By on September 29, 2008

It never fails. Whenever my girlfriend introduces me to guys at parties, I hear the same nine words: “Dude, you have the best job in the world.” And it’s true. I’ve driven some of this planet’s finest, fastest and most deeply addictive automobiles. But for every Audi RS4 there’s a Suzuki XL7. And a MINI Cooper Clubman S (trust me, it’s wretched). True, sometimes I’m surprised by how much I like a car; the Pontiac G8 GT springs to mind. And sometimes my socks are completely blown off my feet, like they were last week by a special edition Mazda RX-8, the R3.

I’m telling you up front that the Mazda RX-8 R3 is not for everyone. Like every modern Mazda, the company’s Nagare (flow?) design language is creeping in. Which makes the “sporty front bumper” that’s unique to the R3 package look like a demonic Pokemon. You also get a rear spoiler. I happen to think the exterior treatment looks wikkid awesome killer cool. But I understand why [some] folks over the age of 18 may not. At least we can all agree that ditching the RX-8′s ludicrous triangular anus was the best move Mazda’s made in years.

I could make the RX-8”s interior perfect in 10 minutes– with a crow bar. Out goes the goofy stereo unit, most of the crummy plastic and the useless back seats. But here’s the good part: any surface that actually involves driving is near perfect, if not actually so. The leather shrouded steering wheel’s my new best friend. The six-speed manual (only tranny available on the R3!) may not be as snick-snick perfect as the Miata’s, but it’s damn close. And you won’t find a better dead pedal on any car. I’m too fat for the Japanese market racing Recaros. But hey, I should lose 25 pounds (though I’d still be too fat).

All RX-8s now come with a brilliant new 1.3-liter RENESIS two-rotor rotary engine that’s good for 232 hp and 159 lb-ft of torque. If that doesn’t sound like much to you, you’ve never driven a Wankel. You don’t take rotaries to drag strips where their obvious lack of torque is a handicap. You take rotary-powered cars to tracks, where a 9,000 rpm redline and humongous usable power band means you can leave the car in third and forget about it ’til you win the race. That’s essentially what I did while carving through some of LA’s best canyons.

Like all RX Mazda’s, the R3’s engine is up front, driving the rear wheels. There’s no performance compromise. Up until this weekend, the EVO X MR was the best-handling car I’ve ever reviewed. But remember: the mighty EVO begins life as a humble FWD econo-box, before Mitsubishi gives it a make over with fancy computers and even fancier mechanicals. Sure, the Active Yaw Control and twin-clutches in the rear half-shafts allow the best-ever EVO to run roads faster than the RX-8 (or most exotics). But underneath all the trickery the Mitsubishi’s still an upright, upper lower middle-class family car. The RX-8 R3, on the other hand, is a sports car first, second and last.

Mazda claims that all they did to tweak the R3’s handling over lesser RX-8s was to add a set of Bilsteins, 19” forged wheels and a Urethane-foam-injected front suspension cross member (whatever that is). But you know what? The results are mind altering. The R3 comes with traction control that I had on for maybe 30 seconds. You simply don’t need it. You cannot make this car break loose. I tried very hard to do so, and with the exception of making childish donuts in a parking lot, the R3 simply doesn’t surrender grip.

The R3 feels like you’re driving a closed cockpit racecar; let’s say a Lotus Se7en with a hard top and decent AC. Looking out over the hood, I kept expecting to see open wheels. Words like “direct” and “communicative” don’t begin to do the intuitive steering justice. Every crank and tug of the wheel results in total, benign compliance. One caveat: the ride is extremely hard, brutal even. But the teeth-chattering suspension’s perfectly-suited to the R3′s nature.

And here’s the cincher: $32k. For the same price as the aforementioned awful MINI Cooper Clubman S, you can have one of the world’s finest-handling sports cars. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that the RX-8 R3 handles well for a $32k car. I’m saying it handles better than a $320k car. Or, more importantly, whatever you’re driving.

[Mazda supplied the vehicle reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

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138 Comments on “2009 Mazda RX-8 (R3 Sport Package)...”


  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Damn, 5 stars? Not a word about its abhorent V8-like fuel mileage or frequent repairs required?

    Then again, you are writing a driving review, not an owning review. I’ve no doubt the car is sublime, but the RX-8 is one of those cars, like the Mini, where all the reliability issues and negatives of ownership are pretty much ignored because of the fun factor. To each his own I suppose–I’d rather have a 350Z.

    • 0 avatar
      jew_weller

      well if you drive it normally instead of pretending its a racecar, it might not wear down so easily.

    • 0 avatar
      snowdoody

      To each his own indeed. The reliability myth is only that. To decrease issues in anything the fix is to make it simplified. The rotary engine has done this by only having 3 moving parts.

      go ahead and think about and add up the moving parts in modern piston engines, even a 4 cylinder has at least 4 times that number.

      the weight advantages of the engine are unparalleled. And because every combustion directly initiates an intake and exhaust times 2 mind u, for each rotor.

      piston engine hasn’t changed in the past century. When the rotary has only been around for half that. I would hope humanity could have the leading popularity internal combustion engine improve in some manner.

      the fuel consumption is poor due to the fact that Mazda is the only company to get the rotary to work. And never had competition to make it more efficient.

      the rotary is designed to be run hard. The recall was a preventative measure in extremely select cases.

      to protect the seals, apex aren’t the only in the engine btw, oil is injected into the combustion chamber. Similar to fogging the engine. So oil consumption is normal. Its injected around the primary injectors.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I always loved the look of RX8′s, but I couldn’t pass up the reliability/practicality of a 4 door rally car (STi).

    Anyone know if the rotary engines last past 100k miles or is that just an old wives tale?

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Well all the rotary owners constantly pipe up with “if you take care of them right they last forever” but things keep blowing up left right and center. And last year (or was it the year before?) Mazda finally did a massive recall on them to repair something fundamentally wrong with the engine (damned if I can remember what it is now) that increases longevity.

    But y’know, apex seals are apex seals. It’s just not a reliable design.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    excellent review, Jonny. I always expected these were fun cars, but i really want a convertable. I was thinking about a cooper or a cooper s droptop, i’m curious to know why you hate them.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    This may have only been a concern in the first couple years and maybe Ford/Mazda corrected it. Does the RX8 still burn oil about a quart of oil between regular oil changes?

    BTW very nice review!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Cars like these frustrate me to no end. As a father of 3 young kids, no way can I justify blowing $30K+ on a new one, and as tigeraid points out, I’d be a fool to wait 3 years and buy one used, given the reliability of Wankels.

    Pity.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    By all means, buy one if fun factor is your #1 selling point. It’s like an old British roadster–the feel of driving one outweighs the constant problems.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    You cannot make this car break lose. (sic)

    You think?

    Maybe you can’t break the rear wheels loose because of its torque deficiency, but I guarantee the car can be made to lose traction. While it handles well, no question, telling us it handles better than a Miata, Cayman, Z06, GTR, Ford GT, and LP560 (or anything else short of $320k really brings into question the seriousness of your comments.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well all the rotary owners constantly pipe up with “if you take care of them right they last forever” but things keep blowing up left right and center.

    Sounds like Saab owners. Or Mercedes owners. Or Volvo owners. Or BMW owners.

    Or owners of anything excepting the Toyota Corolla, to some degree.

  • avatar

    doctorv8:

    Just so TTAC doesn’t look like a bunch of yobs (as if), please send all typos to robert.farago@thetruthaboutcars.com. Meanwhile, text amended.

    On the handling seriousness front, I defer to Mr. Lieberman.

  • avatar

    The handling is as good as he says it is. I haven’t driven the R3 yet, but the handling of the regular car is THAT GOOD, with excellent ride quality for a sports car. A 350Z handles like a truck in comparison. I’ve driven over 500 different cars. IMHO, none of them is as fun or as easy to drive quickly on a challenging mountain road as the RX-8.

    In a drive from VA to Detroit and back, hitting some of the toughest roads in WV and OH, I only needed the stability control once. But even if you only need it once, it’s very good to have. And, unlike some such systems, it operates unobtrusively. When it kicks in, you want it to kick in.

    TTAC has an editorial lost somewhere in the bin where I argue that this car’s poor sales indicate that few people truly place a high priority on handling. If you think you do, you should own one of these. Seriously.

    One error in the review: the rear seats are far from useless. I’m 5-9 (but not overweight), and I fit back there with more comfort than in some sedans.

    Reliability is about average in TrueDelta’s survey, but then hardly any of the current gen cars are near 100k. You can find plenty of 2005s and even 2004s with under 20k miles on them, because they’re often second cars. And they’re dirt cheap.

