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2008 Detroit Auto Show: 2009 Mazda RX-8

  • Competes with: Nissan 350Z, Ford Mustang
  • Looks like: A slightly altered face
  • Drivetrain: 232-hp or 212-hp rotary engine with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, respectively
  • Hits dealerships: Summer 2008

The good news is, Mazda has freshened the design of its RX-8 and added a high-performance R3 package to the lineup. The bad news is, the engine and interior haven’t changed all that much.

Power is unchanged for 2009, which will make this light face-lift that much less of a draw to showrooms. Not changing the interior can be forgiven because the RX-8 was already ahead of its time in terms of affordable quality and style.

What is upsetting is that Mazda didn’t address the major complaint with the RX-8: the engine. The quirkiness of the rotary is fun, but it sure could use more power. What driving enthusiasts get instead is an R3 trim level — shown in the images above and below — with a more aggressive suspension, impressive-looking 19-inch wheels, a spoiler and other body enhancements.

We’re not sure if the R3 is enough to keep the RX-8 on life support. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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