By on November 20, 2012

It’s the perfect day and the perfect road for a brisk mountain drive in the siena red Z3. For the last time this year it’s easily warm enough to put the top down—in a little over a week the remnants of Hurricane Sandy will bury the area in snow. WV15 winds tightly along a mountain ridge, flanked on each side by peaking fall foliage. Valleys far below on each side, you’re on top of the world. There’s only one problem with this soul stirring picture: my father started the day closer to Cass, and the BMW is holding me up. With the next brief straight I snick the firm, short-throw shifter into third, spur the boxer well over 4,000 rpm, and roar past him. WV15 is an even better road for a Scion FR-S en route to meet up with a pair of Mazda RX-8s for our Third Annual Appalachian Road Trip.

No car is the best car for every situation. The Scion was borderline awful on I75 the previous day, assaulting my ears with tire roar and the rest of me with incessant jiggling. “Steel drum,” I note. My ass grows sore within an hour. The seatbelt cuts into my neck each time I forget to fasten the retaining strap to the left of the headrest. Due to the small windows and lack of a sunroof option, the dark, plasticky interior has the ambiance of a cave, albeit one with red stitching. The needle of the analog speedometer starts off at four o’clock, and even at highway speeds is still pointing towards my left knee. It’s nearly useless, so luckily there’s a digital speedometer in the tach face. One wonders why they didn’t follow Mazda’s example with the RX-8 and drop the analog dial altogether.

But the Scion’s fuel economy is good when you consider that it’s geared for performance. On I75 (speed limit 70, actual speed somewhat higher) the trip computer reports 31 mpg. I leave the Interstate for US20. On this 55 mph four-land road the noise level becomes much more bearable and gas mileage jumps to 36.

Still, these endlessly straight highways are not the ideal habitat for an FR-S. Anyone who’ll regularly be driving them is well advised to buy something cushier. Aside from minimal sound insulation and an unyielding suspension, the FR-S includes little beyond the most basic features. There aren’t even audio controls on the steering wheel. Then again, the problem with the audio system’s buttons isn’t that they’re hard to reach. They’re close at hand, but feel cheap and defy logic.

After 235 miles of driving I’d rather not repeat (but will in a few days) I finally exit I77 onto OH800. Afterwards, the further south I go the more frequently the road kinks. By the time I pick up OH26 in Bethesda, my opinion of the FR-S has improved dramatically. Even more than in the incredibly forgiving Mazda RX-8, you have to be extraordinarily clumsy with your inputs to upset this chassis. The rear end dances a bit more than the Mazda’s across mid-corner bumps, just another part of the price for the Scion’s stiffer suspension bits and lower curb weight. The car’s dynamic balance could hardly be more perfect. If you’re on the gas at all the rear tires will slide well before the fronts can start to scrub—in my time with the car the latter almost never happens.

I pass a couple of cars on the way out of Woodsfield, and the final 40-odd miles to Marietta are wide open. The sun is low in the sky, and I intend to be on the other side of the Ohio River before it drops below the horizon. The Scion’s 2.0-liter engine produces 200 horsepower, but at 7,000 rpm. Torque output peaks at a lofty 6,400 rpm, and there’s little twist south of 4,000. Once over bicycling speeds this isn’t a problem. When frequent curves call for oversteer on demand, just keep the engine at a constant boil over 4,000 rpm.

With an assist from the Torsen limited-slip rear differential, the boxer provides enough torque to work the rear end around even at fairly high speeds, but not enough to break it totally loose. At lower speeds it is possible to get the car sideways, but a touch of counter-steering easily retrieves it. For drivers who’ve never owned a rear-wheel-drive car before, the FR-S is a great place to start. At high rpm a “sound symposer” Auto-Tunes the boxer’s usual grumble into a surprisingly successful impersonation of a small block roar. Fuel economy falls in half, to 18 mpg.

Not everyone is a fan of the Michelin Primacy treads. But until near the end of this stretch, when the rear end gets a little loose, they cling tenaciously to 26’s curves without audible complaint. The seat’s tight, firm bolsters do the same with my torso, and now that there’s a need for them I don’t complain. Set to “sport,” the stability control provides just the right amount of safety net. There’s no need (as in the Infiniti G37 I drove along this route two years ago) to choose between an overly intrusive system and none at all. Even though the net is never clearly needed, on an unfamiliar, highly challenging road I appreciate knowing it’s there. After 40 exhilarating minutes I’m in Marietta.