    After you buy one, I hope you’ll participate in the survey:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    VFR800A

    For once, I can write about a nice car from my own experience, not from what I’ve heard. I owned a new 2004 RX-8 for 5 months in 2005. Thank God, that thing was stolen! Worst car I ever had, can’t understand why every auto journalist goes ga-ga over it. Probably fun if you live in California or Florida, where roads are billiard-table smooth. Not so much in Montreal, where every other inch of road is covered with cracks and potholes. The ride is intolerable after about oh, 2 minutes?? The Bose soundsystem is crap. Everyone wants to race you but you don’t have enough power to win. Ever. And the drinking… I had that car when Katrina pushed gas price for premium at 1.60 $CDN/liter (about 7.71$US/gallon). Fill ups lasted about 150 miles, city driving. Let’s not forget price. You may get your R3 for 32K, but it’s 42K in Canada (46K for a GT with nav, which I had). Some things are harder to forgive at that price point.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    trust me, it’s wretched

    Sorry Jonny, I liked my drive in the Clubman S. It’s on my list for WRX Wagon replacement. Thus, trust, but verify.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @beetlebug:

    Lieberman’s Clubman S press car was an automatic.

  • avatar

    VFR800A: have you driven any sports cars with passable ride quality on Montreal roads? I don’t think I’ve driven a sports car that rides better than the RX-8. I’ve driven plenty that ride much worse.

  • avatar

    MINI hands out automatic press cars? Do they want bad reviews?

    I’ve only driven the current MINI with an automatic, and didn’t care for it, but blame the transmission.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    Probably fun if you live in California or Florida, where roads are billiard-table smooth. Not so much in Montreal, where every other inch of road is covered with cracks and potholes. The ride is intolerable after about oh, 2 minutes?? The Bose soundsystem is crap. Everyone wants to race you but you don’t have enough power to win. Ever.

    lol.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    A Corvette equipped with the F55 Magnetic ride control rides better than a base RX8, especially if you ditch the run flat tires….if my experience with the old RX7 and it’s R1 variation is any indication, I would imagine the R3 is a fair bit stiffer.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I’ve seen 22 year old wankels with 150K on them, and even the old ones are a blast to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      pilotbraden

      I have 245000 miles on my 1985 RX7. It has the original engine. It is shifted at redline daily without any maintenance issues. The only thing that i have done to lmprove the reliability was to disconnect the oil metering pump and premix the fuel and oil at approx. 200-1. I have just purchased a 2009 RX8. It drive beautifully.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    After my ownership experiance with an RX-7 I can promise you that no amount of positive review will ever make me own a Rotory powered car again.

    The Wankel is like a heroin addiction. Addictively fun but ultimatly self-destructive.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    DrV8: “Ride” and “drive” are two different things. The Corvette is probably still a bit heavier on it’s feet than the RX and takes a bit more muscle to get it in the turns, but I’m sure it’s a bit more comfortable as a cruiser.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    Justin,
    Thanks for the info on the Mini with auto. Ugh, I can imagine how that might dumb down the driving experience. In some ways I think the Mini and the RX8 are similar: Strong auto flavors that not everyone will like but those who do can get intoxicated on them. Just yesterday I was swearing about the radio controls in our Mini, but then I took a few sweepers and realized that occasional swearing is good for the soul.

    Actually, my concern about the RX8 is the aforementioned excessive oil usage and the lack of torque. I don’t go to VIR and do track days (wish I could afford it, though), I drive in traffic and occasionally break free on a nice twisty road for treat. Thus, I’m not sure if I would have a smile on my face if I had to lug the RX8 around town.

  • avatar
    crazybob

    VFR800A: You presumably took your car for a test drive before buying it, right? If you didn’t notice an uncomfortable ride, poor sound system, and lack of torque during a test drive, then I have a really hard time placing value on your opinion.

    doctorv8: As TEXN3 noted, Ride and Handling are very different animals. Ride is all about comfort, while Handling is about communication, driver involvement, and confidence. They aren’t entirely mutually exclusive, but they come close. The Corvette, Ford, and Lamborghini you listed may very well have better ride comfort than even a base RX-8, but I can readily believe they have worse handling. Nimble cars, not necessarily fast cars, are the kings of handling.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    TEXN3:

    I’m familiar with ride vs drive, thanks.

    I was responding to Michael Karesh’s statement, “I don’t think I’ve driven a sports car that rides better than the RX-8.”

    No question the RX8 is lighter on its feet, but the F55 Vette is a sports car that rides noticeably better. Too bad very few Corvettes are so equipped, since the MR shocks are a $1900 option.

    Crazybob:

    Ditto.

    If either of you think the RX8 handles better than a Miata or S2000, let alone a Cayman….hell, even the 1993-95 RX7 was more nimble IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      rx8

      Both my 2009 RX-8 and 2012 NC2 MX-5′s are BRILLIANT, the Miata needed a sway bar upgrade (so used OEM 2009~ RX-8 Sways) stops the bad body roll and turns the MX-5 into what it should be, the best $200 mod to ANY NC Miata.

      And YES it does handle better than an S2000 or Cayman.

      http://www.motortrend.com/features/performance/112_0810_americas_best_handling_car_track_testing/mazda_rx_8_bmw_m3.html

      http://www.motortrend.com/features/performance/112_0910_2009_best_drivers_car/2009_mazda_mx_5_miata.html

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Thanks for the review.

    The Evo X is a really Family Sport Sedan compared to the RX-8 which is a Sport Car. A VERY good counterpart of the BMW Zs and Audi TTs.

    In Japan RX-8 are use to chase kids with Rice Rockets or high performance cars that are racing in the streets of Tokyo.

    But one problem with RX-8 engine is that it takes time to accelerate according to my friend who just bought one.

    The price is not bad for a sports car compared to the BMW, Evo and Audi.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I always had fun driving this car. Last time I was at a Mazda driving event, I remember driving this car 5 times that day, it was that much fun.

    Good review Jonny. This car really does deserve 5 stars.

    Pity about the front end styling though.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    As a lurker on this site for years, this review finally prompted me to sign up and comment.
    I will do my best not to sound like an offended fan-boy.

    I am the proud owner of a 2004 RX-8 I have owned since new. It was in the first batch of North American cars.
    I have stayed on top of the maintenance, and did deal with a few recalls (upgraded starter, redesigned coil packs) but otherwise, the car has been great with no reliability problems at all.
    It has certainly not been a garage queen. It has been daily driven, I had it at a Solo II event when it was only 8 days old and it’s done more open lapping days and HPDEs than I can count. It happily did a 3000km road trips to Quebec for a lapping event at Mount Tremblant and did just fine on the Quebec roads (including Montreal) while it was there.
    The ride quality of the car is fabulous in my opinion, and it’s smoother than my previous sporty car (Civic SiR coupe), much smoother than the MazdaSpeed Protege is shares a garage with, and rides smoother than my friends E46 M3 as well. I can’t ask for much better than that from my sports car. It’s not meant to be a Camry.

    The car is not perfect by any means, but I’ve found it to be perfect for me.
    Very comfortable on the highway, fabulous handling on track, very useable day-to-day. (4 of use used to to go to dinner the other night.) I was even able to fit my girlfriend and I, luggage for a weekend, 4 mounted 18″ R-compound tires, tools, trolley jack, helmet and a cooler into it. Try that with a comparable sports car.

    It’s not perfect (but no car is.) Yes, the Bose system is bad, the plastic quality is so-so (much better than a 350Z IMO), I find the stock springs allow a touch too much body roll and the fuel mileage is towards the bottom of it’s class, but otherwise I have nothing bad to say.

    As for people’s oil-use concerns, I burn maybe 1L of oil between changes, or about the same as my previous VTEC Honda.

    As for long-term reliability, most NA RX7s get to 200,000 miles without an issue. It’s the Turbo’s that get you and have given the cars reliability a bad name.

    For those of you who just don’t understand the car, all I can say is, “Drive it.” I’ve had two people I know end up buying them after I told them to go drive one rather than me try to explain in words to them why I bought mine. One of them ran theirs for 3 years (and counting) year-round in Montreal, the other in Ottawa.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Pretty spot on review although most of the characteristics you’ve described are available on the base or mid-level RX8.

    The only thing I’d disagree about is the “useless” rear seats. I find them to be very useful but then I’m not 6’ tall. I regularly transport 1-2 kids back there with no complaints (also have had four adults in the car too with no complaints). The only thing the RX8 lacks is power and torque which should be helped some with the 16x engine (still several years away and I’d give Mazda 2-3 years to iron out the bugs).

    And for the usual complaints:

    Gas mileage: I average 19-20MPG in mixed driving with multiple redlines daily.
    Reliability: Yes those who bought a new engine design in 04 or 05 have had some issues. Still not significant when compared to many other manufacturers (looking at you VW). There are many who have 80k miles or more with no issues too.
    Oil Usage: About a quart between oil changes. It’s supposed to do that and its not a big deal.

    Think of it as an S2000 that you can put four average sized people in.

  • avatar
    Airhen


    By Jonny Lieberman

    You take rotary-powered cars to tracks, where a 9,000 rpm redline and humongous usable power band means you can leave the car in third and forget about it ’til you win the race. That’s essentially what I did while carving through some of LA’s best canyons.

    Growing up in Colorado/ Wyoming and owning two RX-7′s (one of which was the best of the first generation… an ’84 GSL-SE), I can attest to driving most of the time in third gear and pushing that redline as easy as a hot knife threw butter. I’d fly up I-70 to the Eisenhower tunnel in third gear doing 75 mph when all of the other vehicles were pushing 45 mph. And I would just drive around them.

