Friday, October 27, 2006

FAST FORWARD: Luvin' the RX-8 Despite Trying Not To

OVERVIEW:

Have you ever found yourself liking a car despite your best intentions to hate it? Perhaps hate it too strong a word. The poor RX-8 has a number of major strikes against it. First, I’ve never been a big fan of its body styling.

Second, I don’t like the way a rotary motor sounds. Finally, my wife and every other woman I’ve talked to described it as “cute”. Cute? As a man’s man, I cannot enjoy something described as cute. Still, the more time I spent behind the wheel of the Mazda, the more impressed with it I became.

PERFORMANCE:

As I said before, I’ve never been a fan of the rotary motor. It sounds like a blender on wheels. Compared with a small block V-8 screaming at wide-open throttle, the rotary motor just doesn’t compare.

That being said, the little rotary makes an impressive amount of power above 6,000 rpm. It redlines at 9000 rpm. Making 232 horsepower, the little 1.3-liter is remarkably efficient. While there is quite a bit of powerband to cover before the oomph really kicks in, the six-speed manual transmission makes it relatively easy to keep the car in its wheelhouse.

HANDLING:

This is undoubtedly the area where I was most impressed. The RX-8 is a superbly handling car. It is so neutral and manageable under heavy cornering, it really inspires confidence. Further, I had the opportunity to drive in the rain. One has to have a terminal case of “the stupids” to get this car out of control. I will go as far as to say this is one of the best handling rear-wheel-drive cars I’ve ever driven in the rain.

STYLING:

Love it or hate it. That is the most apt description of the RX-8’s styling inside and out. To be fair, my tester had the optional two-tone red and black leather interior. So, that is largely responsible for the interior getting this description. Like so much of the styling on this car, I began to like it the more time I spent behind the wheel. Further, it had surprising appeal with friends and family at a wedding I attended during my week with the RX-8.

JUDGEMENT:

This is an affordable and enjoyable sports car. It would be great if it had more low-end grunt. Perhaps something in the way of turbos like those of the now-extinct RX-7, would be nice. -- Marcus MacFarland