The world was just not big enough.
That could be the epitaph on the bumper of the 2011 Mazda RX-8. It's the sports car few understood and even fewer loved enough in the end.
Now, the RX-8 will become a footnote, kind of like the RX-7, until, of course, hopefully, the RX-9. The very last RX-8 has been made. No more will follow. (Though there are still some at dealerships, hint, hint.)
Simply put, the RX-8 ran out of gas, and this summer Mazda Motor Corp. ended production of this top-of-the-line racer with a rotary engine and race car lines.
It's such a thing of beauty: Low to the ground, and coupe-like lines with those cute little second-row doors that open up and let you climb into an actual livable second row.
The 1.3-liter rotary engine proved that tiny engines can pack a big punch. Forget the rotary magic, an engine that has no cylinders, but instead rotates one triangle-like piece to produce intake, compression, combustion and exhaust in one turn.
The 2011 model produced 232 horsepower at 7,500 rpm (with the manual gearbox, the only transmission people should buy with this car) and 159 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm. It redlined at 9,000 in a high pitched whirl of oil-eating excitement. (Rotary engines are notorious for gobbling up oil like 50-year-old tractors.)
A go-fast nature
But numbers don't express this car's soul: Its go-fast nature or desire to zip through corners at speeds you didn't think possible. This car embodies zoom-zoom better than any other Mazda.
And now, it's gone.
There are many reasons the RX-8 didn't survive. Lots of people may have liked it, but fewer and fewer people bought it. It also got miserable gas mileage -- chugging along at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway using premium gas. (The automatic managed 23 mpg highway.) Hitting full-sized pickup numbers is not ideal for a four-passenger car.
But when you're behind the wheel of the RX-8, you don't really think about gas mileage. No, you're focused on driving, trying to keep those revs up beyond that of normal cars. (But when you finally get the hang of driving at 6,000 rpm, it's a reward like few others.)
Add to that the rear-wheel drive, which makes the RX-8 much more of a seat-of-your-pants machine. The car pushes you to do more, try more, go faster. It thrives on it. (One notable thing to remember, however, is the low-riding position, light body and rear-wheel drive make the RX-8 less of a performer on snow. If you want to enjoy this in car during the winter, get snow tires. They are essential.)
The rigid frame, aluminum suspension parts, low body and gas-filled shocks give the RX-8 incredible performance on the road. It hugs corners and flies down the highway. The electric rack-and-pinion steering feels exact and firm. This is a driver's car, not a daily commuter -- though it will serve well doing that, too.
Interior focuses on driving
While the second row can carry two adults, the front is far more accommodating to both passengers. It's a stylish and comfortable interior that focuses on driving. The seats hold you in snuggly and the manual gear box provides smooth, short throws.
The speedometer is a digital readout surrounded by the car's tachometer, allowing the driver to focus on both revs and speed at the same time. The digital readout will often surprise you as you're booking down the highway because you're going a little faster than you thought.
Most of all, its exterior is simply stunning. The large cut shoulders, the steep windshield and long hood. Even its big wide tires point to this car's performance. The exterior speaks to its owners.
It's no coincidence that many of the new Mazdas hitting the road today carry design touches first seen on the RX-8. The design is so good, so Mazda, that they had be copied and moved into the entire family. The RX-8 defines the brand better than anything a marketing team could devise. It's beautiful inside and out. This is the car that embodies design and engineering perfectly mated.
Most of all, the RX-8 is energy, whether out on the road or parked on the street.
It just wants to perform. It's like a happy dog at home that just never wants to stop playing. Eventually, the RX-8 will convince you that playing is OK.
However, game time has ended. And it wasn't the RX-8's fault.
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