    Not to mention the thrill of driving through a narrow canyon. It was May of ’95 when I was just leaving Estes Park to go down the Big Thompson Canyon when two brand new Corvettes (that still had the temp. tags) went flying around me; chasing each other down the canyon. I proceeded to follow them.

    Anyone that is familiar with that canyon knows that there are limited and very short areas to pass not to mention narrow and tight curves. Whenever they would pass anyone, I would stay right on the second car’s rear bumper and follow them. We made what was usually a 30 minute drive down to 18 minutes! I’m sure it broke their hearts that they couldn’t lose a ten year old RX-7 with their new purchases.

    A rotary engine is truly a lot of fun. It is like an electric motor that hums like it’s filled with angry bees. For anyone that has not had the pleasure, do not discount it, and make it a goal once in your life to drive a Rotary.

    As far as the RX-8, I almost bought one but decided it was time in my life that I wanted to leave the paved roads… so I bought a Jeep Wrangler as it handles mud and rocks a lot better. :D

  • avatar

    I have owned both a 1993 twin turbo RX-7 and a 2004 custom single turbo RX-8 and I assure you, these cars are reliable and will last forever – the rotary is a compromise – you get super light weight and low mass in exchange for trash fuel economy and some oil consumption.

    HOWEVER – if you know what you’re doing, they will last forever.

    Unfortunately, 90% of the population has no clue what they’re doing when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car, much less maintaining one.

    That said, the RX-8 is one of the most overlooked cars on the planet – and as a result you can have one for thousands off sticker or get a heavily subsidized lease.

    Keep in mind – the 2004 RX-8 tied the 2004 BMW M3 around Top Gear’s test track – this thing is a serious sports car.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    Steve_S: Thanks for the much more succinct version of my little rant.

    Speaking as a person 6 feet tall, I can fit into the back with the drivers seat set for me (although I sit close to the wheel as a track-habit) but wouldn’t want to go much further than across town.

    My mileage has been comparable to yours as well.

    It ticks all of the sports-car boxes while being a little underpowered.
    In summary, it’s a typical Mazda. Great handling, great brakes, but needs more Cowbell…

    (Did I forget to mention the stellar brakes? The term boat-anchor is probably best used to describe them.)

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Wow, lots of controversy over the RX-8. But it’s a weird car. Rotary engine, suicide doors, cartoon styling, it’s bound to be a love-it-or-hate-it. I think it’s a really an alternative to an Evo or an STi, rather than a BMW or a Audi TT. The styling is just too out there.

    Personally I drove an ’05 RX-8 in Ithaca, NY (lots of hills, cracked and frost heaved roads), and I loved it. I seriously considered trading in my Mazda3 and getting one of these, but the I think I’ll wait a while longer, pick up a slightly more depreciated ’05 or ’06.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Robstar :
    September 29th, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Anyone know if the rotary engines last past 100k miles or is that just an old wives tale?

    I had to respond…

    My old ’84 RX-7 GSL-SE is now sitting in a friend’s garage. Although the rotary needs work, it still runs at 185,000 miles. He tells me that it still drives like it did when I owned it. He plans on restoring the car and reworking the original rotary to 250 hp.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    “Oil Usage: About a quart between oil changes. It’s supposed to do that and its not a big deal.”

    IMHO a modern day car should not burn a quart of oil between changes. A year after the RX8 came out I went down to the dealership to test drive and hopefully purchase one. As we were going over the car he casually mentioned the need to add a quart of oil between oil changes and I walked away from the purchase after hearing that. If this has changed then I would seriously considering purcasing a used one on the cheap. I think its bullshit that Mazda couldn’t build an engine that doesn’t burn oil. Does anyone know if the newer model year RX-8 still burn oil??

    BTW I don’t buy the argument that a high revving engine inherently burns oil. My current car has the Toyota/Yamaha 2zz engine in it that redlines at 8,200 RPM. 5000 mile recommended oil changes. Never once had to add oil despite a more than occassional jaunt up to redline. Same with my friend’s S2000.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    RGS920: It has nothing to do with hi-revs

    It’s what Wankels do.

    Buy the way, oil costs about $5 a quart. Which, if you drive 12,000 miles per year is… $20

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I guess my gripe is that even though it’s supposed to do that, it seems like an imperfect design to me. For me that was the deal breaker even though I love everything else about the car.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    I think I remember R&T quoting a figure of 15mpg around town on average with their six-speed RX-8. It just doesn’t seem worth it, considering how slow they are.

    Still, they do handle well and are fun… it’s just… a car with a real engine makes more sense.

  • avatar
    crazybob

    RGS920: Wankel engines consume oil very deliberately. The oil is injected into the combustion chamber to preserve the apex seals. The alternative would be replacing the apex seals far more frequently, which I assure you would be more expensive than the occasional $5 quart of oil.

    Mrb00st: Why are people so convinced that it’s a slow car? Top Gear tested it at the same lap time as an M3, which nobody has ever claimed to be a slow car. Of course, even that’s really beside the point; I would much rather have a fun car than a fast car. Certainly, speed can be fun, but if you can have that same fun while going more slowly, then you can enjoy it in more places. When a car is only fun at high speeds, you can enjoy it illegally or on a track. When a car is fun at low speeds, you can enjoy it every time you drive.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I think its bullshit that Mazda couldn’t build an engine that doesn’t burn oil. Does anyone know if the newer model year RX-8 still burn oil??

    They still burn oil. It’s how they work. Oil is used to lubricate the engine’s moving parts, and nearly all the moving parts of this engine are inside the combustion chamber. The critical bits are the apex seals–they must be lubricated.

    It’s not like a four-stroke piston engine in which oil consumption is an indication of problems or deficiency, it’s a design requirement.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    RGS920: The car doesn’t burn oil due to sloppy build quality. They intentionally inject oil into the combustion chamber to lubricate the seals. In fact, the big “engine recall” of last year that some people got worked up about was largely because cars that weren’t being revved high enough (primarily the automatics) weren’t injecting enough oil, and part of the “recall” was a new engine map that injects a bit more oil across the RPM range, not just at high RPM.
    From the long-term tests I’ve read in EVO, CAR, etc burning oil at that rate seems to be very normal, especially in Audi’s.

    There is an easy way to not have it burn the oil. Disable the oil metering pump and run pre-mix in your gas instead.

    My track-only RX7 runs 80:1 premix…. none of the “oil” is being burned, and it leaves a lovely 2-stroke haze behind it.

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    cretinx :
    September 29th, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I have owned both a 1993 twin turbo RX-7 and a 2004 custom single turbo RX-8 and I assure you, these cars are reliable and will last forever – the rotary is a compromise – you get super light weight and low mass in exchange for trash fuel economy and some oil consumption.

    HOWEVER – if you know what you’re doing, they will last forever.

    Unfortunately, 90% of the population has no clue what they’re doing when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car, much less maintaining one.

    That said, the RX-8 is one of the most overlooked cars on the planet – and as a result you can have one for thousands off sticker or get a heavily subsidized lease.

    Keep in mind – the 2004 RX-8 tied the 2004 BMW M3 around Top Gear’s test track – this thing is a serious sports car.

    So what’s the secret? Typical engine maintenance usually only requires oil/filter changes. I guess plugs/wires and coolant (although many cars now recommend 100,000 miles before doing this). Not much else. So what’s everyone doing wrong that is having problems with these rotaries? I can’t speak for the RX-8, but finding a RX-7 that hasn’t had a rebuilt motor (if over 80,000 miles) is like finding a needle in a haystack. And you would think most people that buy a sportscar are at least going to change the oil at the recommended intervals. As often as you see (rebuilt motor), I find it hard to believe it’s always negligence.

    Now for my review of the RX-8. Yes, I drove a friends. Yes, the handling is incredible. I actually liked the interior (leather), and felt the back seats where useable with adults. About the same amount of space as 3-series in back. Looking from the outside, you wouldn’t think so. I felt the comfort was typical of a sportscar, which was good enough for me… What surprised me was the power. From all the reviews I read I thought it was going to be pathetic. But, this car does have some oomph.. if driven aggressively. No, not V8 power. But enough to satisfy if driven hard. Problem is even though it doesn’t have V8 power, it drinks like one. My buddy complained all the time about how poor it was concerning MPG. And he really didn’t drive it that hard. I guess this, along with suspect reliability has stopped me from every looking into a RX-8. I could deal with one, but not both. BTW – This same friend now ones a BMW 335i. I ask him which car handles better. He said RX8 hands down. That being said, he loves the Beemer. Especially the acceleration + fuel economy. Of course, it cost him nearly double.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    So what’s everyone doing wrong that is having problems with these rotaries?

    Predetonation/pre-ignition is one, especially on the turbocharged cars. Low-grade fuel, or improperly-meterd air/fuel charges can cause this. One good “boom” will whack either the rotor or the housing.

    Quite frankly, oil is another. Even gearheads have trouble with the concept of checking your oil every other fill-up on a modern car. Seriously, check Edmunds’ long-term writeup: even their supposedly car-literate testers just couldn’t wrap their brains around it.

