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Mazda RX-8

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Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
Manufacturer Mazda
Production 2003–2011
Assembly Hiroshima, Japan
Predecessor Mazda RX-7
Mazda Cosmo
Class Sports car
Body style(s) 4-door quad coupé
Layout FMR layout
Engine(s) 1.3L RENESIS (Wankel) NA
Transmission(s) 4- or 6-speed automatic and 5 or 6-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,703 mm (106.4 in)
Length 2004-08: 4,425 mm (174.2 in)
2009-: 4,470 mm (176.0 in)
Width 1,770 mm (69.7 in)
Height 1,340 mm (52.8 in)
Curb weight Manual: 1309–1373 kg (2888–3029 lb)
Auto: 1384 kg (3053 lb)
Fuel capacity 60 L (16 US gal; 13 imp gal)
The Mazda RX-8 is a sports car manufactured by Mazda Motor Corporation. It first appeared in 2001 at the North American International Auto Show. It is the successor to the RX-7 and, like its predecessors in the RX range, it is powered by a rotary engine. The RX-8 began North American sales in the 2004 model year.


Mazda introduced rotary engine vehicles in the US in 1971, beginning with the R100, followed by RX-2, RX-3, RX-4, RX-5, and finally three generations of the RX-7 sports car. However, the lack of creature comfort and user-friendliness, coupled with the high price tag and declining interest in sports cars and coupes at this time, led Mazda to pull the RX-7 from most major markets except Japan. After 1995, Mazda suffered from a relatively undistinguished product line in the US save the MX-5 Miata. As popular interest in import tuning and performance cars resurged in the late-1990s, thanks in part to various popular cultural influences such as the Sony PlayStation video game Gran Turismo[citation needed], Japanese automakers waded back into the performance and sports car market in the US. In addition, Mazda endeavored to rejuvenate itself around this time, partially with financial and management assistance from Ford, and successfully developed a new product line of high quality cars with desirable styling and superior driving dynamics, beginning with the Mazda6 and followed by the Mazda3, paving way for the arrival for Mazda's next-generation rotary sports car.

Development and design

Development of the RX-8 can be traced to as far back as the 1995 Mazda RX-01 concept car, which featured an early iteration of the 13B-MSP engine. Naturally aspirated with side exhaust ports, this engine produced 220 hp (160 kW). As prohibited by Mazda's financial state at the time and the growing market interest in SUVs, the RX-01 never saw further development or production. However, a "skunkworks project" engineering team within Mazda kept the development of the 13B-MSP alive using MX-5 Miata chassis, eventually catching the attention of management, which at this time had come under heavy influence from Ford. Development of the 13B-MSP advanced and eventually led to the RENESIS moniker debuting along with the RX-EVOLV concept car which began to bear semblance to the production RX-8 with the "freestyle" rear suicide doors. Styling was developed via design competitions in Mazda tradition among its design studios in Japan, the US, and Europe. The project obtained official approval from management, and eventually the RX-8 concept car (design/engineering model) was produced and shown in 2001, closer resembling the production version. A near-production "reference exhibit" RX-8 was shown shortly thereafter at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, pending final approval for production. Production RX-8 closely resembles this vehicle save for minor trim details, and "job 1" began in February 2003 at Mazda's Hiroshima plant in Japan.
The RX-8 was designed as a front mid-engine, rear-wheel drive four-seat four-door coupé. The car has 50:50 weight distribution, achieved by mounting the engine behind the front axle and the fuel tank ahead of the rear axle. The front wheels feature classic independent double wishbone suspension, while the rear are independent multi-link. Weight is trimmed through the use of materials such as aluminium and plastic for several body panels. The rest of the body is steel, save for the plastic front and rear bumpers. The manual gearbox model uses a carbon fiber composite driveshaft to reduce the rotational mass (moment of inertia) connected to the engine. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited slip differential for improved handling. Whilst not quite in the league as the last RX-7 in terms of raw performance, the RX-8 is considered its successor as Mazda's rotary engine sports car. Its layout and clever engineering, along with typical Mazda suspension tuning, have endowed it with excellent driving dynamics which have garnered much praise and numerous awards. It has also proven popular in Japan among car enthusiasts as well as aftermarket equipment manufacturers and professional tuners.
A prominent feature of the RX-8 is a pair of rear-hinged "freestyle" doors (similar to suicide doors) in order to provide easier access to the rear seats. The RX-8 has no B-pillar between the front and rear doors, with the leading edge of the rear door acting as a "virtual pillar" to maintain structural rigidity. Because of the overlapping design, the rear doors can be opened only when the front doors are open. Although by no means expansive, the RX-8's cabin was meticulously designed to boast enough room to house four adults, making it a genuine 4-seater rather than a 2+2.