The next day I drive from Parkersburg to Cass, passing that Z3 along the way. A few nearly brilliant miles on WV16 are wasted behind an expertly driven but still insufficiently speedy 18-wheeler, no passing zone coming to my rescue. Virtually all of the others are automotive nirvana. The roads are amazing, the trees are every color but green, other cars are few and far between, and the harder I push the FR-S the better it feels.

Rolling into Cass, I spy the old man’s copper red RX-8 parked on the shoulder. An old friend and his father in a second RX-8 won’t arrive for a few more hours. Cass, a former logging company town, is now a state park. We fill the time with a visit to the engine shop. Outside five old locomotives, Shays aside from one Heisler, are kept under steam 24/7 when they aren’t transporting tourists up and down the mountain. Inside, a sixth is being rebuilt. You can just hang out there as long as you like. We did. That night we stay in a nicely renovated “company house.” If you have any interest in steam locomotives, a trip to Cass is a must.

Not coincidentally, the scariest/most thrilling (depending on whom you ask) road in the state passes through Cass. An aptly named narrow asphalt ribbon, Back Mountain Road snakes back and forth, up and down through varied terrain. Limited sightlines and even more limited space for two cars to pass require slow speeds through many of the curves, but with others it’s possible to see that nothing’s coming. I’ve long thought the Mazda RX-8 the perfect car for such a road, where handling and visibility are a much higher priorities than power. Like the Scion, the Mazda puts handling over straight line performance and luxury, with minimal insulation, a peaky engine, and a finely balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis. I delayed my week with an FR-S by two months so I’d be able to compare the cars back-to-back in this ideal environment.

Hopping into my father’s car, differences become instantly apparent. With a slightly higher seating position and much larger windows, it’s considerably easier to see out of the Mazda in all directions. If Toyobaru took advantage of the flat four engine to lower the FR-S’s hood line, it’s far from evident. All of the RX-8’s control efforts (steering, throttle, brake, shifter) are much lower. In hard turns, the Mazda leans more and doesn’t feel as firmly tied down, but it also feels more agile and communicative. The Mazda aspires to drive like a smaller, lighter car than it is, and achieves this to a surprising degree.

Though the Scion is over 300 pounds lighter (2,758 vs. 3,075), it feels heavier. In character, it’s much closer to a 370Z or even a Camaro than to the Mazda. It does feel considerably smaller and lighter than those cars, but its throaty engine roar, tight suspension, heavy controls, and limited visibility place it in their genus. Or is the Scion a mixed-breed? If someone Miata’s got out while in estrus, and encountered a Z on the prowl, I wouldn’t be surprised if an FR-S arrived a few months later with the size and road manners of the mother but the character of the daddy.

Looking to more practical considerations, the Scion easily wins one category, with fuel economy about 50 percent better than the Mazda’s. But the RX-8 rides much more smoothly and quietly, making for a more relaxing drive the next day to Hawk’s Next (the FR-S is left behind in Cass). Our lodge is eight miles from an annual festival at the New River Bridge.

All four of us get into one of the Mazdas twice to sample some excellent local cuisine and a third time to watch hundreds of people base jump off the bridge. (One of Trey’s friends who happens to be a Navy SEAL, declared this insane, as the seven seconds it takes to plummet 900 feet to the bottom of the gorge provides little time to correct mishaps.) This wouldn’t have been possible in the FR-S, which has no rear doors, almost no rear legroom, and no space for toes under the front seats. (Back home later, even my smallest child complained.) There’s also a little less trunk space in the Scion, and much less storage space in the cabin, but either car will hold enough luggage for two people for an extended weekend.

In the end, I had a blast in both cars on the mountain roads. Both are very entertaining, yet also very forgiving, while also being fundamentally different. The Scion is much more fuel-efficient, while the Mazda’s genius packaging makes it far more practical in just about every other way. Picking one over the other based on how they drive is much like picking Thai food over Italian, or vice-versa. The Mazda RX-8 makes love to the road. The Scion FR-S masters it. Which do you want to do? Thousands of other drivers have already spoken with their wallets. The RX-8 is dead, while the 370Z and Camaro are still with us. In tuning the FR-S the way they did, Toyoburu’s development engineers have delivered what the market clearly prefers.