    The rotary can run well for a long time, but–and I’m parrotting Saab-owning colleagues here–you must keep it in tune to do so. It’s not a Toyota Corolla (a car that seems inordinately able to withstand neglect). I’m not saying this is a good thing, just different engineering priorities.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Rotary motors are a hoot, but they sure break a lot. All the rotaries I’ve seen that go for any appreciable amount of time are owned by people who are “into” Wankels. They are easy to take apart and put back together, so if you’re into maintaining your ride as a hobby I could see an RX as a great car. If you aren’t good at or enthusiastic about anticipating failures from “new sounds” coming out of the motor and then fixing them, or are of the mindset that the “new sound” will hopefully go away, Wankels will break your heart and bank. From an emissions point of view, rotaries are the best 2-cycle motor every made…lol.

  • avatar
    ERJR

    I have to echo the positive comments here. I own an 05 RX8 6 speed manual with grand touring package. It is an excellent car all around and I would recommend people drive the car and do some research before buying it.

    To set the record straight, there is no special tuning or maitenance to the RX8. It is recommended to check the oil often but this is extreme.

    For those with negative comments without facts to back it up, if you did some research you would find the majority of problems are with automatics. If you can’t drive stick, then avoid this car. Anyone doubting reliability should visit the RX8.com forum. There are numerous RX8s with well over 100k miles and no problems.

    • 0 avatar
      RotaryMan91

      Great reply ERJR. Let’s also not forget that the rotary is the quickest in professional racing to reach 100 victories. This includes both sprint and 12 and 24 hour endurance races. Rotary racing teams have recorded not having to rebuild there engines throughout each racing season, unlike their piston counter-parts. That kind of duribility has and continues to translate over to Mazda’s production cars such as the RX-7 and RX-8. There are ‘lemons’ in both camps (piston and rotary). But Mazda has proven the reliability of the rotary by the majority of it’s owners and the toughest place, under professional racing conditions resulting in many championships over a lot of ‘piston boys’ crying foul to ‘the little engine that could’ Again, good insight ERJR

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Last spring, I finally gave away my 1984 RX-7 with the 13B fuel injected engine. It had 190k miles on the original engine.

    In contrast, a friend had an early 90s, twin-turbo, third generation RX-7. Its engine died at 70k miles.

    I’m sure the RX-8 is a great drive. However, I think it’s so ugly that you would have to lead me to it blindfolded.

  • avatar

    Owner-reported fuel economy can be viewed here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php?stage=pt&bd=Mazda&mc=177

    Some people think this car is slow when they’re used to massive torque right off idle. The first 20 MPH are the biggest issue. For a mountain road, where you’re going between 30 and 60, you have all the power you need.

    Of course, if most of your driving is on straight roads from stoplight to stoplight, this isn’t the car for you.

    I’ve been told that my editorial on the car will find its way out of the bin soon…

  • avatar

    doctorv8:

    My issue with the Corvette is less ride quality than the extreme roar that enters the cockpit from the rear tires. I think they’ve better insulated the cargo area in recent years, but still way too loud on some roads.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Michael,

    I hear you. (literally) But ditching the runflats fixes 70% of the noise, in addition to the obvious ride/handling improvements. A few well placed pieces of dynamat helps as well, but you still have 600+ mm of rubber on the road a few feet from your ears, and the huge cargo volume (22 cu ft) tends to amplify the problem. I have a C4 ZR-1 that is much quieter than the C5/6′s for some reason.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    With the face that the RX-8′s burn oil, how does this affect pollution?

    I have been looking into a 2 stroke bike for a while but I don’t think any are street legal (I could be wrong….). It sounds like the wankel works alot like a 2 stroke.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    With the face that the RX-8’s burn oil, how does this affect pollution?

    It affects it negatively.

    The RX just squeaks in under current regulations, and bettering it will be a real challenge without resorting to hybrid/electic power or alternative fuels (hydrogen, CNG).

    It’s not two-stroke bad, but it isn’t good, either.

  • avatar
    Morea

    At 3000lbs it seems on the heavy side, especially since the rotary engine itself has a very nice HP/weight ratio. In contrast the MX-5 is 500 lbs lighter. Is 500 lbs the penalty for the two extra seats? Is that much extra metal needed for the extra 15 inches of wheelbase?

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Robstar -

    Thermodynamically speaking Wankels are 4 stroke, because they have 4 phases in a cycle (inlet, compression, expansion, and exhaust), but they are set up to burn oil to make the seals last longer. A two stroke usually uses what, 20:1 to 50:1 mix, which is a much faster rate of oil burn than a rotary.

    Does it pollute more? Almost certainly. Anyone drive a rotary in a state with emissions testing past 100K miles? I’d bet the catalytic converter is spent faster.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I owned an 87 RX-7 and test drove (a couple of times) the new RX-8 back in 2004, since I was looking for a car at that time. First, the rear seat is not just an after thought, like a Mustang or 911. Real people can fit back there. Both me and my wife are 6’1″ and we had no problem getting into, out of, and sitting in the back seat. Second, I get sick of hearing that the rotary engine is a horrible peice of s#@% because it uses approximately 1 quart of oil every 3,000 miles. As already mentioned, due to the design of the engine, oil must be injected into the combustion chamber to lubricate the apex seals. In fact, the real reason, IMO, that you need to check the oil frequently is to make sure that it is using oil. The last thing you want is the oil injection pump to fail and leave your engine seals dry. Finally, I test drove an RX-8 and a Nissan 350Z on the same day. The RX-8 interior was much more useful than the Nissan’s even ignoring the lack of a rear seat in the Nissan (no kids, so I can do that). The Nissan certainly had more torque, but the RX-8′s handling will put a smile on any gearhead’s face. My wife who drives a Cobra Mustang was absolutely blown away that a car could handle so well. I was just wishing that I didn’t have a salesman in the car, so that I could have done some of the things I used to do in my RX-7. My wife was also afraid to rev the engine like you should, and I think that is the other part of the reason the RX-8 and rotary engines in general get such a bad rap (along with oil use). People just aren’t used to operating an engine north of 6k rpm. Personally, I love the singing engine when you really push it and that’s when you find the car’s true powerband. The rotary engine is also a necessity, in that it is a big part of the car’s handling prowess. Because the engine is so small and light, the designers were able to push it way back in the engine bay of the car giving the car a 50:50 weight distribution front to rear. While I didn’t end up getting the RX-8, it was a really close call, and I think I even had my wife on board, a lady who likes the big V8 grunt of a Mustang. The handling simply won her over.

    One warning however, I would not necessarily trust a used RX-8, particularly on a car lot. I would want to talk to the previous owner and make sure they understood the particulars of maintaining a rotary engine. Because they are different, the chances of improper maintenance combined with “sprited” driving seem to be a greater risk than in a more conventionally powered car.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Sean 362880:

    My RX-7 was over 150,000 miles when it passed it’s last smog test in California before I sold it back in 97 or 98.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    Morea: 3000lbs is on the heavy side compared to what? That’s several hundred pounds less than a 350Z (which only has 2 seats), BMW 135 etc. It’s only about 100lbs more than a Civic. By todays standards, it is relatively light.

    vs. a Miata, you do have the weight of the extra metal inherent in the length, as well as the roof, but you also have 8 air bags, bigger wheels and brakes, more exhaust to keep the noise of the rotary in check etc. It’s just a bigger (and safer) car with more equipment.

    The actual back sets themselves are relatively light. People who have pulled them out (which doesn’t take long) have found there is only 20lbs. or so saved in weight as I recall.
    As for the length of the car, the fuel tanks actually sit under the back seat, keeping a low polar moment of inertia since all of the major weight is inside the axels. So, for all of those who want to rip it all out and make the car smaller, you might actually hurt the sublime balance of the chassis.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    RGS920 : Rotaries burn oil by design. Those apex seals won’t lube themselves in the combustion chamber unless you add 2-stroke oil into the gas tank. Some German cars seem to burn just as much or more oil than an RX8 anyway.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Redshift : By todays standards, it is relatively light.

    My point exactly, what ever happened to the so-called ‘materials revolution’ where auto weight would come down and performance (at the pump and on the road) would improve?

    you do have the weight of the extra metal inherent in the length, as well as the roof,

    I always though (for equal size) convertibles were heavier because extra mass had to be added to make up for the lack of a roof. (All the stiffness must be in the floor, i.e. a 2-D object not a 3-D object.)

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Robstar:
    With the face that the RX-8’s burn oil, how does this affect pollution?

    psarhjinian :
    It affects it negatively.

    It passes – even in CA. Which, given the rotary’s inherent polluting design, is an engineering miracle.

    +1 to Mazda for making a whip like this.

  • avatar
    bludragon

    “I’m not saying that the RX-8 R3 handles well for a $32k car. I’m saying it handles better than a $320k car. Or, more importantly, whatever you’re driving.”

    Sounds to me like a perfect track car, but if it’s to be used as such, how does “whatever you’re driving” compare with a Lotus elise / exige?

  • avatar

    Hmm, this handling thing has me interested, esp. after hearing the podcast on it. Handling was the reason I fell in love with my S2000 that I currently own. I have owned an ’84 RX-7 years ago which was a lot of fun to drive, and I owned a ’95 Miata too!

