9000 RPM redlining 1.3L Rotary with 240hp, rear wheel drive, 4 doors (sort of) and 6 speed manual. Sounds good right? Right-O! So, my buddy at work has owned his silver 2004 Mazda RX-8 for just over a year now and I finally took it for a test drive. I do have somewhat of an excuse though for waiting that long. At first, he had 4 bent wheels and I didn't want to ruin a potentially excellent drive because of that. I didn't want to walk away with a negative experience just because of bad wheels. Then, the clutch went down the "slip 'n' slide" if you know what I mean. Well, he bought some stock wheels from a local autocrosser that were nice and straight and replaced the clutch with an aftermarket "stage 1" clutch and lightweight flywheel.
So, I see if RonRod has any lunch plans since I didn't bring the usual pb n j. We decided to go out and I'd be the driver. Cool! He hands me the keys. I sit in the drivers seat, adjust the seat down and back a little and bring the steering wheel up. I find reverse (by luck) and pull out. I get in first and we're heading out of the parking lot. We pull onto the street and up through first gear to a 90 right. Hmm...that rotary exhaust note sounds yummy. I get into second a tiny bit after the right turn and think "huh, that's pretty quick and responsive". I think again, "man, that exhaust note, even though its stock, sounds good." The tranny shifts quick and easy and pretty solid. The car in general feels spry and light. We make our way to Rancherito's for some carne asada burritos. On the way there, I was driving fairly normal, with the occasional juice to the go-pedal.
On the way back, I take that same 90 degree turn, this time is a left and the slight S-turn before it at a decent speed and it handled great. It almost feels like its not rear wheel drive. It's very neutral feeling. I think it has 50/50 weight distribution front to rear.
Daddy likey! It felt interesting and different, very fun and entertaining. I do love an engine that revs and this rotary certainly does that eagerly. I much prefer an engaging drivetrain like this compared to a turbo 4 cylinder actually. I like how its responsive and connected to your right foot. Sure, its lacking torque, but it doesn't need it to be fun. It actually gets up and goes, I mean, come on, it does have 240hp stock. This one probably had 245-250hp because of the light flywheel. Taking 5 lbs or so off the engine on a small fella like this 1.3L mill is going to get you extra ponies.
So, those are the Good. The Bad? Well, if the Mazda 8 had any negatives, I guess it'd be the lack luster MPG. But, let's be honest here. It's a high strung rotary that makes 240hp and revs to 9000 R's. It weighs 3000lbs on the nose (maybe a few less). It doesn't get any worse than a 230 hp turbo Suby or 300hp EVO, STi and Mustang. I think the 8-ball is rated at about 17-24 mpg.
Slap some 18x9.5 inch Rota wheels and 245/40/18's on some lowering springs, an exhaust and intake to really bring out that rotary music and find yourself some mountain roads and get your Zoom-Zoom on. :)
Now what do I do? :) ha ha RX-8, STi or EVO? Tonight, I feelin' the Mazda Zoom-Zoom. I like the lightweight, balanced chassis and that sweet spinning rotary engine. :) We'll see how I feel tomorrow.
What else should I test drive?
Part II: So, Benrod asked about creature comforts, interior, and how it compared interior size wise to the Genesis Coupe. The car I drove had sunroof, leather interior, power seats. That's all I really remember. I was focused on the handling and driving aspects. The interior size though, good question. Comparing in my head the two cars, Genesis Coupe and RX8...I'd say the room was very equal. They both had more leg room available. I wasn't pushed all the way back. The backseat is easier to get to obviously with the 8-ball's suicide doors. The 8 has a higher roof line in the rear compared to the Genny. The 8-ball had a more traditional armrest/center console compared to the Genny, which made my arm sit level if that makes sense. Head room seemed a smidge better in the 8 too. The seating position felt good in the 8.