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Motoring: Mazda RX8 still one of the best

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 7th, 2011

The RX8 has been around for a very long time now - seven years, in fact. To give you some idea of how long ago this was, when the RX8 launched, Kelly Clarkson wasn't even a household name, and Britney Spears had not even gotten her first marriage under her belt. Miss Spears, however, did use an RX8 in one of her music videos, Me Against The Music.

Much has changed since 2004, and in 2009 Mazda revised the look of the RX8 and with it brought along a new version too. It's called the R3, and this is the most driver-focused version of this driver's car ever.

For its drivetrain, Mazda still uses its infamous rotary engine in the RX8. It still displaces only 1.3 litres in size and produces 232hp and 159lb/ft of torque. That power is sent through either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual gearbox (as in my test car) to the rear wheels, with a limited-slip differential, ensuring power is transferred cleanly and productively on the road.

That is a good thing because the RX8 is still a quick car. It will go from zero-100km/h in 5.9 seconds and top out at about 240km/h. Even more impressive is its stability at speed, which is one of its strongest points.

Drivability-wise, I have always been a fan of the RX8, from its sweet and smooth rotary engine, which revs to an amazing 9,000 rpm, to the way it handles. Thanks to the new R3 handling package, it handles even better than before with less body roll. Typically, when a car gets stiffer suspension its ride quality goes out the door, and the RX8 had always been a rather stiff ride. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that the ride comfort has actually been improved. How they did that? My only guess is relentless testing with different springs and dampers until they found a combination that resulted in this ideal set-up. As a result, this is one of my favourite cars to carve up a twisty road.

It also has one of my favourite interiors. Not only is the driving position and visibility spot-on, its build quality is very impressive too.

The R3 package adds another bonus in the interior, and that is its Recaro bucket seats. Not only are these seats comfortable on a long trip, but are also supportive when you go around corners at neckspraining speeds (not that you should).

Since it is also the only coupe with back doors, it is more practical than most of its competitors. The trunk is rather small, though, so it's best to use duffle bags.

Are there any other drawbacks? Well, it still drinks more oil than most cars and it still uses more gas than most of its competition. I recently averaged just 14.2- litres/100km with it, which is exactly the same as a 400hp, twinturbo V8 BMW 550i. Yikes!

It's not cheap to buy, either, as prices start at $41,995; however, a quick trip to a Mazda dealer revealed big discounts, so if you want one, you can make a great deal.

The RX8 has been around for a long time, but it still is one of the best coupes in the market. Its time as a new car is just about over, and while that is a bit sad, I have to say, I can't wait to see what Mazda will come up with next.
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