    Glad to see Mazda still makes fun to drive cars.

  • avatar
    Adub

    Just imagine what the car would be like with the turbo four out of the MazdaSpeed3. It’d actually have a bottom end and better mpg!

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    bludragon: I have a feeling it would be very, very close.

    Adub: and weigh 300 pounds more and lose its balance. No thank you.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Wankel engines is a flawed idea.
    Especially with todays gas prices.
    I would consider buying this car if it had a common engine.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Morea: I always though (for equal size) convertibles were heavier because extra mass had to be added to make up for the lack of a roof. (All the stiffness must be in the floor, i.e. a 2-D object not a 3-D object.)

    The RX-8 has no pillar between the front doors and the suicide doors in order to allow access to the rear seats. For this reason, they had to stiffen the floor much like a convertible.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Buckshot :
    September 29th, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Wankel engines is a flawed idea.
    Especially with todays gas prices.
    I would consider buying this car if it had a common engine.

    The problem is, with a common engine it would lose its uncommon handling, unless they ripped out the rear seats and made it a mid-engine sports car.

  • avatar

    Anyone who thinks California roads are “billiard-table smooth” apparently hasn’t driven in Los Angeles in the past decade. Granted, there usually aren’t the surface-of-the-moon potholes you get in New York, but the road surfaces are pretty rough.

    If you want billiard-table smooth, maybe Atlanta. Compared to Southern California, Atlanta freeways are glassy smooth, even at speeds that would be abusive in CA.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    I would very much like to know where these perfect roads are in Florida.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I doubt the RX-8 design parameters included daily commuting and long road trips. It’s the kind of car to buy new, keep garaged, and drive a few thousand miles a year when the spirit moves you.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    There are a couple of things to keep in mind:

    1) Gas mileage is a red herring. Think of it this way, any comparable car would cost at least 10 big ones more than this car and that will pay for a lot of gas

    2)This car costs $32 grand loaded. The most expensive option on this car that’s not included is satellite radio. This is not like a Porsche or Bimmer where the sticker is just the starting point.

    3) The biggest problem with this car is that it has to be driven aggressively to be enjoyed because the revs have to be kept up. Drive this car leisurely and it feels like a slug. Most of us do not have canyons and twisties on our daily commute. In everyday traffic, this car would not excite

  • avatar
    dolo54

    A lot of people are arguing about this car. Half love it/ half hate it. I, for one, am just glad this car exists. In an era where 99% of all cars are so middle-of-the-road and boring that most people wouldn’t look at or think twice about them, this car stands out as a quirky, purpose-built car for those who can appreciate it. I think all cars should be that way, unfortunately almost none are anymore.

    @argentla: coming from nyc, and driving around LA, uh, they are billiard table smooth to me!

  • avatar
    arapaima

    I simply love the engine, that could be the engine of the future there. If we ever get ceramic engines as a viable choice.

    Ceramic engines are great because they don’t really need to be cooled, some prototypes can work, without heat related strain at 2000 degrees, Celsius. In theory reducing emissions, increasing economy and improved durability.

  • avatar
    doktorno

    Morea, materials revolution?

    Light
    Cheap
    Strong

    Pick two.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    I simply love the engine, that could be the engine of the future there.

    So the engine of the future is V8 fuel economy out of a 1.3 Litre, constant maintenence and burning oil?

    Sounds like you need a small diesel forklift engine in your car.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Lumbergh21: The RX-8 has no pillar between the front doors …
    Lumbergh thanks for the insight, I knew there had to be a good reason.

    doktorno :
    Morea, materials revolution?
    Light
    Cheap
    Strong
    Pick two.

    Then it’s not much of a revolution is it?

    In 1954 the Corvette had a fiberglass body to save weight. 54 years later only the Corvette has a fiberglass body to save weight! (OK, perhaps one ot two other cars too.) Everything else is… stamped steel, just like 1954. (Granted it’s thinner now, “Hey don’t lean on my car there!”)

    Aluminum? Structurally, in a few cars (Audis, (which are still heavy), Lotus). Engine blocks here and there. Magnesium? Here and there as well, e.g. gearbox housings. Titanium? Con rods in a few exotics. Lexan windows? Nope still (heavy) glass. Ceramic blocks or values? Are you kidding me?! Ceramic brakes in a few exotics. Oh, we did get plastic value covers and intake manifolds, so that’s a step forward (maybe). Composites? See Corvette above. revolution, indeed! Sounds like conservative incrementalism.

    Meanwhile we have 8 air bags and 6 speakers…

  • avatar
    arapaima

    Tigeraid, you removed the qualifying statement about ceramic engines. The wankel makes more sense with ceramics than any reciprocating engine due to the relative smoothness of the design. A wankel made with ceramics would be more efficient due to its higher combustion temperature and the fact that there is no need to cool the engine, reducing a pretty good amount of weight.

    Of course it’s only one part in the materials revolution, it takes a lot of effort to overcome inherent flaws of materials. Magnesium is unfortunately flammable (and a real pain to put out once it ignites), corrodes readily if improperly alloyed or prepped, and it doesn’t bend, it just cracks. Aluminum can’t take as much heat as steel, plus vibrations through it are about triple those in steel due its elasticity.

    I think it’s more that the revolution was hijacked by pretty toys and safety features than anything else. I don’t mind the safety features, but it irks me to see integrated ipod inputs, satellite radio, phone systems, etc. adding costs onto a car when more practical, cheaper, but non integrated systems can be had. Sure having it all in your car is nice, but I like having a hands free phone/navigation/mp3 player I can use in any car, not just the one.

  • avatar

    I don’t know anything about rotary engines so pardon my ignorance, but how on earth can a 1.3 litre displacement engine only average 15 mpg?

  • avatar
    danms6

    I don’t know anything about rotary engines so pardon my ignorance, but how on earth can a 1.3 litre displacement engine only average 15 mpg?

    The same way that a NA 1.3L engine can put out 232 HP.

    I think the R3 package looks gorgeous in person and I can’t wait to drive one after this review. This would be on my short list next year if I want to move out of my Speed6.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    hawver-

    The primary reason is that the Wankel loses a lot of the fuel energy to heat. That’s because the swept area of the combustion chamber is very large relative to its volume.

    Take a look at the radiator in an RX. It would look right at home in front of a Detroit V8.

    Wankels also have a relatively low compression ratio. That’s one of the reasons that they respond so well to turbocharging. Being lower-compression, they don’t extract as much mechanical energy from the fuel.

    My very first new car was a 1980 RX-7. I agree that Wankels aren’t for everyone. But that was a very sweet car.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    –I don’t know anything about rotary engines so pardon my ignorance, but how on earth can a 1.3 litre displacement engine only average 15 mpg?

    –The same way that a NA 1.3L engine can put out 232 HP.

    Of course a NA 7.0 V8 can make well over 500 HP and still get much more than 15 mpg in the lightweight Corvette.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    The rotary sounds like the polar opposite to a small diesel like the VW 1.9 TDI. High HP, Low Torque and high fuel consumption relative to the work being performed.

    Add to my mental wish list of cars that would rock with a good smallish diesel.

  • avatar
    shaker

    arapaima is on to something — since the Wankel is a non-reciprocating engine, ceramic materials might be viable for the combustion chamber walls and apex seals (and maybe the rotor’s dished surfaces). The increased operating temps allowed could increase thermal efficiency, thus boosting fuel economy (a bit). It’s possible that ceramic apex seals may need less lubrication as well.

    But, alas, these upgrades would price the poor engine into exotica, exactly what Mazda is trying to avoid…

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Well, it sounds like the Corvette is indeed God’s own chariot.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I always have no comment when I see a Mustang and Corvette. Because it is our very own

    Top Gear said why do British don’t buy Ford F-150
    pick up truck.

    the answer will be on You Tube

  • avatar
    unregular

    I always have no comment when I see a Mustang and Corvette. Because it is our very own

    Top Gear said why do British don’t buy Ford F-150
    pick up truck.

    the answer will be on You Tube

    cryptic…

    count me in the WANT group for this thing!

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Morea : I’ve wondered the same thing. I figure as more lighter weight materials get used, they keep adding more crap to the car, like 22 inch rims and air suspension (in the case of Mercedes)

    shaker : Some aftermarket companies do make ceramic apex seals for rotary engines. The claim is, they are tougher, but they are more “brittle” than the OEM seals. Supposedly, when they break, they can shatter and embed themselves into the rotor or housings, and render the engine unsalvageable.

  • avatar

    Wonderful review! I drove one of these for a week four years ago while doing a story. Everything Jonny says is true. It is just a lovely fun car. I would have bought one, but I got hung up on the gas mileage. The unfortunate thing is that a piston engine with enough power to be fun would be far heavier than the Wankel, and would raise the center of gravity, thus diminishing the superb handling. The RX-8 is agile like a dancer.

    Also, I loved the fact that the back seat was useable.

    To clear up one misconception: the RPMs on the Wankel refers to the shaft, but the rotor is actually rotating at only one fourth the rpms of the shaft. So 10,000 RPM woiuld actually be 2,500.

