Nothing seems to scream “midlife crisis” louder than a low-wide sports car. Never mind it’s not a Porsche or (heaven forbid!) a Ferrari or that it was acquired used for less than the price of a new city car in entry level trim.
The color doesn’t help, either; perhaps a “Galaxy Grey Mica” or a “Sunlight Silver Metallic” would make the RX-8 stealthier but mine is a “Winning Blue”, which, for some reason, isn’t that common as red, silver or black.
Stereotypes die-hard and, apparently, sports cars are supposed to be a young man’s game. Like Jack in Lost, I let the fear sink in, counted to five and then got on with my midlife crisis' toy, a Mazda RX-8.
As much as I’d love to, I have yet to drive a 991, but I can’t understand all the fuss from Porsche fans, who probably haven’t sampled it either, about it having an electrically-assisted power steering. The RX-8 has an EPAS and its feedback is among the best I’ve ever experienced in any car. On that note, the original Honda/Acura NSX had an electric steering, too, and I can't recall anyone complaining...
The suspension is brilliant in conveying that seat-of-the-pants information that builds up confidence in the car. The previous owner had replaced the worn factory dampers with yellow Konis yet, although far from been woolly, it deals with road imperfections in a composed manner and without being fidgety.
The 2,700 mm wheelbase is noticeably longer compared to rivals such as the Nissan 370Z (2,550 mm), Audi TT (2,468 mm), VW Scirocco (2,578 mm) or the current "it" RWD sports coupe, the Toyota GT 86/Scion FR-S (2,570 mm). What do you know; it’s just 12 mm shorter than the European-market VW Passat family saloon!
This, along with the low center of gravity and the front-mid engine layout as the Wankel motor is located behind the front axle, make the RX-8 reassuringly stable and, at the same time, sublimely agile.
It also means that, although the center console that extends all the way to the back makes it a four-seater, it will accommodate adult rear passengers with ease. In addition, the “suicide” doors enable them to enter and exit more gracefully than in a two-door coupe.
Something’s gotta give, though, and in the RX-8 it’s the boot that is too small and has a narrow opening. On the plus side, it does fit two golf bags (or so Mazda says) meaning I’m covered in case I ever decide to indulge in the sport.
As you might have heard, all rotary engines consume oil and the Renesis is no exception, so carrying a liter or two is part of the RX-8 owning experience. So is regularly checking the engine oil level. Mazda recommends every two fill-ups of the fuel tank.
In a Japanese car that needs its oil level frequently monitored, one would expect the dipstick to be easily accessible. It’s not. In fact, it’s a right pain in the @*# to get to it since you have to put your hand into the engine bay between hoses and pipes with oil dripping over them when you finally pull it out. It’s something Mazda fixed on the 2008 redesign where you just pull a flap on the plastic engine cover to get to the (longer) dipstick.
Thankfully, until now oil consumption is much lower than I expected: in 9,000 km (5,600 miles) it has required precisely 2.4 liters. That works out to an average of just 0.26 lt per 1,000 km (620 miles), which is very good indeed for an engine that’s supposed to consume oil by design. I keep my fingers crossed and hope it stays that way.
Fuel consumption is another issue altogether. There are lies, blatant lies and then there are Mazda’s official numbers: 8.7 lt/100 km (32.5 mpg US) extra-urban and 11.2 lt/100 km (25.2 mpg) combined.
No way Jose: to paraphrase a premium timepiece brand’s tagline, you never actually own an RX-8 – you just contribute a great deal in Shell and the rest of the oil companies’ execs putting their kids through college and buy them their first Ferrari.
The best I could muster is a measly 14 lt/100 km (17 mpg US), dropping to a tank- and pocket-draining 18 lt/100 km (13 mpg US) or worse when revving it. This happens often as low-end torque is virtually non-existent and you need at least 4,000 rpm to move at an acceptable pace.
The silver lining is that it gulps 95 RON unleaded instead of the much more expensive 98 RON, so thank God for small favors.
By Andrew Tsaousis