Mazda Rethinks The Sports Car

2004, Mazda, RX-8

Ifree-t's true. The snappy Mazda RX has a rotary engine. And a style door system-that opens from the middle-- with no B pillars Mazda has a long heritage in the sports car segment that started in 1967 with the Cosmo Sport, followed by the RX-7 in 1978, MX-5 in 1989 and the third generation RX 7 in 1991.

The RX-8, Mazda newest incarnation, is going to make people rethink the sports car. With room for four adults, a practical trunk that will hold a couple of suitcases, a thrilling ride, and a profile you'd be proud to be seen in, the RX-8 is a car to consider. Plus, with the new four-door format, you could easily put a folded stroller and a baby in the back seat.

And who wouldn't want to put a kid in the back seat of a vehicle that comes in metallic body colors like velocity red, blue, nordic green, or lightning yellow. The interior also breaks rules with a sharp looking two-tone leather that trims the steering wheel; seats and side trim in vivid red or tan (optional), mesh materials and hearty touches of metal.The sculpted bucket seats were a perfect fit for me. Ditto, the metal controls that Mazda engineers fine-tuned for feel, grip, and weight. Touches like this add to the driving experience. There's also plenty of space for maps, cups, ski's ( a trunk pass-through) and change.

The soul of this car is in the simplicity of the RENESIS-Mazda's next generation rotary engine. Compared to traditional internal combustion engines, this eco-friendly engine is significantly smaller and exceptionally smooth and high revving. Because of its compactness the RENESIS 13B can be placed lower and further back, behind the front axle, allowing the car to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution . This accounts for the RX-8's superb handling capabilities--- along with other touches like the double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension.

After driving the RX-8 around Harrison State Park one rainy afternoon, I can say, that the Mazda RX-8 might be the way to get families back into sports cars. The price? As one friend, exclaimed-awesome!

207-hp 4-speed automatic transmission $25,180. 247-hp 6-speed manual transmission $26,680.

Both cars are equipped with the same standard equipment including the all-new 13B RENESIS rotary engine, power windows, power mirrors, power doorlocks, cruise control, AM/FM/CD audio system with 6-speakers, ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution, front and seat-mounted airbags as well as side air curtains. In addition, the manual transmission RX-8 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a sport tuned suspension, aluminum foot pedals and foot rest and a Tochigi Fuji torque sensing limited slip rear differential.

The base price for a six-speed manual is $34,495; the five-speed automatic brings the price tag to $35,570.

By Holly Reich

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Images of the 2004, Mazda RX-8

The 2004 Mazda RX-8
The 2004 Mazda RX-8
The 2004 Mazda RX-8
The 2004 Mazda RX-8