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    This car would be sooooo much better with a quick spooling turbo. I know cretinx mentioned he did this modification. Anyone else? Cost? Opinions?

  • avatar
    Redshift

    David Holzam: A minor nit, but the rotors turn at 1/3 of the eccentric shaft, not 1/4.

    onerareviper: There are a number of FI options for the RX8, ranging from a fairly simple and inexpensive kit from GReddy that will give around 240 HP at the wheels (for around $3500 + install) to kits from BHR, MM, Mazsport and others that range from $5000 – $8000K but will easily give 300+ hp at the wheels with good driveability and reliability. The more expensive kits add a lot of upgrades like fuel pumps, stand-alone ECU etc. to reliably support the HP.

    Overall, the issue is the Renesis was never designed to handle boost. In order to pass emissions, keep noise down etc. Mazda moved the exhaust ports from the peripheral to the side housings, which limits the exhaust flow, as well as the Apex seal lands are not as big and deep as they are on the RX7s. It also has higher (10:1) compression, lighter rotors, eccentric shaft etc.

  • avatar
    MMG

    I own an early 2004 RX-8 with just under 120,000 miles and can honestly say it’s the best car I’ve ever had. I’ve taken multiple long range road trips in it, as well as using it for my daily driver on a 100 mile round trip commute. The only problem I’ve ever had with it was a broken AC unit at 35k miles that was replaced under warranty.

    I find myself putting in a quart of oil every 1000-1500 miles between changes.

    The handling and braking is comparable to sports cars costing 3x as much, and while the acceleration isn’t neck snapping, it’s adequate if you know how to drive it. Takes a while to acclimate to 7000 RPMs for everyday driving, but the engine is more than willing. It has way more storage/seating than a car it’s size and capabilities has any right to have.

    Some of the interior plastic is indeed chintzy, and the sound system is subpar, but my only serious gripe is the gas mileage. Even doing almost exclusively highway, I rarely do better than 20-21 MPG. If you drive fast, maybe even less. Pure highway, driving like an old lady, it’s possible to top out at 24 MPG, but why bother owning the car if you’re going to do that?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Of course a NA 7.0 V8 can make well over 500 HP and still get much more than 15 mpg in the lightweight Corvette.

    Not when driven hard.

    The Corvette can good mileage, if you pussyfoot it. The RX-8 can’t. Drive the Corvette even slightly hard (ie, the way you’d expect a >500hp V8 to be driven) and you will most certainly not get much more than 15mpg.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Not when driven hard.

    Well, it does take more fuel to make 500 hp than 232. Simple thermodynamics there.

    I bet that the Corvette’s mileage is better shifting at 4000 rpm, when it’s probably still making more than 232 HP, than the RX8′s is at redline.

    Of course, how much time do we really spend at WOT?

    High mileage cruising is where it’s at….with the option to drop down a gear or 3 when the opportunity presents itself…

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Has anybody noticed how similar the RX-8 looks to the Jensen Interceptor?

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    I suggest Mazda welds up the laughable rear doors sticks a supercharger or twin turbo setup like the FD RX7 and CALL IT A RX7.

    a Diesel sports car? give me a break.

  • avatar

    spot on about the Pokemon face

  • avatar
    Kman

    I love the RX-8 conceptually, but would never put my money down for one. No, I’m not about to say “because of reliability”. Rather:

    Fuel Consumption.

    I don’t mind consuming fuel, but I unequivocally want buckets of torque in exchange. The high-revving Honda’s and Acura’s I’ve owned or driven have no torque down low, but they also sip fuel down there.

    At MPGs in the teens, I want at least 260 lbs-ft of torque. MPGs in the low teens? I want 350 lbs-ft.

    If ever I was going to plunk down money for an RX-8, I would end up getting an S2000 instead — same charactaristics of super-sharp handling, high-revving grins… but good fuel consumption when your foot’s not in it.

    Now, what *would* I plunk down $32K on?

    BMW’s sweet, magical 135i.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Areitu: “Supposedly, when they (ceramic apex seals) break, they can shatter and embed themselves into the rotor or housings, and render the engine unsalvageable.”

    Absolutely; the machine shop that I worked in 30 years ago was evaluating “ceramic button” cutting tools; you had to “pre-machine” forgings to rid them of uneven surfaces, then switch to the ceramic tool. You could cut forged steel at double the “standard” feed rate, and no coolant was required (it would shatter the ceramic tool, which “loved” to cut while red-hot).

    That’s why the mating surfaces have to be ceramic also, so the the similar wear characteristics can be matched; ceramic is too hard to be mated to metal without continuous (and generous) lubrication, which removes any advantages in this application.

  • avatar

    I’m late to the game, but here’s my $0.02.

    Its a cool, quirky car that’s deeply flawed in terms of ownership (reliability, efficiency, interior plastics) and performance (mid-corner torque).

    Betcha the 350Z will eat this thing alive on the streets, or anywhere else where an actual power band is necessary.

  • avatar
    Adam9

    Speaking of The Truth About Cars…

    As a previous owner of an ’89 RX-7 GXL I saw over 250k trouble free miles before an apex seal went with little to no maintenance (as I was young, broke and careless).

    As a current owner of daily driven ’05 RX-8 6MT, I’m working on 45k miles (still low mileage, I know) with no reliability problems (not even an incident of failing to start or flooding ever!) just minor stuff like condensation in taillight, replaced 6-disc changer, one recall in the beginning to add a thermal shield to the gas tank and a few update flashes to the ECU.

    I drive this car hard 95% percent of the time (which as far as engine is actually better for it) I’ve done nothing as far as maintenance beyond what a Corolla owner should do and add perhaps a half a quart of oil every 1000 miles or so (by design).

    I think the RX-8 may have gained a rep for poor reliability from early minor issues leading to problems but mostly from dealer service technicians misdiagnosis and lack of knowledge on the engines and associated systems effecting it, and perhaps a little of the same reasons for early owners but all these problems are still not the norm.

    The harsh ride comments way above are way off base (can’t speak for the R3 tested here) as this car clearly offers the best compromise of a comfortable ride and great handling. The driver feedback, feel and communication from the road to the steering wheel is unrivaled! Makes many other “sports cars” feel like your steering a Buick.

    I wouldn’t trade the pure driving pleasure and the smile the car still puts on my face (after 3 years) for anything (even more torque!) and can’t image a car nut having gone through life w/o having the opportunity to discover what this car is all about instead of reading numbers/data and judging for themselves.

    No doubt it’s not the fastest car you can get for the money but simply being fast doesn’t guarantee a great or fun car and in the real world this car is rather quick.

    It is also not the most efficient but you should know that going in on any rotary powered vehicle and complaining about it after the fact is your problem. There is a reason this car is generally praised well by the automotive press all over the world.

  • avatar
    ERJR

    I have to second everything Adam9 stated above. I also have an 05 RX8 6spd with 35k miles and no problems since new. It has only been back at the dealer for the computer updates, nothing else. The car gets a bad rap mainly due to the automatics which are headaches. All the problem cars I have seen have been autos.

    As for the statements on constant maitenance, that has not been the case. Other than checking the oil, I have not done anything different than the piston driven cars I have owned. Check the forums and do some research, there are plenty of RX8s over 100k miles with little to no problems.

    In addition to being an absolute blast to drive, it is nice to own a car that is not run of the mill. I get compliments frequently and often times people go out of their way to say what a nice car I have or to ask what it is. It is a shame more people will not consider the RX8.

  • avatar

    @doctorv8, 9:06am: “While it handles well, no question, telling us it handles better than a Miata, Cayman, Z06, GTR, Ford GT, and LP560 (or anything else short of $320k really brings into question the seriousness of your comments.”

    Actually, I don’t question the <3erman’s comments one bit. (see: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/audi-rs4/ )

    ++He’s also driven this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYqixkiNwvc (check in at ~6:15)
    -or if that doesn’t load well:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3ksZSVYdaU (check in at ~3:40)

    btw: Lighter, smaller, engine with better placement and lower CG probably helps.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    willman,

    It’s no suprise that the RX8 handles better than the 2 ton Audi, and the still heavier AWD Subaru. But better than a Miata or S2000? Better than an Elise?

    JL’s flair for hyperbole is well known on these pages. Makes for interesting reading, no doubt!

  • avatar
    casper00

    Still wondering why Mazda decided not to add a turbo to the 1.3 rotary engine but hey with a 9000spm limit who needs a turbo right. But I do agree talking to alot of Rx8 owner’s out there, the cost of repairs is no fun.

  • avatar
    ohsnap

    Great review! Those doubting JL’s comments should find it notable that Jeremy Clarkston has called the RX-8 the easiest car to drive fast in the world, period.

    I have an ’05 RX-8, 6 Speed Manual, and it’s the best car I’ve ever owned.

    Mr. Lieberman’s comments on the handling are spot on, rest assured, and I am not even speaking of the new R3.

    The stories of oil consumption are soooo exaggerated. I check the oil every other or third fill up, and burn maybe 1/2 to 2/3rd’s a quart every 1,000 to 1,500 miles or so.

    At 37k miles, I’ve only changed oil, oil filters and had a 30k service (manual gear oil swap, air filter, rear differential fluid change). That’s it.