Scion provided an insured car with a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

56 Comments on “Mountain State Review: 2013 Scion FR-S vs. 2006 Mazda RX-8...”

  • avatar

    Catch US50 from Clarksburg to Thomas sometime. Especially in mid-spring when the early green is starting to come out on the trees, or anytime during the summer. It’s a handful in the snow, but a gorgeous drive otherwise. It’s a local favorite with bikers.

    Old 119 south from Morgantown is fun, too, but full of traffic and notably free of passing zones.

    US33 through Elkins is decent (not in the winter in a base ’08 Kia Rio on bald tires, however!), but also has a good bit of traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      My father and I drove 50 and 33 two years ago. I recall 33 being the most fun on the Virginia side, but with traffic much of the time. That stretch of 50 was excellent. Frequent junkyards by the side of that road for some reason, including some just for trucks. 50 west of Clarksburg less special.

      • 0 avatar

        A few years back, we did a Hertz delivery from Morgantown to Thomas and took 50 in a brand new Camry SE. Not the most special car, but it was an awesome drive. It’s especially neat cresting the hills and seeing those massive wind turbines nestled in the trees on the surrounding mountains. 50 west of CKB isn’t anything special, but you can access the Hocking Hills region of SE Ohio via that road (or from US33 heading from south to north through Ravenswood – at that point not the most exciting road but a cool, empty, VERY wide two-lane highway nonetheless).

      • 0 avatar

        WV20 is much better than US50 for getting from Clarksburg to the Hocking Hills. Took it again this year.

        I test drove a few Hondas while in Bridgeport–great area for this, much better than SE Michigan. A big thanks to Curtis Evans at Urse Honda for helping me out with the cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you Michael for keeping the rotary interest and this fine article. I grew up in those mountains just across the border in KY. I’ve been a rotary believer since I bought the RX-2 in ’73 (rebuilt twice, tip seals and side seals, in the first six months of ownership but that’s another story). I have had several since but sadly not one of the last gen yet. One thing in the article ref the New River Bridge – tell that wussy SEAL that real men, Army Rangers, combat jump from 200 feet! hahaha Yes, on a static line, but “no time to recover” in spades. jk about wuss. I love those guys. I can also recommend a doc for knee replacement surgery….. :-)

    • 0 avatar

      I find Rt50 (Parkersburg to Clarksburg) to be boring as sin. Very little town-like scenery other than trees and a few turn offs.

      Rt.33 is pretty fun.

      Rt. 19 is a blast. Narrow, yes. Crowded during typical traffic hours, yes. The road needs constant attention and adjustments, and is often favorable for speeds 20-30% above the speed limit.

  • avatar

    I grew up around Marietta, and have told anyone willing to listen there isn’t a much better road to be found for a fall drive than OH26 going into Marietta. AAA once listed it as one of their top 10 fall drives in the country.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t fit this into the review, but coming back I checked out 556. Amazing road. 536 is also very good. I haven’t driven 255 yet, maybe next year.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to go down to Marietta for weekend outings with the Miata group. Lots of great drives down there but one of the highlights of the trip was alwasy US 555 (the triple nickel) from Zanesville to Parkersburg. Ohio roadway engineers sure know (or knew at one time) how to build a good road and they are nearly always in great shape!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Perhaps if Mazda had used a conventional engine on the RX 8, the car would have sold better and it’d still be around.

    • 0 avatar

      But then it wouldn’t have been an RX-8. Most people don’t fully understand rotary engines, which in my opinion is why the RX-8 didn’t sell in higher numbers.

      • 0 avatar

        The rotary is definitely a big part of it. But back when the car was new people complained most about the lack of low-end torque. The FR-S shares this weakness, but the heavier feel to all of the controls, tighter suspension, and generally more macho character might help compensate. Or not. We’ll see in how well the car is selling a year from now. Even the RX-8 came out of the gate hot.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m guessing the only thing most needed to know about the rotary is you get v8 fuel economy in exchange for six cylinder power made through revs, not torque.

