as is the sunroof(too far back to actually be used as anything other than extra airflow, esp when watching the road and tach so often). Recommendation - Sport package only. Trunk was small but useable. Get the spare tire "kit" as well, since those aren't run-flats like in the Mini. Bose is overpriced junk - again, get the Sport package and install a $500 Alpine system. Way better and a lot less expensive.
Overall, a nice car. Love the cupholders. Digital speedometer is lame, though, and the interior door panels flex ominously when I press the power buttons. Still, a puny Civic can cost you $20K these days, so it's understandable that it's not an IS300 in fit and finish for this price.
-Mileage. Stop whining. Rotary engines consume about three times the fuel of IC engines. You also get three times the power, so don't think "1.3l" - think "1.3L on steroids that is equal to a 3.9l engine." Look at the 350Zs fuel "economy" for comparison.
-Engine/gearbox Take the plastic cover off. All of them, in fact. Store for when you finally resell the car. You need to access things regularly. It's just like a motorcycle in that way. 5-10 minutes maintainence every week. Plastic just gets in the way.
Nice manual gearbox, but 5 speed is all you need - it's just not legal to drive it in 6th gear at anything approaching more than an idle. I suppose if you were racing it on the weekends or were in Germany, it would be useful, but a 6-speed and "USA" is overkill, especially with this engine. 4 would be better, in fact, but the 6 speed is a holdover to IC engines which have tight powerbands and need all those gears.
- I tested both transmission options and my conclusion:
Manual was nice, but the gearing ratios are off, due to the 6 speed and the fact that in the U.S., the 5th and 6th gears are more like Overdrive 2 and Overdrive 3. Great shifter, though. As good as my old Volvos - a solid, precise gearbox made for driving and not as an economy measure(with typical rubbery feel we all know and hate).
Automatic was dreadful and lacked torque when in normal modes. It kept wanting to shift into 4th gear at 25mph!!!. Automatic, in manual mode, using the paddles on the wheel - this is how they must get the posted times. Manual performance, with automatic shifting speeds, while putting 100% of your attention on the tach. This was much faster and more precise than the up/down use of the gearknob as well. The IS300 has this feature as well, and it also does wonders in actual driving. NOTE: it still would like to(but doesn't) shift up when you come to a stop/let off the gas and won't drop to 1st until you are at about 5mph!, so don't forget to drop it down to first gear, as it'll happily lope along and bog down trying to rev up again as it's still in 2nd gear at 10mph.
Now, I hear people complaining about lack of low-end torque. I found that it exploded off the line if you ran it exactly like you drive/ride a motorcycle. If you drive it like a car, you wonder what the reviewers are getting excited about.
#1: Pre-rev the engine a little bit at the light. Go on, it needs it. The engine is essentially one big turbocharger in how it works, so low-rpms="HUH?" performance. 4-5000rpm is normal, just like a Ninja 500 or S2000.
#2: 0-60 times are best done in 1st and second gear. Save third gear for the highway, and 4th for overdrive. Drive this like a sportbike and ignore the 5th and 6th gears. 8000rpm in 2nd gear will get you a ticket, just like a typical sportbike, btw. (grin)
#3: To get the best gas mileage, accelerate hard, then upshift 2-4 gears at once. It'll gladly run in 4th or 5th gear at 40mph if you let it. Then drop it back down into 2nd to accelerate. This is very unlike typical cars in that the engine won't bog down and die simply from dropping rpms - say, a 5th gear upshift at 30mph in a V6. There is no valve-train or timing gear or reciprocating movement... the engine spins around and dropping the revs suddenly just slows it down as there's really nothing to get in the way or bind against. zoom...coast...zoom...coast.(for gas mileage, mind you - performance is the opposite - just hold it in 2nd and 3rd all day long)
I'm buying one when the 2006s come out. Very fun to drive.(just with they'd fix the speedo with an analog one - my only real pet peeve)
#2908 of 3618 plekto ..... put a lot of thought into that test drive ...
Sep 19, 2005 (8:57 am)
huh? I don't gripe about the mileage - knew it wasn't great before I bought it - or the low-end torque - knew about that too. And, I just drive mine - sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes i shift at high rpms', sometimes low, and I even use 6th gear, sometimes. I don't worry about the 0-60 times, I don't race it. I intend to keep my plastic engine cover right where it is. Rev it to 4-5000 rpms for takeoff? Not likely, a little over 2 gives me a nice, smooth take-off. And, I happen to like the digital speedo. It makes it easier to see speed and rpm's at the same time.
#2909 of 3618 A followup(still going to buy one - heh)
Sep 19, 2005 (9:23 am)
Um - I meant rev to 2K. Heh. 4-5K, though, is where it's happy is what I meant. It's like owning a motorcycle for the first time. You have to retrain your ears to think of "OMG my engine's about to explode" to "happy engine" I find the low-end torque to be great, actually. There's no initial "jerk" like in a typical car, but that's all in your head - the car is seriously fast compared to anything else in for the same money. I love how it shifts and there's no hole in power. My current car, it gets to 2nd and then drops half its rpms going into 3rd. So it's either a slower windup and no lag worth mentioning(revs like a V8 racecar engine with all the mods 3-6K happens within moments) or a good takeoff followed by bogging down every time you shift. I really like how rotarys feel. Reminds me of my bike - small high-revving engine with tight gears. Other than the 0-20mph lag, the thing always has a gear and plenty of power, especially in the twisties.
My gripe with the plastic covers is that they are hard to remove, especially when you are constantly checking oil. It also makes seeing most problems as they are developing - well, Audi is a fan of this "hidden engine" approach. I prefer to see it in all its warts - so I can spot a gasket or hose or belt that's needing fixing. That I can't pop it off in 5 seconds to get at the battery if I need a jump is a sign of over-engineering. I'd rather they'd put a hinge on the pass-through instead of it popping out when you open it. Also, a DVD player option is a must for the rear seated munchkins, as well as a power outlet back there.
