- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Sports-car enthusiasts around the world mourned the news that Mazda would stop producing its extraordinary rotary-powered sports car, the RX7. Over its production, which spanned nearly three decades, it became an automobile to reckon with.

The new RX8 is more refined with many more creature comforts and less of the rough around the edges the RX7 seemed to possess. The RX8 also has received the benefit of many years of refinements in the design and engineering development. The process is much more exact, which produces a precise and exciting vehicle.

The thing that drivers must understand; the rotary engine produces low numbers in the torque department, translating into low acceleration numbers from stops. At just 159 foot-pounds of torque produced at a peak of 5,500 rpm, the RX8 isn’t the most impressive getting away from stop lights. That isn’t to say this car is a slacker. On the contrary, this new rotary-powered sports car is incredibly fun to drive.

On the other hand, get the engine revved up into its power range above 8,000 rpm and this Mazda scoots happily down the road. With an admirable 250 horsepower, the RX8 seems to scream along with a happy glee. Most U.S. drivers are not familiar with high-revving engines unless they are motorcycle riders, specifically Japanese motorcycles. These engines are made to operate best at very high rpm ranges. So goes the RX8. Give it the heavy right pedal it needs and this car performs with the best.

That fun factor comes from the fact that the RX8 is quite light. Carrying just over 2,900 pounds means that the low torque isn’t as important as it would be on most of the other offerings in this class. Plus, Mazda engineers did their homework and gave this new rotary excellent balance and handling attributes.

The balance and substantial handling offered by the suspension system makes the RX8 one of the most fun cars to have during a day of driving through mountain passes or back-country, twisty roads. Like its stablemate, the Miata, the RX8 is a sack full of fun without breaking any traffic laws. This is big plus, keeping your wallet secure from local constables and your insurance rates intact.

Although just the fact that this “IS” a sports car means your insurance may not be as reasonable as you might like. But, that is a question you’ll have to take up with your local insurance broker.

The exterior design is ever so slightly reminiscent of the original rotary-powered car. But, the RX8 is more up to date and certainly more stylish. This is a car where nearly everyone expressed appreciation for its design. This is an attractive automobile just sitting in a parking lot, and even more so when seen darting around the turns of a country road.

The RX8 also brings innovation to the interior, or at least to the act of getting into and out of the interior. Mazda has given this sports car four seats and four doors to ease the access to the rear seating area.

This may not be the place you or your friends will want to ride for any length of time, but it does make it easier to place luggage or grocery bags here. It is a very cool way to make a sports car more useable. From the driver’s seat the passenger compartment is a comfortable place to reside. The instruments and controls are easy to use and the interesting use of a stylized circle in the center stack lends an ultramodern feel.

The new execution of the rotary engine combined with the unique manner with which Mazda has designed and engineered the RX8 makes it a vehicle that you’ll be happy to be seen driving.

Certainly knowing that everyone who sees you pass by knows that you are having fun might help. Of course, that big smile on your face may have something to do with their reaction.

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