Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good A truly unique and innovative design; the lack of a B-pillar (the fixed post usually between the front and rear doors) and the clever forwards opening (often referred to as ‘suicide’) rear doors ensure easy rear seat access; the mid life July 2008 facelift see’s new grades, touched up styling and revisions to the RX-8’s engine for improved performance at low revs. The previous four speed Automatic gearbox has been replaced with a higher quality six speed box and the track orientated GT grade features tasty lightweight multi-spoke 19 inch alloy wheels and a sports body kit.
Not so good It’s been with us since mid 2003, so is no longer the newest kid in town (however we can’t think of another design that has aged so well over the last seven years); the mid life facelift also saw the RX-8’s maximum power reduced from an original 177kW to 170kW, whilst no deal breaker, it was a little surprising as power is usually increased, not decreased, as a model ages.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good High quality fit AND finish; the body hugging Recaro branded sports seats (standard on the GT grade) are brilliant, offering lots of support and comfort; the rotor shaped gear lever is a neat touch and a hint of what lies underneath the bonnet; the thick and relatively high centre console flows through to the rear seats, ensuring its two sporty bucket seats in the rear rather than the traditional squashy rear bench; the clever rear doors ensure rear seat access is a relatively easy step in approach. Rear legroom is impressive for a sports coupe and the boot is on the large side compared to its two door competitors.
Not so good The steering adjusts for rake but not reach so some people might struggle to find their optimum driver’s position. Second row passengers sit low and with small side windows and a dividing centre console = not the airiest of rear cabins (but really, what should we expect in such a dedicated sports coupe).
Performance

Performance

Good The truly distinctive 1.3L Renesis rotary engine is good for 170kW teamed with the six speed Manual gearbox; between 6,000 rpm and 9,000 rpm (wow!) the RX-8 comes alive with pure fizzing enthusiasm, remaining amazingly smooth as it approaches it’s impressively high rev red line. The sound of the Renesis rotary at high revs is completely original and more than a little addictive and the six speed manual is a delight, luckily, as quick shifting is a necessity to keep the RX-8 in its optimum rev range over a twisting, challenging road.
Not so good Below 4,000 rpm the 1.3L rotary engine is less than potent (but admittedly fine for driving in urban traffic); straight line pace can’t quite match the competing Nissan 370Z; if you choose the Automatic (a quality six speed), power drops 12kW to a maximum of 158kW. Whilst this is 17kW more than the previous Automatic RX-8, it reaches redline at ‘only’ 7,500 rpm, against the manuals 9,000rpm! So the six speed Manual still remains the far better choice for the RX-8.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Class leading handling thanks to a superbly balanced chassis (understeer is a rarity in this car); great weight distribution and topped off by steering with precision accuracy. The Luxury grade RX-8 has an excellent ride and handling balance, remaining comfortable around the city yet still up to the task of heading to the race track for weekend fun. The GT takes the handling up another notch with Bilstein branded shock absorbers, a trapezoidal brace over the engine bay (to further stiffen things up), lightweight alloy wheels and upgraded tyres. How many other cars can take 3 friends to the race track in relative comfort and than participate in the shenanigans?
Not so good The steering could offer a little more feel and the stiffer suspension and 19 inch alloys on the GT grade ensures a less comfortable and noisier ride compared to the less expensive Luxury grade RX-8 (however in isolation the GT grade is still no worse than a number of competitors regarding firmness).
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Ticks the safety box with standard Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and six airbags; the option to choose from a space saver spare temporary spare wheel or just a can of goo and a compressor to further save the kilograms; aggressively low pricing undercuts the competition. If you really enjoy driving the RX-8 is a fine choice.
Not so good Average rear visibility so parking sensors should be standard; prefers more expensive Premium Unleaded and the RX-8 likes to drink, a quick look at the stats sheet reveals the RX-8’s official combined fuel economy is 12.9L per 100kms (manual), a higher figure than any other new coupe for sale in Australia under $250,000 (so including vehicles such as the V8 powered BMW M3 and the much, much faster Nissan GT-R).