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2005 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

2005 Mazda RX-8 Review

by Martha Hindes

Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8

Molded from pure inspiration, bulging with noticeable curves for a Halle Berry kind of low-throated sensuality, and as full of wickedly clever surprises as a pouty Paris Hilton, the Mazda RX-8 can only be described as a "hottie." Yes, it's a sports car. Yes, it's a galvanizing looker. And, yes, it can peel away one's inhibitions with a Las Vegas "what happens here, stays here" kind of cachet. If that doesn't set one on the edge of anticipation, there's more to follow.

Here's a design with such smashing good looks, it turns the most jaded heads. What lies beneath is a wealth of talents unheard of in any other sports car. For this is a four-door, four-seater that hides its practicality -- and a literal pass-through span when everything's open, thanks to clamshell style doors that masquerade as a coupe.

The RX-8's drive comes from Mazda's latest rotary engine iteration, refined over 40 years and thoroughly race tested. The triangular shaped rotor that spins out power in one fuel-efficient four-step process, revs as high as a catwoman leap, although it's smaller than comparably powered conventional internal combustion engines. In simple life terms, that means more pounce per ounce.

Mazda has tucked its 1.3-liter engine lower and more rearward than most conventional ICs, giving the rear-drive RX-8 a solid 50/50 front to rear weight balance for better aggressive handling and more catlike stability and agility. It claws into curves with authority. It purrrrrsss, rather than churns. "Bullet proof," Mazda calls it. The four-speed automatic with Sports Shift (steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters) develops 197-horsepower. The sport-tuned six-speed manual (with 18-inch road-taming wheels) pumps out 238-horsepower. (At mid to upper $20K base, neither should threaten the national treasure.)

Whitewater Pearl joins the exterior color palette for '05. And a major add is Sirius satellite radio, through a $400 dealer installed kit, for serious, uninterrupted listening. With 120 always available channels augmenting the six-speaker sound system, only the lonely could beg for more.

The airbag system, including side curtains for front and rear seats, helped the RX-8 win five stars in federal rollover crash tests. And while, comfort accessorized, it can mimic the practical modes of more traditional-type wheels capable of carrying a couple of (albeit smaller) rear seat passengers plus some luggage or cargo, it quietly wears those capabilities. In Mazda's "Zoom Zoom" tradition, it will never be a perfect stranger on the sports car circuit.


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