The speedometer is okay, but it gets washed out where a needle doesn't. OTOH, most speedometers are set at the factoy 2-3% slow, then calibrated for the biggest tire you can fit. The net result is that my car, like every other one with an analog gauge, is reading ~70pmh when you are really going 65mph on the standard tires. Blame the lawyers on this one. Perhaps they need to just switch the display to a real digital display(LED and not backlit LCD).
All that is minor, really. The car reminds me of my old Volvo 240 Turbo after I put a better swaybar/suspension on it. Small back seat, full of quirks, but gosh it handled well and was fast. For about the same price, figuring in inflation. No wonder they're selling so well.
#2910 of 3618 plekto .... you don't have to remove any of the covers...
Sep 19, 2005 (10:59 am)
to check the oil. I've never had a problem with my speedo washing out. It's set so far back that the sun or light of any kind doesn't affect it for me. No munchkins for me (if so I'd have 'em stuffed in a mini van, not an rx8), so the dvd is of no value to me. there is a unit you can purchase to play dvd's thru the navigation. But, if I want to watch a movie, i prefer to be couched out at the house. Love the car, you will too.
Sep 19, 2005 (2:04 pm)
Different strokes for different folks. I love the digital speedo and even in direct sunlight from the back, I haven't had trouble seeing it at all.
The 6th gear is crucial for getting good mileage on the highway. 6th gear is there to cruise and save gas. You can do mild passing in 6th, but anything more aggressive requires a downshift. And, come on, you know you want to! I guess we have different opinions on gearboxes, but I would hate to drive it with 4 gears. I wish the 6th gear was taller (for better gas), but otherwise the gearbox feels perfect.
I agree that power creeps up without you knowing it. It's very smooth. The car accelerates faster than it feels like. So far, I end up about 10-15 mph over my target speed accelerating onto highway (and I don't really speed), and always end up braking, because it just doesn't feel like it's going that fast. Very smooth. As you noted, the rotary rotates, not reciprocates. However, it also makes power every 2 strokes (despite a 6-stroke cycle), whereas a regular 4-stroke piston engine makes power every 4 strokes.
The RX-8 seems to have more body roll than you would expect for a sportscar like that, but what I find is that it still handles really well when pushed to the limit. It settles quickly and reacts just as quick. I think it's because all the weight is down low and to the center, and so the RX-8 can achieve exceptional handling with a softer suspension. Cars with weight more spread out and higher (e.g. my roommate's Impreza WRX STi) has to work harder (stiffer suspension) to achieve great handling.
Anyway, it's an awesome car, zoom zoom! 2100 miles already! 3 weeks
#2912 of 3618 Everyman's Sportscar
Sep 19, 2005 (10:28 pm)
The suspension is very "Euro", in that it is a tad soft at the edges, so that it actualyl can handle real world driving as well as more agressive moves. This is what makes BMW famous - they build a refined city car that wont beat a dedicated sportscar like a Porsche, but 95% of all people who buy a BMW won't ever BE good enough to tell the difference. You get a perfect "everymans's sportscar".
The IS300 and the RX8 are the only current Japanese cars that feel like a BMW - and it's a great thing. But BMWs are hideously expensive and full of ticky-tacky. A far cry from the old 2002s and 3 series that made them famous.
Plus, I like to be different. Lol. 4-stroke engines are over a hundred years old technology. They put tons of valves and computers and variable timing and so on to make it "modern", but it's still just a very fancy century+ old design. It used to be that a rotary engine was more complex, but now it's very much the reverse.
#2913 of 3618 2006 RX-8
Sep 21, 2005 (12:33 pm)
Does anyone know when the 2006 RX-8 is supposed to hit the dealer lots?
Sep 21, 2005 (1:54 pm)
I've got three Phantom Blues on order with my first allocation a while back with an expected delivery of late December/early January. I've got more ordered already but they will be in succession to my allocation. 2005 models are still in the pipeline to be built and shipped through November.
#2915 of 3618 Re: flashinka ..... dennis has both an 8 and an S2K ... [lhess]
Sep 22, 2005 (7:20 am)
Yes I do have a Shinka and I love it. I'm glad I didn't just get a loaded RX8 for the same price because the Sirius and beautiful interior set the shinka apart from the rest. I have the manual with about 4000 miles. I'm sure part of the reason for early low mpg was my lead foot being happy with the new car. But when I'm not overwhelmed with feelings to push my car I help my mileage by skipping gears. That has appeared to help. With gas prices I still wish it was better. It just seems ironic since the car I traded in was a big Pontiac Grand Prix GTP that got average 25 mpg. Still I love this car.
#2916 of 3618 Re: RX-8 Shinka [flashinka]
Sep 22, 2005 (7:27 am)
I'm still slow off the line with an MT. But once I get past 40MPH, the car flies. I didn't buy my Shinka for the 0-60 factor though. It absolutely rocks in handling. After buying the car in LA, I took it to the uphill climb going toward Castaway. As some of you may already know, that jaunt is full of sharp turns all the way to the top. On second gear going 50MPH, fully seated with three passengers, I hardly felt any sway as the car swung past each corner. On my drive back home toward Kansas City (I flew all the way out to LA just to get an excellent deal on a Shinka), I put this baby to the test in the Rockies in Colorado on eastbound I-70. The drive from Glenwood Springs to Eagle was breathtaking. Again, it was an uphill climb full of sharp curves. 90MPH...no problems!
I got pulled over back in Utah though. The cop clocked me at 92 on a 75. I was very lucky not to get thrown in jail because I was going at 125 just minutes before. I couldn't resist!