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2004 Mazda RX-8

I'm confused. Some would say that's nothing new for me, but in this case I believe I have a valid reason.

By its very nature, a sports car should only have two doors and rear seats capable of handling nothing more than a few small grocery bags. So why then does the Mazda RX-8 offer four doors and comfortable seating for up to four adults? Surely some engineer somewhere in Japan, is having a good laugh at the expense of his automotive colleagues around the world.

As a journalist, I am left then to ponder such a great mystery and decide for myself the best way to categorize this most ingenious automobile. Is the all-new Mazda RX-8 a real sports car, or rather, is it one of the sexiest sedans ever built?

On the road, the RX-8 has few rivals. It feels quick and agile on its feet, turning into corners like a race car, with very little body roll through the tight twists on my favorite country back road.

Double-wishbone suspension setup rides on gas filled shocks up front. In the rear, Mazda graces the RX-8 with an independent multi-link design resting on low mounted coil springs. teering is rack and pinion with direct-drive electronic power assist.

The Mazda RX-8 is rear wheel drive and offers a well-balanced 50/50 weight ratio. The addition of limited-slip to the rear wheels increases performance and improves overall safety.

Few sensations compare to the wonderful feeling of aggressively driving a rear-drive sports car through a tight corner. Try this little exercise the next time you find yourself behind the wheel of one, but of course as always be careful.

Enter a corner with as much speed as you feel comfortable with; tap the 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS to load the suspension properly, crank the steering wheel and aim for the apex, then let the power take you out of the corner and on to the next challenge. Of course it never hurts to be familiar with the roads you're driving, but even on uncharted highways, the RX-8 will leave you begging for more.

The heart of the Mazda RX-8 is the all-new 1.3-liter Renesis, 2-rotor engine. Power from the rotary is progressive and strong, pulling off the line with ease and making short work of any commute, or extended road trip.

Available in two engine configurations, which one you opt for, depends solely on your transmission preference.

If you decide on the smooth shifting, 4-speed automatic, the RX-8 provides you with a stirring 197 hp, 4-intake rotary engine. Torque is rated as 164 lbs.-ft @ 7,500 rpm. Two steering mounted shift paddles allow for easy gear changes and 16" wheels, reasonable grip for spirited maneuvers.

If on the other hand you require something with a little more "zoom-zoom," the 6-speed manual with short-throw shifter, ups the ante by increasing the horsepower to 238 hp. Torque is decreased slightly to 159 lbs.-ft., but this is more than compensated for by a stratospheric rev-limit of 9,000 rpm.

The difference in horsepower between the two rotary engines is due mostly to the addition of two extra intake ports found on the manually equipped RX-8, one for each rotor on the Renesis engine. At 6,250 rpm, the complex variable-volume intake system takes advantage of the added airflow to improve performance.

Why offer the high horsepower only on the manual transmission? It turns out the automatic has a fairly strict rpm limitation, so for now Mazda has decided to limit the free-revving rotary to the more flexible 6-speed manual.

Climbing into the RX-8 is easy. Two free-swinging rear doors, one on each side, butterfly out together with the front, allowing rear seat passengers to enter through a pillarless opening. Strap on a seat belt, wiggle yourself into place and you will be amazed at the amount of leg, shoulder and headroom.

2004 Mazda RX-8 Interior

Once inside, the RX-8 surrounds you with a rich combination of techno gadgetry and opulence. Deep set, round gauges monitor everything from oil and water pressure to fuel consumption and ambient air temperature.

Opting for the leather interior provides seating experiences that even a Prada® enthusiast could be proud of. Rich, contrasting inserts of red on black, or tan on black, meld together with the matching 3-spoke tilt steering wheel in a pleasing collage of color.Aluminum foot pedals, gear knob and headrest inserts, piano black trim and plush carpeted floor mats offer the perfect finishing touches.

Of course you expect a full compliment of power features to be standard and the RX-8 doesn't disappoint. Power window and mirror switches are logically located on the door, while the steering wheel houses both the cruise control and stereo buttons. A 300-watt Bose® 9-speaker stereo system doesn't come cheap, but the sound quality makes it worth every penny.

The 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support is part of the leather package and offers excellent back and thigh support. Seat cushion length is very good, which is important for a 6' plus person like me. Headroom is also superb, even with the available power sliding-glass moonroof. Additional options such as a 7" screen navigation system and 18" wheels and tires round out what is, in my opinion, one of the finest automobile packages available on the market at this time.

I started out by saying I was confused as to how to categorize the new Mazda RX-8. With four doors, it blurs the line between traditional sport cars and sport sedan. The fact that four people can sit comfortably in the RX-8 and enjoy all the benefits of this fine performance car, probably make the choice of what to call it irrelevant. Only your insurance company is going to care.

However you decide to categorize the Mazda RX-8, be it a coupe or sedan, sports car or sexy sedan, you can rest assured this car is both fun to drive and practical. In my book, what could be more categorically correct than that?


2004 MAZDA RX-8
Description: Sport Coupe

Model options:
6-speed Manual

Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
Overall length: 174.3 inches

Engine size: 1.3-L Rotary
Transmission: 4-speed, 6-speed manual

Drive: Rear wheel
Steering: Power-assist rack and pinion

Braking: Power 4-wheel disc, ABS

Air bags: 2-front, 2-seat mounted, 2-side curtain

Mileage est. city/hwy:
Manual- 18/24
Automatic- 18/25

MSRP: $ 25,180- $ 30,680

Click here for more information on the all-new Mazda RX-8.
For the Mazda 2004 Model Guide : Click Here