By Cars.com EditorsJuly 11, 2011
About the video
Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2011 Mazda RX-8. It competes with the Nissan 370Z and Mitsubishi Eclipse.
<v Narrator>Cars.com auto review. Hi, I'm Mike Hanley with cars.com, and if you're shopping for a sports car, you don't have to spend a lot of money to find something unique, case in point is the Mazda RX8.
It's powered by an extremely rare for a production car, rotary engine. And it has rear half doors like an extended cab pickup. But, if you're going to look at this model, there's some sacrifices you have to make. The RX8 has a really distinctive shape and it starts up front where it has pronounced front fenders that give the car the look of a hammerhead shark, and also has a smaller version of Mazda's familiar, smiley grill. But when you get around to the side of the car, you can see how function dictates the shape of this car to some degree, because it has a bubble shaped roof that really helps rear-seat headroom in this four person car. The one thing you need to know about the RX8 is that if you're going to get the most out of it, you have to be willing to rev the rotary engine. It's rated at 232 horsepower, at a pretty high 8.500 RPM. And torque is 159 pounds feet at 5.500 RPM. The torque figure's kind of low, so, if you're not in the right gear, this engine's not going to feel that strong to you. One of the shortcomings of a rotary, though, is fuel economy, too, this model is rated at 16 miles per gallon, it's gonna be 22 on the highway with the manual transmission. And that's worse than both the V6 powered Nissan 370Z and the VA powered Ford Mustang GT. While not everyone will like the rotary's characteristics, I think a lot of people will like this car's handling. It weighs just over 3000 pounds and it has a nearly even weight distribution front to rear. So, that transmits into really neutral handling. It has some nice weighty steering, and a short throw manual shifter, make this car a lot of fun to drive when the road starts to twist. More than most sports cars, the RX8 makes a pretty good attempt at accommodating people in the back seat. The seats themselves are pretty substantial, and Mazda gives you these half doors that open to aid access to the rear. Now, I had to move the front seat forward a little bit to fit back here. I'm just over six feet tall, but shorter people should be able to sit back here with no trouble. The RX8 has a traditional trunk. And what I like about it is it's a very deep space. It measures 7.6 cubic feet, and if you have a smaller golf bag, you could probably fit it back here. While the RX8 isn't the most fuel efficient model in its segment, it offers a lot of practicality that its competition doesn't, plus there's that really nimble, engaging, driving experience that a lot of other cars can't match. <v Narrator>For more car related news, go to cars.com, or our blog, kickingtires.net.