(SE3P) 2003-2008

The first version of the RX-8, chassis code SE3P, was produced from model year 2003. It is powered by the RENESIS 13B-MSP (multi side port) Wankel rotary engine displacing 1.3 litres (2x654 cc). At launch, the RENESIS was available in standard and high power versions. The 4-port standard RENESIS produced 210 hp (160 kW) and was coupled with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The 6-port high power RENESIS was only available with a six-speed manual transmission and was rated at 250 hp (190 kW). For the North American market, Mazda revised the reported output rating of the standard and high power RENESIS soon after lauch to 197 hp (147 kW) and 238 hp (177 kW), respectively.[1] With exhaust ports now located in the side housing, the RENESIS boasted improved fuel efficiency and emissions rating over the 13B-REW employed by the last RX-7, thereby making it possible to be sold in North America.
At launch, the RX-8 was available in various models in different markets around the world. Standard models include:
  • 6-speed manual "High Power" with a claimed output of between 170 kW (231 PS; 228 hp) and 184 kW (250 PS; 247 hp) and a 9,000 rpm redline. This model was equivalent to the "Type S" trim in Japan.
  • 5-speed manual "Standard Power" tuned to 141 kW (Template:Convert/PS 257 hp) with the redline reduced to 7,500 rpm. This powertrain combination was not available in North America.
  • 4-speed automatic tuned to 141 kW (192 PS; 189 hp) in some markets, while the U.S. automatic is stated to deliver 158 kW (215 PS; 212 hp) .
  • 6-speed automatic (available in the U.S. market after 2006) developing 158 kW (215 PS; 212 hp) and 159 lb·ft (216 N·m) of torque with a redline at 7,500 rpm.[2] This was the revised standard RENESIS, now with two extra intake ports like the high power version.


In 2005, Mazda introduced the first special edition RX-8 called "Sports Prestige Limited" in North America and "Shinka" in Japan. Billed as a more luxurious grand touring model, this Shinka came with Black Cherry exterior color and Parchment leather interior along with subtly chromed 18" wheels. Only 2150 were made in the 2005 model year. The most significant mechanical change were slightly revised Bilstein shocks and suspension cross member injected with urethane foam to improve ride quality.
Shinka returned for 2006 as a production trim package, now available in Copper Red, Galaxy Grey, and Whitewater Pearl. Only 1500 were made in 2006.


In May 2006, the Mazda released the RX-8 PZ for the UK market. This car was jointly developed with motorsports company Prodrive. Only available in six-speed manual, it featured custom 10-spoke alloy wheels supplied by Italian F1 team supplier OZ Racing in "Dark Silver" finish, mirrors developed to reduce drag, front and rear black mesh grilles, and a rear spoiler to provide more stability at higher speeds. Both the wheels and rear wing are badged in carbon fibre with "Prodrive." Significant revisions were also made to the suspension to improve the handling: dampers from Bilstein and coil springs from Eibach are used in addition to reducing the ride height by 15 mm (0.6 in) and an increase in spring rate of 60%. Finally the car was supplied with a unique upgraded twin exhaust system, with exhaust tailpipes branded "Prodrive." Only 800 were made at an MSRP of £25,995 ($51,990). It was available in two colours, Galaxy Grey (320) and Brilliant Black (480).


The 'Nemesis' model is the 3rd special edition model launched in the UK and is a UK exclusive. It was launched in 2006, although some cars where registered in 2007 due to stock runoff. The ‘Nemesis’ features unique paint colours and interior trim, plus an exclusive accessory package, at a cost that was at the time £330 less than the model on which it is based - when similarly specified. Based on the standard 192ps (141kW) version of the Mazda RX-8, it included a unique stone leather seat trim interior and came with a five-speed manual transmission. The Nemesis has several other unique exterior and interior features. Two exclusive colours were available, Copper Red Mica and Stormy Blue Mica, each Nemesis also comes with a polished aluminium Rotary crest on the front air dam, polished aluminium side air-outlet trims behind the front wheel arches, special B-pillar trims with a Rotary crest and ‘Nemesis’ badging. Inside these special edition models also featured Nemesis branded luxury carpet mats and Mazda RX-8 branded aluminium door scuff plates. Like other standard 192ps RX-8s, the Nemesis has front fog lights, heated front seats, electrically-operated driver’s seat, climate control air-conditioning, nine-speaker BOSE premium audio system with 6-CD auto-changer, plus a black leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear knob and hand-brake lever. The Nemesis has a top speed of 139 mph and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. Each Nemesis buyer also qualified for a complimentary Prodrive experience day. Just 350 examples where commissioned, 200 in Copper Red and 150 in Stormy Blue.


In 2007 Mazda released a UK-only limited edition known as the Kuro (Japanese for Black). While the drivetrain remains the same as standard models, it did receive a revised interior as well as minor changes to its head and tail lights. It was only available with a light grey leather interior and Sparkling Black Mica exterior paint. The car was limited to 500, with a scuff plate denoting the serial number out of 500.

40th Anniversary

2007 saw the release of a special edition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Mazda's rotary engine. The 40th Anniversary special editions were different in the Japan and North American markets. The Japanese version came in Crystal White as an homage to the Mazda Cosmo Sport, which was initially only available in white. The North American version came in Metropolitan Grey exterior with the interior clad in special Cosmo Red leather. It also had wheels of a new design later incorporated in the 2009 facelift, as well as an exclusive sport-tuned suspension[3]. In North America, this special edition was available only in 2008.