        I realize the rotary has its advantages and it makes the RX-8 what it is, but those advantages (smoothness, weight, packaging) are a tough sell to the general public.

        I would love to give one a shot, but sadly, the poor fuel economy trumps the advantages for me as well. My commute is too far to average 17mpg (what I see reported on fuelly).

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        The rotary’s infamous shortcomings kept a lot of people from an otherwise stellar vehicle, same happens to Subaru that barely makes a bleep in sales in the warm south, while doing so well up north

      • 0 avatar

        Funny you say that burgers, because those were almost my exact words when I had my RX8 and people asked about it – “it’s slower than a V6 but burns more gas than a V8.”

        It’s a poor way to explain the car, but only numbers matter to most Americans, not handling or feel. I wouldn’t want to recommend a car to someone who would never “get” it.

        What I hated most is that Mazda let that chassis go to waste instead of putting the DISI under the hood and re-balancing the weight. Call it the MX8, call it whatever you want… Would have sold better and longer for sure.

      • 0 avatar

        Michael, RX8 came out of the gate hot because it was HOT HOT HOT compared to the competition. Hot looking and hot performance. BRZ is neither, it’s adequate, it’s creating a niche, and there is a lot of hot air floating about it. Looking at the photos, there is no way in hell that I’d be spending real car money on that crap interior. A snap button for the seat belt strap on the seat? Are they serious? Those buttons wear out no matter what and rip out the fabric in the process. They used to put plastic open loops for such purpose. The details around the trunk opening are just aweful too. Which all means they’ll sell lots of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Not really. The Rx-8 isn’t a great handling car with a weird engine. Its a great handling car because of the engine. No other motor out at that time (or even today) could be place so low, so far back and produce the amount of power the rotary did. The NC miata is produce on a similar chassis as the Rx-8 yet is only 16 inches shorter, despite having no backseats and a smaller trunk. That is the brilliance of the packaging of the Rx-8. Also if you pay attention and understand the quirks of the engine, the fuel economy becomes the only major gripe.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but then you’d basically have a Mazda 350Z. I appreciate they didn’t do that, even if it admittedly limited the RX-8’s appeal.

      Besides, 7 years for a niche product isn’t bad.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the Mazda rotary is best utilized in an RX-7, as a halo car. Preferably turbocharged.

        When you are selling an RX-8, you are selling to people who are making compromises all around. Fuel economy and wankel quirks matter less to a presumably upmarket RX-7 buyer, who wants a car that will crush the competition in several ways.

        1. Keep the Miata light, stylish, and capable, and it will always sell.
        2. Introduce a ring champion RX-7, with two engine options (base and upmarket).
        3. The Mazdaspeed 3 is there for customers who want 4 seats and cargo room. I don’t think the MS3 was any good for RX-8 sales.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s a huge difference in character between the RX-8 and MazdaSpeed3.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually think the RX-8 styling and interior design were a big part of the problem. I’m a Mazda lover, and I just couldn’t handle the dorky wheel arches or the round theming in the plastic interior.

      I am hoping they get it right with the next Miata-based RX-7. I actually *want* another rotary, especially one with the 16X specs.

  • avatar

    Got to love Ohio’s Triple-digit roads. Been on most of them but with a Ducati.

  • avatar

    Being a Mazda man and growing up not too far from this area (Southwest Ohio) I always enjoy these write-ups Michael.

    I still remember once as a young child on a family canoe trip coming across that new river bridge festival bridge jump and thinking how insanse it seemed. Even at a young age my rational mind questioned the sense in it.

    (Of course now I’m a boring adult.)

  • avatar

    The FRS/BRZ and RX-8 are nice enough but I want more power (some guys like A cups, I prefer C). A forced induction version of the twins can’t come soon enough but what I really desire is a new Supra.

  • avatar

    Awesome article, love the comparison. To me the RX-8 is a better car in every way, except for that damn fuel economy. A weekend trip for me is typically 500-700 miles…I couldn’t afford 16MPG along the way. If I’m going to get that sort of fuel economy, it better be in something like a Boss 302 or GT500.

    Would love to see the same article, but FR-S vs. AP1 or AP2 S2000. As a present AP1 owner and huge fan of the FR-S, I’d like to read how they compare on a twisty mountain road.

