2007 Mazda RX-8


2007 Mazda RX-8 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2007 Mazda RX-8 was new.


Performance: 8.9

Most auto reviewers are impressed with the RX-8's unique combination of sports car speed and daily-driver handling. Still, some contend that its powerful rotary engine's frequent need of oil detracts from its overall appeal. "If you can't deal with adding oil occasionally and more gas stops, then this is not the car for you," says AutoWeek.

Acceleration and Power

The Mazda RX-8 is powered by a 1.3L RENESIS two-rotor rotary engine that makes 212 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 159 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm. When equipped with a manual transmission, however, the RX-8 rotary engine churns out 232 horsepower at 8,500 rpm. Edmunds says the "RX-8 is the only production car in the world with a rotary engine."

A rotary engine, often referred to as a "Wankel engine" after its inventor Dr. Felix Wankel, is a type of internal combustion engine that utilizes a triangular rotor spun around a fixed pinion by the use of a ring gear. While it carries out the same four basic functions as any engine -- intake, compression, combustion and exhaust -- it's unique because it does so within different parts of the same housing.

"For years, car enthusiasts have been intrigued by the RX-series' rotary engine and for good reason, as it has many advantages over a traditional piston engine," says Edmunds. "They include very high output with small displacement (the RX-8's engine is just 1.3 liters, yet puts out 232 horsepower), much lighter weight and fewer moving parts." In fact, Forbes asserts that due to its impressive horsepower to liter displacement ratio, it's "one of the most efficient mass-produced power plants in history." Moreover, Edmunds adds, "The engine's small weight and size allowed the RX-8's engineers to optimize engine placement. The result is a 50/50 weight balance between the front and rear wheels, a low center of gravity and a low hood line that contributes to the car's sleek aerodynamics and sporty style." Altogether, this makes for a sports car that weighs "a good 300-400 pounds less than its main competitors."

While the advantages to owning a car that runs on a rotary engine are clear, reviewers assert that due to a high level of maintenance, it may not be for everyone. "For instance, the car steadily burns a small amount of oil during regular use. Mazda recommends that you check the oil every other time you gas up," says BusinessWeek. "For a car that requires oil to be added regularly, Mazda should have made it easier to check the level, as it necessitates the removal of a dirty engine cover to get at the dipstick. User friendly it is not," adds Road and Track. Buyers also need to "take precautions to keep the RX-8's spark plugs from fouling and the engine from running rough," says BusinessWeek. "For instance, if you drive a short distance -- say, out of the garage out into the driveway -- you're supposed to turn the ignition to start for 10 seconds with the pedal on the floor, then let the engine idle for 10 seconds. Once you've moved the car, you're supposed let the engine idle for five minutes, rev it up to 3,000 rpm, then let it idle again before shutting it off."

In terms of acceleration, Car and Driver asserts: "The RX-8 is great at speed, but getting up to speed is a challenge. With only 159 pound-feet, the RX-8 has less than half the torque of the Shelby GT." However, Kelley Blue Book explains that the "compact rotary engine delivers its torque high in the rpm band, meaning you have to run the revs high when passing or accelerating." They add, "With a 9000-rpm redline, all you have to do is keep the engine between 4000 and 6000 rpm and you'll always find more than enough power on tap for quick bursts of acceleration." Still, in their test drive, Edmunds found "a manual-equipped RX-8 took 7.0 seconds to reach 60 mph and 15.4 seconds for the quarter-mile." BusinessWeek, however, asserts that the "RX-8 gets faster as the engine wears in. Car and Driver got times as low as 5.9 seconds in an '04 RX-8 with upward of 40,000 miles on it." Popular Mechanics concludes, "The high-revving engine does a good job of keeping its torque a secret."

"By the way, don't think that because the Mazda gets a tiny engine it sips gasoline," says Forbes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the RX-8 maintains a fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway for the automatic and 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway for the manual, which leaves auto writers disappointed. "In order to keep the car stable during high speed cornering I found that a lack of torque forced me to keep the engine spinning high in the rev range," says Automobile.com, adding that "the obvious penalty hit my wallet when the time arrived to top up the go-go juice." AutoWeek describes the RX-8 as having an "unquenchable thirst" that's "not-so-earth-friendly." The RX-8 requires Premium Unleaded 91 octane gasoline.

The Mazda RX-8 is available with either an automatic or manual transmission. Its six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and Adaptive Shift Logic allows drivers to keep the car in automatic mode or shift gears without a clutch using controls on the steering wheel. The RX-8's six-speed manual transmission, on the other hand, comes equipped with overdrive. According to Edmunds, "the six-speed manual version is really the only way to experience an RX-8." Most auto writers seem to agree, as hardly any reviewed the RX-8's automatic transmission. While Road and Track describes the manual transmission as "faultless," Kelley Blue Book asserts that the "RX-8's marvelous six-speed short-throw shifter can make other six-speeds feel imprecise by comparison." A reviewer for Automobile.com describes the test drive: "Crashing down through four or five gears under hard braking was absolute ecstasy, and helped me to appreciate that driving the RX-8 was as close to a true competition car as I have experienced in a production car -- only without all the exertion."

Handling and Braking

Reviewers are generally impressed with how the 2007 Mazda RX-8 handles. "In terms of dynamics, very few cars achieve a better balance between handling precision and ride quality than the RX-8," says Edmunds. They add, "Although the 2007 Mazda RX-8 has the look of a race-tuned sports car, its demeanor on the road is considerably more docile. There's plenty of grip in the corners and solid feedback through the steering wheel, but a compliant ride means that it won't beat you up on the daily commute." Carz Unlimited adds that "little effort is required to extract snappy winding-road performance." The RX-8 is Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD).

The RX-8 is equipped with a rack-and-pinion direct-drive electronic power steering, which Kelley Blue Book says is "neutral and extremely precise in both its execution and feedback." Forbes asserts that "the steering of this car is a hallmark of what sports cars should feature, with a direct, solid feel of what's happening at the wheels but tremendous on-center feel, so tuning the radio doesn't mean you have to fear driving into a ditch."

The RX-8's suspension system is just as impressive. "Though it is clearly taut to produce confident control, the suspension takes the edge off all but the worst bumps," says Carz Unlimited. Forbes explains that the suspension "doesn't punish passengers nearly as much as that of some sports cars but can have you cornering like few other vehicles on the road... It helps that nearly all the weight sits between the two sets of wheels, with the engine aft of the front wheels and the fuel tank in front of the rears, so the rotational mass is dead center." The RX-8's suspension system is composed of a double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension.

The 2007 Mazda RX-8 comes outfitted with ventilated front/rear brakes, as well as a four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) -- which applies varying amounts of force on individual brakes depending on such factors as speed and road conditions. Despite the advanced braking system, Automobile.com calls the brakes the "only weak link" in the RX-8's performance. They add, "Under low speed applications, the brakes work wonderfully well. However, with hard, extended use they fade rather early." While Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control systems are package options for the RX-8 Sport, they come standard on the Touring and Grand Touring.

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