2010 Mazda RX-8 GT Base price: $26,645

ZIPPY, HANDSOME RX-8 DELIVERS

The RX-8 is one Mazda's handsomest rides.

The RX-8’s sleek, mid-sized body belies an interior that’s more akin to its kid brother, the pint-sized Mazda RX-5 Miata, than a coupe fit for a family of four as its press materials claim.  I ain’t no Jolly Green but even I had to squeeze into the RX-8’s rear. And what’s with the suicide doors?  I thought we decided those sucked in the 50s.

You may think I’m picking on the RX-8, but it comes from a place of peace and luv, Ringo.  I mostly dug this zippy, hippy, peppy speedster, its 6 speeds, its get-up-and-go, its whole vibe.  It’s got some stupidity in its interior design—we’ll get to that later—but it was a joy to drive over a week’s test and I was sorry to see it go.

Looks good comin' or goin.'

Besides, it doesn’t matter what I think.  Since its launch in 2003, this ride has cleaned up awards-wise. Dig this—-

2003: Japanese Car of the Year, Australia’s Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year, International Engine of the Year,

2004:  Singapore Car of the Year, U.S. Best Sports Car, U.K. Car of the Year,

It’s also been on Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list for 2004, 2005, and 2006, and the car’s Renesis Rotary Engine has won nine awards since 2003.

The car’s what?

Rotary engine, man. Let me explain.

The Mazda RX-8’s Renesis rotary engine is an advanced three-stage intake system with an electronic throttle.  What that means for you is it’s got cojones aplenty, delivers smooth, linear power, and is frequent stupid fun.  The only thing is doesn’t provide is good gas mileage. In this case, that means about 16/24 city/highway, a rather crummy showing for a car this size.  But it sure makes for fun rollin’.

An electric rack-and-pinion power-steering system transmits just the right amount of road information back to your fingers, and its electric motor lends additional assistance at low speeds to ease street parking but also reduces steering assistance at higher speeds. That means you can smack it around and still feel every pebble under your wheels.

Safety features are many, and state-of-the-art.  ABS-equipped disc brakes are standard on all wheels, and Dynamic Stability Control with TCS, standard on Grand Touring and R3, delivers a superior level of handling that can be disabled when you want to rip it up out there if conditions warrant.

Along with front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags, the front end and engine bay have ample crumple zones, the front seats are designed to reduce whiplash injuries, the brake pedal is designed to break away in the event of a collision of sufficient force to protect feet and legs and all four seating positions are fitted with three-point seatbelts.  Even pedestrian protection was considered for you jackasses who text while you drive, as the RX-8 is fitted with Mazda’s “shock-cone” hood design that yields more to the impact of a pedestrian onto the hood than a standard design, yet is strong enough to not deform in normal use.

Oh, and the “stupidity” I mentioned before regarding the interior design—the seat warmers buttons are placed just inches rear of the manual shift. Unless you have hands and no forearms, prepare to keep turning them on and accidentally lighting your butt on fire. Also, there is a 1/8th inch jack for your portable sound system, but no USB cable for your iPod hookup/charge.

The cockpit's got some design weirdness, but looks great.

The system itself provides sharp sound, though, and the cockpit flaws are forgivable.  I liked this little guy, and I’m happy to give it my thumbs-up.

– Josh Max, Auto Gigolo

Pricing:

Sport –                  $26,664

Grand Touring – $29,704

R3   –                      $32,140

For more information, clicky:  2010 Mazda R8