  • avatar

    Great review, MK. Honestly. You nailed it.

    I’m probably getting older and much crankier, but I detested my test drive in the FR-S.

    Hopping back into the RX-8 and driving back home LITERALLY like getting into a Lexus in terms of interior quality, quietness, ride quality (not a marshmallow Lexus, but a clean tracking one that has a magical combination of ride quality and handling) and visibility & room.

    About the steering effort, the Toybaru feels artificial to my perceptions, but maybe that’s just me. The Mazda’s steering rivals any that’s a beacon of teutonic excellence, with appropriate boost from the electrical assist, and no kickback over rough roads thanks to some nice engineering using magnesium components.

    Even IF the Toybarus were as refined, the RX-8 handles just as well, tracks faster all things being equal, and actually has a rear seat that is large enough to really do sedan duty if one needs to.

    I average about 20.2 mpg consistently (with a 6MT) in the Mazda, with about 35% highway and 65% city driving, which is fine by me, especially since I’m often in the 5,000 rpm+ zone that the Mazda prefers.

    I don’t dislike the Toybaru, but it feels too unfinished, plasticky and is too loud and uncomfortable for my likings. It’s the type of car that would give me frequent headaches to have to live with on a daily basis.

    I’m sure the kiddies love it some, though. They’d probably have loved it a whole lot more had Toyota/Subaru put 50 more horsies under its hood, naturally aspirated or not.

  • avatar

    I think this is about spot on. I traded my beloved 04 rx8 on a frs in June. My rx8 gave my 5 years of near trouble free service than many of the 1st year problems started popping up this spring. I love the rotary engine, but towards the end the gas mileage along with apex seal, catalytic converter failures and other small issues turned me away, at least finacially. I typically averaged about 18-22 mpg in my 8. My FRS on the same roads is around 33-38 mpg (manual).

    I think Mazda has chassis dynamics nailed, I would of bought a rx8 with the speed 3 engine in it in a flash. I came very close to trading my 8 on a new Miata but could not live with the lack of a back seat as I need it to transport my dog. That pretty much left the FRS as the only other choice in the same price range. 370z/mustang/camaro just did not do it for me.

    After my first two test drives of the frs I was disappointed and was on a hunt for a newer RX8 R3 or used Elise. I took it for one more test drive and ended up buying it. The differences between the two cars are interesting. I would say the RX8 is more fun below 60, while having much more character. The FRS feels like an angry miata somewhat setup for the track. The FRS feels heavy and the controls feel somewhat goofy until you really start pushing it. Then it starts to feel light and amazingly agile. It’s almost as if they designed two personalities into it, a bland corolla type personality for commuting and a fun personality for really getting out and pushing it.

    I’m here waiting, ready to trade my frs in on whatever sportscar with a back seat Mazda puts out in the next few years.

  • avatar

    I’ve tried on a BRZ and didn’t like it at all. The most irritating impression was how close my head was to the edge of the roof on the driver’s side, and I’m only 5’8″. Perhaps the seat could have been lowered, but that would have only emphasized the feeling of being in a submarine, or worse, a Camaro.

    Also, I spend way too much time on interstates and rough pavement to deal with crappy ride quality. The Mazda does just fine in cruise mode, even moreso with the adjustable Tokiko D-Spec shocks I have on mine. The “cost” if you will, is relatively soft sway bars which result in more body roll. However, as Ahmad has pointed out, overly-stiff bars may give the illusion of “sport”, but may well be a detriment to cornering.

    Btw, 21 mpg lifetime average for me, with 25 as a high and 16 (read: Deal’s Gap) as a low.

    • 0 avatar

      When I bought my RX-8, it was the ride that sold me. I tested a bunch of cars, the Z had more power, the Subaru WRX had more power and more room, but somehow Mazda managed to create a car that was fast enough, stayed glued to the road, but was smooth a quiet.

      I must have had a bad engine in mine, I averaged 14 mpg in mixed driving. If I drove it hard, it was at 9-12mpg. Of course the engine self destructed at 76,000 miles despite following all the recommendations.

      I absolutely loved that car, I just wish they were more reliable.

