Mazda rotaries have been in my blood since my first purchase of an Rx2 back in 1987.
Shoot forward to 2003 and Mazda releases a provocative and unusual car, the Rx8. Is it a sports car? Is it a sedan? Is it fast? Is it safe? Is it spacious? And what’s with the suicide doors? Strange car, but to a rotary fan from old, also very appealing.
In 2004 by the graces of car-leasing I took ownership of a 2004 “Winning Blue” Series 1. Even as much as I wanted the car at the time, the cost of the ongoing car lease and fuel usage did my head in. A few other very minor issues with that particular car tilted me to sell it. Upon reflection, the selling was a mistake. I’d let stupid things ruin an otherwise fine car. Its funny how these things can get to you. OK, the fuel and oil consumption are higher than cars of similar potential, but an average of 13L/100km is no biggy. The difference between that and a car doing say 8L/100km is in the order of a cup of coffee per day. Moreover, oil does get topped up more often, but rotaries use oil by design and oil is cheap anyway. Depreciation is the value killer and dwarfs fuel usage. I later read reviews of the car revealing the Rx8’s ability to out-handle many a $150K+ sports car, oh dear, what had I done….. the things we do in moments of madness…..
Anyhoo, after a personal mental caning, I kept the idea alive should another rear it’s head and I would pounce.
So…..in late 2010, I noticed a Mazda Rx8 series 2 on Carsales. The price was really quite good as it was and it appeared to be in great overall condition. One teeny problem though, it was in Queensland. A mate kindly offered to check it out for me (thanks Doug!!). After positive feedback from my mate in terms of condition and driving tests, I bargained hard and had I sent down to Canberra. Car arrived and I was really happy. The only issue(s) at all were that the door scuff plates hate been dented by high heels; no dramas, easily replaceable.
as she was back 2010…………..
Since my early car ownership I’d always tinkered with car modding as it’s always fun to put your personal stamp on it. However being a bit older (and mildy wiser) I was only keen to change a few things as it’s an amazing packing stock standard.
- Not a fan of the stock look I was after something more aggressive. They also had to perform (light) and to that end I tracked down a series of Wolf wheels S36 (18×8.5 +35). At approximately 8kg a corner, unsprung weight was in check. Wolf wheels is a sister company of the famous Work wheels, and they are based in New Zealand. Very helpful to deal with too!
- Michelin PS3’s, 235×40. The quietest tyres I’ve ever owned. Awesome in the dry and amazing grip in the wet.
- The Rx8 sounds great already, but this is primarily from the the engine bay. I was after a nice note from an exhaust that didn’t drone and was legal. To that end I succumbed to a 2nd hand Racing Beat cat-back exhaust. Being an NA car, it adds precious little extra power, but it does free up the flow of exhaust gases and in a rotary those gases are very hot.
The suspension in the stock Rx8 is certainly fine, but there is scope for significant improvement. Stock, I found the car a bit springy and also some slight but annoying body-roll. My options included the upgrading of the sway bars, tower braces, springs and/or shocks or coil-overs. I personally feel coil-overs are a race/track requirement and a bit overkill for the street. After much research and discussions, I learnt that the sway bars and tower brace are actually quite good in the standard car, it was simply the shocks/springs that required attention.
- The car is already low-ish, so I only wanted a subtle drop from stock (our driveway is nasty!) Tein H-tech are designed just for that. Once installed they took best part of maybe 2 or 3 weeks to settle, dropping by an expected 1″ and 0.3″, front and rear respectively. These are a progressive spring and do a wonderful job.
- Bilstein! Need I say any more? I was very tempted to get the B16, which are a coilover. Sounds contradictory to my previous statements, but these things are very special. In the end I wanted keep costs down and decided upon B8’s which are the shocks to chose with a mild lowering of the car that the Tein H-tech springs would afford. Bilstein shocks are amazing, they use an inverted technology and once at temperature, are fast! The faster the car gets, the smoother they become. It’s interesting on highway trips; you hear the road, but you dont feel it. They are highly recommended.
Result; …. this is seriously the smoothest car I have ever owned. Even though it’s been lowered, it’s smoother than it was standard. It’s no surprise to me that Bilstein’s are included in the top of the line Rx8 GT. Also, body roll is effectively gone. There’s absolutely no harshness about the car that can easily result from similar modifications if not done carefully.
….. some more pictures of the car:
the car was sporting a Yakima “Frontloader”/Thule combo for a while:
The Rx8 “experience”
Straight up, some people just won’t get it. It’s isn’t the fastest car and it isn’t the most economic. It is however an entire package with a great balance of attributes. It’s a pure drivers car, it has more than enough power, it’s very safe, it’s handling is phenomenal, it’s got an addictive power band, seemless gear changes via an sweet 6 speed. It suits four adults comfortably and makes short or long trips very enjoyable. It’s got a nice level of refinement both inside and out.
Previous cars I’ve owned
2007 Mazda Mx5 PRHT
2005 Honda Integra Type-S
2004 Mazda Rx8
1998 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan
1981 Mazda Rx7 series 2
1995 Subaru Impreza Gravel-X
1992 Mazda 121
1973 Mazda Rx3 sedan
1972 Mazda Rx2 sedan