    If you haven’t driven one, it’s hard to satisfactorily describe how amazing the handling is, and – bonus time, how comfortable this car is as daily driver.

    The steering is more neutral, offers more feedback without any harshness whatsoever, and is more sublime than my last car, a ’04 BMW 330i.

    Until you throw it into a hard bend at 5k to 8k rpm, where the Wankel shines, you won’t understand the dynamics. The 9,500 rpm limit makes it the closest thing to a motorcycle with four wheels, as Jalopnik opined.

    How Mazda was able to combine such incredible handling given the comfortable ride is a mystery.

    In the winter time in Michigan, the thing is a champ in even deep snow with dedicated winter tires.

    Is it any wonder that the engineer for the RX-8 was a chief engineer for Porsche before his stint at Mazda? Maybe that explains the absolutely perfect 50/50 weight distribution and excellent LSD.

    Best sports car value of all time, bar none.

  • avatar
    Adam9

    “But I do agree talking to alot of Rx8 owner’s out there, the cost of repairs is no fun.”

    What cost? Most all of the early issues were covered 100% under warranty and if it’s the engine or its core components then it’s covered up to 8 years or 100k miles in every RX-8 sold. There are just now many RX-8′s out there that are coming out of their 5 year 60k mile full warranty which would require responsibility on the owner’s part to pay for repairs outside of the engine.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    doctorv8 :
    October 1st, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    It’s no suprise that the RX8 handles better than the 2 ton Audi, and the still heavier AWD Subaru. But better than a Miata or S2000? Better than an Elise?

    I’m surprised you didn’t include a Z51 or F55 ‘vette on that list. Why not grab an RX8 at a dealership and take it for a quick spin?

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Areitu,

    While the Vettes will turn in better lap times on any track with a decent straightaway, and the F55 car rides better than the RX8, please don’t confuse me with one of those Chevy fanboys that thinks there is no better handling car. There’s just no better combination of handling/power/fuel efficiency/cargo space/reliability/at anything near the price point.

    I’ve driven many RX7s, and the base RX8…just not an R3. Of course it handles well. Would love to try an R3 and a base car back to back.

  • avatar
    M20E30

    The best all-around perfromance bargain in the world right now. Enjoy your 9.7L V8′s with a 6000rpm redline. I would be perfectly content with this. It’s everything I want in a car. Excellent review.

  • avatar
    igniz

    great review, A very versatile sports car i see on the RX-8 after RX-7 made an enormous awards and review in the past years. It’s considering its a rear wheel drive its performance matches AWD cars.

  • avatar
    auger

    Tigeraid, have you actually driven one! the RX8 will eat most so called sports cars by this I mean Supedup shopping trolleys and Saloons. It will eat Audi S4′s and BMW M3 for breakfast not bad for a 1.3. I have owned an 04 231 and now own an R3, I can out accelerate An Audi A6 3.0 and even if goes past I can keep up with it. To anyone who like dissing the RX8 go drive one, if you own one and have RE040′s on it get em changed for RE050A’s you wont regret it. To keep Rex happy Bleep it Bleep it you know what I mean or perhaps not, the bleep goes at 8700rpm.

    Drive it like you stole it :-)

  • avatar
    rx8

    Well as an owner of the new RX-8 I would like to clear up a few facts, rather than the fiction talked about many “ignorant” ones here.

    Reliability
    I guess Toyota’s recall and replacement of over 1.5 million engines is OK?
    Porsche Boxter owners with motors that break at 50K… Nissan 350Z that need new short blocks and consume large amounts of oil.

    Oil Consumption

    ALL rotaries use a little oil as part of their lubrication, it is NOT a fault or defect.

    WILL ENGINE LAST

    Many 2004 (first owners) have done well over 100,000, I know of a South African owner who has just gone over 200K.

    Fuel Economy

    I get 300 miles from a tank and I don’t nanny her, REMEMBER This is a sports car, since when have sports cars been known for economy?

    Sure they are not everyones cup of tea, BUT, there is nothing like the sound and “quiet” thrill they give you each and every time, they are not hard to look after.
    One of the best handling and top ten braking cars on the planet, superbly finished and equipped, and at a bargain price.

    THIS CAR IS AN ENGINEERING MASTERPIECE…WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT

  • avatar
    auger

    Tigeraid what is it with you, have you actually driven an RX8? I dont think so. The engine is designed to run at high revs, thats why it bleeps when you need to change gear. I have now driven 4500 miles in my R3 and have not had single problem, Mazda Europe service is brilliant but it is a drivers car you have to work at it to get the best. DO YOUR SELF a favour go drive one.

  • avatar
    jeffreyfranz

    Bought my RX-8 new in January 2004. It is a daily driver and has 73,000 miles on it. It has never had a major repair. It has run like a Swiss watch. Yes, they do run hot, and aftermarket mods such as cold air intakes and aluminum radiators are considered desirable (my car is bone stock–I procrastinate to the point of near-mental illness). I started out owning MGs and Austin Healys in the 1960s. This car is superior in every way, including fun-to-drive great handling. I would go so far as to say it is more fun than the Brit-cars, but I was in my teens and twenties then, so nothing is as much fun now.

    One thing: The car does not “burn oil between oil changes.” By design, the rotary engine has a small amount of oil continuously injected into the engine to provide extra lubrication for the apex seals. It would be accurate to say that it requires “more” oil than a piston engine, but it does not burn it in the way people usually mean (i.e. when it is not supposed to). The sad thing about it, the rotary engine has, what, three primary moving parts? (!) If it had not been been held under patent all its life, if the design had been “given away” the way Gates did with the Windows OS and related hardware (somebody help me here), then maybe the automotive industry would have put their weight behind development. Who knows, we might all be driving cool running, high mpg, torquey rotary engined cars now. When you look at how a conventional piston engine operates, and all the parts inside, it’s a small miracle that it works at all.

    Oh yes: I have indeed had my “8″ broadside as a function of too much exuberance negotiating a turn. Why else do you buy a car like this? Enjoy.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    Smashing good looks, unique engine, rock stiff chassis, razor-like handling? Under 35K?!! Sounds like my kind of car! Props to Mazda. This RX-8 embodies what I love about Japanese auto-makers. They can create kick-ass cars that stand the test of time because they refuse to compromise. By focusing on what’s important – DRIVING – they can offer thrills and excitement that American manufacturers can only dream of (without having to charge $89,000.00 for it). Word to the Big 3: Stop trying to lure in buyers by offering snazzy computers, temperature-controlled cup holders, and other silly gimmicks. Want to know how to make a real car that real people can afford? Look to the Far East.

  • avatar
    geopouros

    After reading all this im ready to get my 1st rx!!!
    i will get an 2009 rx8 r3 in a month!
    I have owned for 5 years an EVO 6.5 TME but its time for a change I know i will not have the same power ( 450php- 500 lbs-ft of torque) but im doing 150 miles a tank with this car its killing me :)the rx8 its the way to go power handling and a pit of economy compare to my car and 4 seats and space! and fun factor
    I know it will not be a mach for my evo but i can not find another car that has a pit of everything!

    Sorry for my Very bad English :(

  • avatar
    Dr.Jekyll

    I am seriously thinking about the RX8, looking into an 07-08′ model with low miles in a 6sp, but after reading mixed reviews with the engine design an layout, im unsure if its worth it? maybe some help here could push me further into a logical decision. I’ve always kept up with my vehicles, an always kept them mechanically sound…the Rotary sounds like a bright idea for somebody who wants something different, but how exactely does the flooding on this engine work? i understand that its when you start the car cold an drive a short distance without it warming up, then shut it off? what if the needle is half way to the middle of the thermostat, is it safe to drive? what about after driving? do i need to let the car idle? if adding a small amount of oil an letting the car warm up is all that needs to be done then id seriously consider one. But for it to break with everything i mentioned done correctly, id be pretty pissed. The benefits are the lack of a timing belt which needs to be changed roughly at 60k, less moving parts, and a perfect balance. That right there sounds like an interesting mix for driving.

  • avatar
    rx8

    “if adding a small amount of oil an letting the car warm up is all that needs to be done then id seriously consider one”…that is it..
    The other Flooding issues were fixed by Mazda from around 2005 MY with heavier duty starter and battery.
    Buy one you won’t be disappointed, used ones are a bargain in the US…if that is where you live.

  • avatar
    auger

    Hi, to dispell some myths! If you follow the instructions in the RX8 manual nothing bad will happen. I have had two RX8 currently have an R3, if you allow the engine the warm up even on a short journey, when you stop rev the engine to 3000rpm and then switch off while it is at 3000 the car should not lock up (flood). Use of oil is a rotary thing my R3 uses about a litre per 1000 miles this is not being burnt but is lubricating the wipers on the rotor. Oh and one other myth it aint turbo charged! If you are looking for fuel economy forget it, if you are looking for a performance care with perfect balance and very good road holding then this is the car for you. I have surprised owners of BMW M’s, Audi RS’s by either keeping up with them or leaving them behind.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    I was checking local prices for the car. I can get a brand new 2009 RX-8 Grand Touring (which is Mazda for loaded) which lists for approx $32.5K for around $27.5K or for $5K under sticker with no bargaining. This is not the R3, but is probably much easier to live with on a day to day basis since it is sans the bone jarring suspension. Is there a better value around???