    • 0 avatar

      Plenty of head room with the seat dropped down. I could not fit in my rx8 comfortably with a helmet, in my frs it’s not a problem.

      I don’t think the ride is that bad, although not rx8 perfect, its no worse than a sport packaged 3 series. Better than most cars marketed as sporty. I don’t think it’s the sway bars that are stiff on the toybaru but the spring rates they used. If anything I think stiffer sway bars would plant the car better, they are tiny when you look at them.

  • avatar

    Ah yes I’ll be needing to make a pilgrimage to Cass at some point. Those old logging engines are something else. I have a g scale model of a Shay…fascinating locomotive. You get any more pictures of them in action? Any video? Cass is famous for swapping out whistles on the locomotives.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got many more photos, will post more to TrueDelta’s page on Pinterist ( ) by the end of TG weekend:. I can’t remember if any of us got any video. We might have.

      If you do go, call ahead of time to reserve one of the company houses. They sleep from 4 to 12 or 14 people, very nicely renovated, and very reasonable priced. The main problem is that you’ll probably never want to leave. Some rail fans have bought houses up there!

  • avatar

    Great review, unsurprisingly!

  • avatar

    Sounds like a great trip, sorry I couldn’t meet up with you guys (it would have been fun to compare a similarly priced used 996 with the others on those roads and you definitely almost convinced me!) but hey, who knows what the future will bring!

    • 0 avatar

      +1 I would have loved to really wring out my FR-S on those roads with y’all – as you know, the roads around DC aren’t apt to getting everything out of the FR-S. Instead I got to see how manufacturers should test their suspensions – in Mexico City – I thought New Orleans roads are bad…

      Great article. I’ve been looking forward to reading it for a while and it did not disappoint.

  • avatar

    I realize its just me, but can’t help seeing FRESH everytime you say FR-S. Makes for a whole different reading experience.

  • avatar

    A nice report about a really nice region. I too stayed at one of the cottages in Cass at the time I rode the Cheat Mountain Challenge, a wonderful cycling event that was run out of the nearby Snowshoe Mountain ski resort. I am not certain it still takes place. I know a lot of cyclists read TTAC and if you have a chance to ride this it is worth doing and includes Back Mountain Road, one of the great roads for a racing bicycle in the Eastern US, as well as the Highland Scenic Highway, the only place I have reached 90 km/h on a bicycle.

  • avatar

    The more I read about the FR-S the happier I am that I gave up waiting for it and just bought a used Z. There are very few roads where you can really enjoy the RX-8’s handling, where as the torque in my Z can be enjoyed from any stop sign or traffic light. To me the FR-S just falls short in the power department, a boosted version is just what the doctor ordered. Of course the same could be said for RX-8. Its unique engine is also its downfall: poor mileage, oil consumption and lack of torque aren’t going to make up for its superior handling in day to day driving. Also a shame they couldn’t make the FR-S a hatchback because as noted the rear seats are worthless so why not flip them down and gain more useable small?

    • 0 avatar

      I believe the hatchback idea was floated but the increase in weight (and cost) held it back.

    • 0 avatar

      With the rear seats down, the trunk extends a pretty good distance. I even did a Home Depot run with my FR-S (and got insulation all over the trunk mat – oops) and surprised myself how much I could carry. And with the back seat up, still can fit luggage flat in the trunk – a few pieces even.

  • avatar

    Great dual review, the cars and the roads!

    I was considering both of these cars as a future purchase for my weekend sports and travel car. This article and the B&B commentators provided good feedback.

    Time to build up the savings for a 2008 or newer low mileage RX8!

    I will be heading down south this Thanksgiving. I plan to push the 84 Audi 5000 Avant through some Tennessee mountain backroads until the wife complains about car sickness! There will probably be too much traffic to tour the “Tail of the Dragon”.

  • avatar

    Question I forgot to ask…

    How long (either in time or mileage) are the engine warranties on the Mazda RX8 if you purchased one used?

    The B&B informed me before that 2008 and newer are the ones to own as far as the engine issues being resolved. Do you agree with that statement?

