Piston Slap: Ville-Marie and the Rotary

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC commentator Juniperbug writes:

I live in Montreal. Currently I have an old, unreliable sport bike as a recreational summer vehicle, doing most of my commuting via a mediocre public transit system. I’m considering buying a newish car for work and play. I’m 25, single, full-time employed at a moderately-paying job, and going to be studying part-time to boot. I love heel-toeing just about anything I get my mitts on, and am looking for driving pleasure and not outright speed. Spaciousness is not a priority for my current lifestyle (but is appreciated), but reliability and cost-efficiency are. A 2006-ish Miata seemed to be a great candidate, but while searching the classifieds I noticed that there’s a whole slew of RX-8’s available with around 20k miles for similar money as the Miata.

Are there significant reliability or maintenance issues with the RX? I realize that the rotary is a much more specialized unit, but is it likely to need much maintenance with the mileage that low? Aside from fuel, oil and tire consumption, and probably insurance, what other additional expenses would the RX require?

Whatever I buy will have to be winter-driven in a cold, snowy, salty environment. RWD doesn’t scare me (traction control and winter tires will probably still make it a safer drive than my all-season-equipped Jetta Coupe was), but I’m worried about long-term rust penetration and ground clearance.

What car do you see me in?

Sajeev replies:

I had a discussion with Jonny Lieberman about the RX-8, and how much better it’d be with a different engine. He didn’t buy it and didn’t care for my “LS-X swap” comment one bit. Fair enough, but the RX-8’s engine has mad issues.

Not that I am a rotary hater (twin-turbo RX-7 FTW, baby) but the RX-8 isn’t worthy of the competitors at its price point. And reading this thread on the RX-8 Club forum didn’t help matters. Engine failures are not a rare occurrence on the interweb: which is a great addition to the tapestry woven from a torqueless and relatively slow sports car. Once the warranty runs out, you run away from an RX-8. Or just avoid them altogether.

You can do so much better. Get a Miata and start Autocrossing. Get a 350Z and go anywhere an RX-8 does, faster. Roll the Bullitt Mustang for respectable grip and maximum thrust. Or go plush and refined (ideal for the city) with an LS-powered Pontiac GTO.

But you want fun, so I recommend the Miata and an SCCA/NASA license. Which is made of all kinds of “win.”

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Dasko Dasko on Jul 09, 2009

    Get a Mazdaspeed car. Mazdaspeed Miata is the Miata go get with the optional hardtop. Mazdaspeed6 is also quite a bargain. The 2004-2006 GTO was never sold in Canada although grey market cars do exist for a couple of thousand more than they are worth in the us. Viggen Saab is awesome. And if you are a VW fan, consider a last gen AWD TT. Or a grey market import 2004 R32.

  • Rx8 Rx8 on Jul 11, 2009

    To sajeev , Before you dump an any car get all your facts straight...ALL Brand of cars have ENGINE Failures. And don't talk about the RX-8 as you know little. If you are a child who judges a cars WORTH by it's speed and power then On a track ( one with corners)the RX-8 is as fast as a BMW M3, or a V8 Holden Monaro. Have you heard about ALL the 09 Subaru Impreza WRX failures, in the US alone some 89, with mileage as slow as 150 and as high as 13,900 Miles!! Toyota still has the record at 1.5 mil sludge engines, Chevrolet, Nissan V6's that drink more oil than any Rotary.Porsche and BMW..it goes on and on...

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