  • avatar
    j_a_whitehead

    I am currently on my second RX-7, and here is my take on the reliability and maintenance claims.

    A rotary powered car can be finicky. However, it is hands down the most enjoyable vehicle I have ever driven. The Miata does not even come close (I drove a 2001 with the sport package and 6 speed). I have owned a 1982 with a bunch of mods to it (holley 465, holley blue pump, full exhaust, msd, etc.), and it was a riot. The rotary is made for spinning up to it’s redline. It’s been said “a redline a day keeps the rebuilds away.” My old RX-7 rusted out in the driver’s floor pan, because the guy that I purchased it from didn’t replace the old weather seals. I blew up that engine by over revving it (rotaries do, contrary to popular belief, have a finite redline). My motor went at 182k, because of e-shaft flex and crushed side seals, which led to burnt up oil control rings, and an over-pressurization of the crank case caused by massive blow by. I over revved it because the secondaries (vacuum operated) didn’t open correctly when I purchased the car. They would open unexpectedly at 6k-6.4k rpm in low gears, and before I could shift because of the shock of the secondaries, i was well above 7k.

    My current RX-7 has 92,838 miles as of last Halloween when it went into hibernation. It’s a 1985. I auto cross it, and run the hell out of it. Everyone that has driven it hard on auto-cross courses or ridden with me down back roads were shocked at the handling.

    Maintenance is a little more than a typical vehicle. An acceptable (from engineering standpoint) amount of oil to burn is 1 quart every 3000 miles. The Rotary burns a bit more than that, but not by much. You NEED to run the car to redline to clear out carbon. Because of the oblong combustion chamber and the burning of oil, carbon buildup CAN be a problem, but it is not something that will crop up unless you drive it like a grandma.

    STORY TIME: One of my room mates in the dorms dropped out of school to be a tech at a Cadillac dealership. One of the biggest problems that they saw for a while was a valve tick in the Northstar V8′s in Deville’s and STS’s. They were replacing engines until Cadillac could figure out what the problem was. It turned out the old farts wern’t using the gas pedal enough to burn out all the carbon, and the valves were contacting massive soft carbon buildups on the top of the pistons. They were instructed to put a Cadillac specific (i.e. distributed by the company) fuel system cleaner into the car and take it out for an extremely hard drive. Carbon clean, no more valve tick, problem solved.

    Back to the rotary… It is a good habit (IMO, and based on my experience with 7′s) to change spark plugs once a year. They start easier and run better with new plugs. I, along with the entire rotary community, exclusively use NGK plugs. They are more expensive, but they work the best. This may sound like a pain in the butt, but you gotta pay to play. Same with other quirks of the rotary.

    To all that sited the 93-95 RX-7′s as ticking time bombs. Yes, they are in STOCK FORM. However, there was a post on rx7club.com by forum member Howard Coleman about the shortcomings of the 3rd gen RX-7, and what you can do to fix them.

  • avatar
    bighead

    CCD1 – I’m seeing good deals, but not quite *that* good in the Charlotte, NC area. Where are you located and which dealers did you work with? Thanks.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Bighead:

    Just saw you post. I’ve been watching the prices at http://www.fitzmall.com He has “no haggle” pricing which can be quite attractive. He had a 2008 RX-8 with less than 2000 miles for around $23k and now has a 2009 Grand Touring for around $27k. Your best bet is a lightly used one, as first year depreciation on this car is in the $7-8 range. I’m probably going to wait until Mazda is ready to finally change models. The outgoing RX-8 should be available with monster deals at that time.

  • avatar
    dflick

    Had mine new since 2004. 65k miles, daily driver. I by no means baby it and it has been reliable as all hell. No major repairs. I have been stranded 3 times. 2 from flooding the car (totally my fault) and 1 dead battery. Sure it burns oil due to the oil injection system. It is by design. The RX8 is not for everyone. It is for those whom like great handling. It is not for drag racing, it was never intended for that.

  • avatar
    cbrx7

    I still own and drive an ’87 RX-7 with 165K miles on it. Yes the RX7 is indiosyncratic but still handles amazingly well. I never abused it and have cared for it for over 20 years.

    The Wankel is no overweight torque monster but has a reliably smooth sweet spot at around 3200 rpm.

    The problem with flooding was resolved by my mechanic who installed a fuel pump switch on the arm rest, shifter console. To turn off the car I hit the switch which shuts down the fuel pump and the engine runs until all fuel in the fuel line is burned. No more problems with flooding. (this also serves as a theft deterent)

    I installed a Racing Beat exhaust, a K&N cold air intake and installed a set of Kosei wheels. I think the look is timeless and the sound is intoxicating.

    I am now considering an RX-8

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The review is spot on as far as I’m concerned. I’ve owned or driven bunches of interesting cars ranging from Fiat 850′s, classic muscle, most Audi’s and VW’s, Japanese (Z’s starting with 1978, G35, Genesis coupe, Celicas), Benz (my first car was a ’59 180a), and classic Triumphs and Jags, as well as the occasional BMW and Porsche. My recently-acquired (for $16k with 9100 miles) 2006 RX-8 (aka ‘batmobile’) is the best sports car to date. However that being said, just like any true sports car, she’s more enjoyable as a faithful mistress than a wife (you don’t want to deal with her everyday, but she’s always around when you’re in the mood for some fun.)

    On a more serious note, the “Series II” Renesis engine does have a couple of significant improvements over the 2004-2008 models having to do with the oil injection system. The Series I engine has 4 injection ports located along the circumference of each rotor. The new engine has 6. Also, the oil injection pump as been upgraded. Given the choice of an 07/08 model vs 09, I’d go with the 09, especially since they are selling at discounted prices. I’d also stay away from the automatic tranny models that have lived in hot climates; the AT comes with a single oil cooler vs two for the manual transmission version.

  • avatar
    spinup9k

    I guess I’m kinda late to this party, but for what it’s worth…

    I’ve got a 2004 RX8 6-speed with about 69k miles that I bought new on 12/31/03 and I’m pretty sure it’ll outhandle any car on the road that cost less than 6 figures. I’ve got the suspension a bit upgraded and haven’t done much to the engine (better flowing airbox, but that only adds a couple horses), but I bought the thing initially becuase of how much fun it was to drive even on just the standard 4-turn “test drive” that the dealers in Cerritos CA all seem to use. When looking I also tested a 350Z and an IS300 (both excellent cars, and I absolutely loved that the 6 on the Z sounded like a V8) and felt that the RX8 was just a little more responsive and “fun”.

    The ride (at least in mine) can be a bit hard and I have to be careful in parking lots, but that’s largely the result of my own mods (1/2 inch lowered, 20% higher spring rate all around and 2-3X increase in sway bar stiffness) which have the car cornering on rails, but I’ve taken it on multiple road trips (300-600 miles one-way) without any real degree of discomfort (that I know the car and expect the ride I have does factor in there), although my friend’s wife who gets carsick refuses to ever get in the car again (and she’d only ever ridden in it on the stock setup). I have had four adults in the car with a weekends worth of luggage for short hops but wouldn’t want to spend much time in the back seat myself.

    I typically get 15.5-17.5 mpg in mostly city driving around L.A. (with mpg as high as 23&change on runs to Vegas), and the oil burning is something to be aware of, but isn’t really a source of trouble or concern beyond just keeping a spare quart in the trunk just in case. So far I haven’t had any big mechanical issues that couldn’t happen to an otto-cycle; I had the alternator go bad a few years ago and had an issue with the float in the coolant reservior causing the water level light to come on when the level was fine (possibly attributable to just a slight design kink which is a risk with any first-model year), for a 6 year old daily driver that’s not an unbearable maintainence level (especially for a non-carolla); I did have the motor-mounts collapse earlier this year and need replacemnt which is probably the only past-reasonable issue I’ve had but that’s also not a power-plant or internal engineering issue. It’s not a big fan of heat and altitude; I’ve had some temporary issues crossing AZ at 90-100mph in the early afternoon with the AC on around Memorial Day and going up 395 in the sierras in July (temp 100-105 and above 7000 ft up) but I’m not entirely certain that wasn’t partly due to the wrong gas (may have hit the wrong grade while on autopilot in AZ, and got a half-tank at a questionable station (who might have been selling 87 as 91) on the way to tahoe.

    There is a different style to how to drive a wankel, and the thing will never be a great quarter-mile runner but if you want handling and a fun car to run through the twisties in, I’d highly reccomend this model so long as you can accomodate the different (but not unreasonable) paradigm of the wankel and the particulars of how to really enjoy it. Also, as much as I love my car, I’d never want to have to drive it in snow/ice (which I’d also say about the Z) but all that are things to know up front.

  • avatar
    JamesRX-8

    wow i am truely happy to hear about this r3 i only have one question….. where can i get one??? can anyone send me a link??? also i’m looking for a way to buy a euro facelift version of the rx-8 a link to a website that you can buy them from would also be aprreciated.


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