    • 0 avatar

      The Series II RX-8, which starts with the 2009 MY, (probably) fixed many of the shortcomings of the 2003-2008 Series I. Specifically, the oil pressure is higher, the oil injection system is much more sophisticated (including a center 3rd injector), the manual tranny is more robust, and the EMS prevents high-rpm operation until the car is fully warmed up. A downside is that only 25000 were sold, so aftermarket options are quite limited as are used spare parts. It is though, likely the better option if you want to run basically stock. The R3 version might eventually be one of the few Japanese cars to achieve collector car status.

      The Mazda extended engine warranty runs 8 years/100k miles and applies to all of them, new or used. Evidence of proper maintenance must be presented and major mods may be disqualifying, however. The worst engine replacement records come from 04-05 4-port automatic transmission models, especially in the south where their single oil coolers proved inadequate. In late 2006 there was a free reflash made available, called MSP-16, which increased oil injection rates and generally solved flooding issues. If you go Series I, make sure this had been done promptly on any car one’s considering.

  • avatar

    Michael: A word about gestation times when mating the Miata: It typically takes 5 months, not “a few” (a few typically meaning three).

    Also let it be noted, caution must be taken in both the selection of mates and the process. The Z can usually be pulled off, but it helps to tie the Miata down, with the wheels pointed to the left and the trunk left open. Then, just stand back and let the Z do its thing.

    Use caution with some others. I once caught a 1998 Town & Country in the garage with our Miata…ended up with something resembling a Panamera. It ended up being an Acura, but the poor beast didn’t survive.

  • avatar

    I was pretty psyched about this car (though never intended to buy one) when I read the interview with the chief engineer in this very site and he mentioned simplifying and lightening a sports car in order to create a balanced machine that prioritized handling over raw power. Unfortunately, I have yet to read any reviews where this translated into a more satisfying vehicle to actually drive versus the more powerful and more comely competition. Personally, I think we need a Miata coupe with Skyactiv.

  • avatar

    I love WV roads on my Triumph Speed Triple. In comparison, Southeast Ohio roads have way too many blind corners and hills. Passing zone??? Ahem….didn’t know there was such a thing.

  • avatar

    I’ve found two things to make my series II RX-8 handle even better: 17″ wheels and tires. Using 225/50s Pirelli Sottozero 2 as my winter setup the car feels much better than on the stock 18s. Steering is better, and lighter, and you can actually feel some slip angles now. Feels like the 944 now. You can push very hard with these and they still keep responding. Also, if you want to minimize the stock body roll, esp. at the rear where its quite bad, use a minimum of negative camber. I’m at just between .3-.5 deg. fore and aft.

    And aah the roads of SE Ohio![email protected]/8225690134/sizes/h/in/photostream/

    Thanx for review. Now I don’t need to go in and test drive the BRZ/FR-S lol.

  • avatar


    Thanks for these series; I just read this and the account from two years ago.

    I read with particular interest because I’m a DC flatlander, and haven’t seen a decent road in (what seems like) years. These WV routesz look like they’re within range for an easy weekend trip, and I’ve just spent an hour playing with Google maps playing with routes.

    Question (for you and any other DC/NoVa TTACers): Is there anything of driving worth even further east towards DC? Something that could be done as a true day trip? I’ve been looking at Skyline Dr. through Shenandoah as a possibility, but as a VA state park with a lot of tourist activity, I’m worried about running into trouble there.

  • avatar

    Well Karesh was right. Just drove a BRZ, after getting out of my RX8. The chassis is wonderful, and there’s plenty of headroom, but the strange sounding engine and crap shifter ruined it. Felt pretty peppy even with a 240 lb salesman in the car. Car doesn’t feel 200 lbs lighter than the 8, as Karesh said. I thought my 8 clutch was light, the BRZs could be depressed by a toddler. If you can deal with the plasticky, notchy gearbox though its a no brainer if you want a new rear driver. And who wouldn’t love the 33 mpg?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • RHD: Add to the list: *You post controversial political nonsense early on every thread in order to derail the topic...
  • RHD: This thing is to a Ferrari what an electric Hummer is to a Tesla. Excessively large and heavy, consumes way too...
  • RHD: Part of the solution to the current supply chain kinks is for EVERYONE to get vaccinated and boosted. When the...
  • RHD: slavuta = source for Russian misinformation.
  • probert: Buy a bunch of cheapies at the Home Depot, spread them around the house – any glove is better than no...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber