Sporty/performance car; Built in USA
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $6,000 – $24,500*


2006 Mazda RX-8


2004 Mazda RX-8


2004 Mazda RX-8

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Instruments/controls
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Cargo room
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear visibility

The rewardingly agile, solidly built RX-8 has less straightline performance than other similarly priced sports cars. However, it does offer the convenience of four seats and rear doors, making it more practical for everyday use than most competitors. It even qualifies as a rear-wheel-drive alternative to front-wheel-drive sporty coupes such as the Acura RSX and Mini Cooper.

Overview

Mazda revived the rotary engine in a sports car it promoted as the spiritual successor to the famous RX-7. Last offered in 1995, the RX-7 was a 2-seat, 2-dr car. The RX-8 was a 4-passenger 4 dr. Its back doors were two rear-hinged panels that did not open independently of the front doors. Conventional engines use pistons that move up and down in cylinders. A rotary has triangular rotors that spin inside oval housings. The RX-8’s rotary displaced 1.3 liters and had 197 hp when teamed with a 4-speed automatic transmission, 238 when linked with a 6-speed manual. The automatic included a manual-shift gate and steering wheel paddles. Manual-transmission RX-8s had 18-inch wheels, stiffer sport suspension, and a limited-slip differential. A Sport Package option for automatics replaced their 16-inch wheels with 18s and added the stiffer suspension. ABS, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags were standard. Options included leather upholstery, traction/antiskid control, and navigation system.

Yearly Updates

2005 RX-8
Newly available for 2005 was a Shinka model that included specific trim and leather upholstery.
2006 RX-8
RX-8s with automatic transmission received a power boost to 212 hp from 197 for 2006. The automatic transmission became a 6-speed vs. previous models’ 4-speed. Shinkas went from a separate model to an option package.
2007 RX-8
RX-8 was unchanged for 2007.
2008 RX-8
The 2008 Mazda RX-8 was little changed.
2009 RX-8
The 2009 Mazda RX-8 receivedfreshened interior and exterior styling and a new R3 model.
2010 RX-8
The Touring model was eliminated from the 2010 Mazda RX-8 lineup, while the Sport, Grand Touring, and R3 trim levels remained.
2011 RX-8
The 2011 Mazda RX-8 was unchanged for its final model year in this form.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

RX-8 is the only vehicle sold in North America that uses a rotary engine. It displaces 1.3 liters. The 2004-2005 versions had 197 hp with the 4-speed automatic transmission and 238 hp with the 6-speed manual. The 2006 RX-8 had 212-hp with a new 6-speed automatic transmission and 232 hp with the manual.

2-rotor Wankel
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.3/80
Engine HP 197
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 164
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

18/25

2-rotor Wankel
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.3/80
Engine HP 212
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 159
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic

18/25

2-rotor Wankel
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.3/80
Engine HP 232
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 159
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual

18/24

16.8

Road Test

For a performance car, RX-8 is slower to build speed than rivals. Most power comes in above 4500 rpm. Manual transmission has short throws, but engagement is inconsistent among test cars-it’s smooth in some, notchy on others. We have not had an opportunity to test with the ’06 versions’ 6-speed automatic, but previous 4-speeds were smooth, with rapid response for passing.

Test manual-transmission RX-8s averaged 18.0 mpg in mostly highway driving, 15.5 with more city use that included gas-eating performance tests. Premium-grade fuel is required.

As expected, ride quality is firm on RX-8s with the sport suspension that’s standard on manual-transmission versions and optional on automatics. No base suspension models or RX-8s with 16-inch tires have been made available for testing. Despite the sport suspension, these Mazdas deliver a more compliant ride than rival Nissan 350Z.

Sharp steering, little body lean in turns, and progressive steering give RX-8 exciting handling. Large antilock 4-wheel disc brakes erase speed with reassuring pedal feel. RX-8 is quiet for a sports car. Wind, tire, and road noise is well muffled. The engine sounds refined during acceleration and is nearly silent while cruising.

Also refined is RX-8’s interior. Controls are easy to reach and operate with smooth precision. Interior materials create a satisfying ambience that belies the car’s price. The tachometer dominates the instrument panel; it incorporates a digital speedometer.

The front seats are reasonably comfortable, though RX-8’s tall doorsills may have shorter drivers feeling that the interior is more cramped than it really is. The standard tilt steering wheel and seat height adjuster help, but some testers want a telescoping wheel for optimum comfort. Rear seat room and comfort is the best among true sports cars, but that’s not high praise. Passenger entry/exit is a stoop-and-twist exercise, and once seated, head room is barely adequate for adults. Leg space all but disappears with the front seats more than halfway back.

The trunk has good usable space, as long as you don’t order an RX-8 with the compact spare tire option. The spare steals a good chunk of what space there is. Without the spare, Mazda includes an emergency inflation kit. A narrow opening makes loading all but small items a chore. Interior storage is adequate.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2005 Mazda RX-8 w/Grand Touring Pkg., manual

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 9
90%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 52

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 174.2 69.7 52.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
7.6 15.8 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.2 36.8 42.6 32.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 RX-8 4-door coupe w/side airbags 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The A/C may not cool enough or may fluctuate, requiring replacement of the A/C amplifier. (2004)
Cold-starting problems
Description: Engine cranks but doesn’t start when cold or after running a very short time, as when moving location a short distance, due to flooding. There was a recall to recalibrate the PCM, plus revised leading spark plugs may need to be installed and the catalytic converter may have to be replaced if damaged. (2004)
Dashboard lights
Description: The low oil level warning may come on, but the level may check out OK on some early production vehicles, requiring replacement of the oil pan and level sensor. (2004)
Engine stalling
Description: The engine may stall and set a variety of trouble codes and is fixed by reprogramming the PCM.
Rough idle
Description: Engine may idle rough (too slow) and have a lack of power in hot weather due to carbon buildup in the rotor housings. (2004-08)
Seat
Description: The driver’s seat may lose its memory function, requiring replacement of the control unit under the seat. (2004-05)
Headlights
Description: The headlights may not automatically level, and the warning light may illuminate, due to corrosion of the leveling sensors. (2004-07)
None
Description: The dipstick may have a milky substance on it, which is normal after cold soak, but there is a dipstick tube sleeve available to prevent this. (2004-05
None
Description: The navigation system may display the wrong map or no map if the vehicle was sold in one location then resold in another, especially if the battery was disconnected. (2006-07)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may glow and a trouble code P0455 may be stored unless the fuel filler pipe is replaced. (2006-07)

Recall History

2004 RX-8
Description: On some vehicles, the lower control arm in the suspension may be improperly forged, which could result in a loss of steering control.
2004 RX-8
Description: Front passenger airbags may be improperly wired, which could result in the airbag not deploying during a crash.
2004 RX-8
Description: On vehicles with a manual transmission, the heat insulator may crack, causing an abnormal noise.
2004 RX-8
Description: Passenger-side frontal airbag inflator may rupture upon deployment and spray metal fragments at the passenger.
2004-05 RX-8
Description: If some vehicles are parked with the engine running at a high rpm for an excessive length of time, some parts around the exhaust system can melt, causing damage to other components. The excessive heat can damage the fuel tank, causing it to leak.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.