This is the 2011 Mazda RX-8, which has rocked the same basic exterior styling since it was introduced in 2004. The base RX-8 starts at $26,795, but our test car was decked out in Grand Touring trim, which at $32,260, adds $5,465 to the base model’s price. It also adds standard features such as a moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, heated seats and a Bose surround sound stereo with satellite radio.

Rachel and Liz take the 2011 RX-8 for a spin.

Part of what makes the RX-8 unique compared to other affordable sports cars is its rear “freestyle doors”, which Mazda says gives the RX-8 “the practicality of a 4-door sedan.” The doors open rearward to provide access to the back seat, but if you frequently have adult passengers in the back, the RX-8 still might not be the best choice.

“Although I liked the center console for its practical storage for passengers, headroom and legroom were very cramped, and I’m 5’3” and have short legs,” says Liz Opsitnik, our senior editor. “A person who is average height will be very uncomfortable.” Liz was more comfortable up front, but at 6’1” I was scraping my head frequently on the RX-8’s headliner – a problem I did not have in the Hyundai Genesis Coupe or the Nissan 370Z.

2011 Mazda RX-8 Grand Touring

The RX-8’s 232-horsepower rotary engine has less power compared to both the 370Z and the Genesis Coupe when equipped with the 3.8-liter V6, but it’s also less fuel efficient. Our six-speed-equipped test car gets 16/22 mpg city/highway according to the EPA, while the similarly-equipped 370Z and Genesis Coupe get 18/26 and 17/26 mpg city/highway, respectively.

With less-impressive power and fuel economy, would you still consider the RX-8 in light of rising gas prices?