True Red Style

During the 2006 model year, Mazda released a "True Red Style" special edition RX-8 in Japan. It came in exclusive True Red exterior color with black leather interior and minor trim variations.

Mazdaspeed Version

After initial launch in 2003, Mazda released a limited run of RX-8 dubbed "Mazdaspeed Version" boasting various Mazdaspeed accessories as well as a slightly tuned ECU. This special edition was available in Strato Blue Mica or Sunlight Silver. Only 300 were produced. In 2004, Mazda followed up with a "Mazdaspeed Version II," this time available only in Strato Blue and with slightly up-rated equipment. Only 300 were produced as before.


Following suit with the Roadster, Mazda introduced the NR-A/Party Race program for RX-8 in Japan in 2004. The NR-A kit, sold through Mazda dealers, brings the RX-8 up to spec in terms of eligibility for participation in the one-make Party Race sanctioned by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). The kit includes roll bar, sports radiator, oil cooler kit, tow hooks, and racing brake pads, and was only available for the Type S (high power) model.

Hydrogen RE

At the 2004 North American International Auto Show, Mazda unveiled the RX-8 Hydrogen RE concept car, designed to run on either hydrogen or gasoline. In February 2006, Mazda revealed that it would start leasing a dual fuel RX-8 to commercial customers in Japan, and in March 2006 announced its first two customers, claiming the first fleet deliveries of a dual hydrogen/gasoline production car. In 2008 30 RX-8 HRE were delivered to Hynor.


For 2009, Mazda engineers improved the RX-8 body rigidity through the addition of structural reinforcements, by adding a trapezoidal strut tower bar and enhancing the local rigidity of the front suspension tower areas. Also, the rear suspension geometry has been reconfigured for better handling performance and for improved driveshaft rigidity, lowering NVH levels and improving overall performance. The 09 RX-8 is also (90 lbs) lighter than the previous RX-8 models.
In addition to being lighter, the 09 RX-8 has a different gearing ratio (on manual transmission-equipped cars) that is lowered from 4.444 to 4.777 for improved off-the-line performance. While minimal, these performance changes give the 2009 RX-8 increased acceleration and performance, as well as even greater responsiveness to the accelerator pedal. Mazda claims that the 09 RX-8 is a significantly faster car than the previous (2003 -2008) model car due to the lighter weight, lowered gearing, and improved suspension.
The 2009 RX-8 also receives design enhancements that are meant to freshen the styling and give the RX-8 a new look, without impairing the basic design theme. Refinements for the 2009 model year include a more aggressive restyled front and rear bumper as well as a new front fascia. The 09 RX-8 also comes with sporty, high-quality finish front and rear headlamps as well as larger exhaust pipes (now measuring 90 mm across). The 2009 RX-8 also offers a new five-spoke wheel design featuring a symbolic and sporty design reminiscent of the rotary engine, with different arrangements for each wheel size.


2010 Mazda RX-8 R3 (US)
The R3 version was introduced for the 2009 year model. The R3 package adds slightly improved suspension over the base model car by adding Bilstein shock absorbers. The R3 also comes with 19-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels (sourced by BBS, and of similar design as those on the RX-01 concept car) and high performance tires. On the exterior, the R3 has a different, lower front bumper sporting a splitter, lower side sills, and a standard rear spoiler. There is a pair of special Recaro seats up front, along with a 300-watt Bose audio system with Centerpoint surround sound and AudioPilot noise compensation technology, Bluetooth, and Mazda advanced keyless entry and start system.

Circuit Trial Edition

At the 2009 Tokyo Auto Salon, Mazda displayed the Mazdaspeed RX-8 Circuit Trial Edition, essentially a track-ready model put together using available off-the-shelf accessories from Mazdaspeed and other aftermarket manufacturers. It sported the Mazdaspeed body kit for the face-lifted RX-8, upgraded brakes and suspension, and Yokohama wheels clad in Advan AD08 tires.

Warranty extension program

Mazda North American Operations extended the engine warranty on RX-8s built between 2004 and 2008 to 8 years or 100,000 miles. The warranty extension covers the engine core which consists of the rotor housing and internal parts as well as the seals and gaskets. A copy of the extended warranty can be found at Racing Beat's website.[4]


Mazda RX-8 MS
Mazdaspeed, Mazda's in-house tuning and high-performance arm, has produced various after-sale parts and accessories for the RX-8, including full body kits, suspension upgrades, engine upgrades (such as cold air intake kit and catback exhausts), and various interior accessories. In addition, Mazdaspeed has also produced several series of showroom-ready limited-production RX-8s in Japan featuring some of these parts and accessories. To date, however, there has not yet been a full Mazdaspeed-tuned RX-8 along the same line as the Mazdaspeed6 or Mazdaspeed3.


The RX-8 has been campaigned and used in various racing series by privateers. It has seen a considerable amount of success, the most prominent of which being the 2008 and 2010 24 Hours of Daytona GT-class wins campaigned by SpeedSource Race Engineering. This victory also marks the 23rd endurance race win at Daytona by Mazda rotary-powered race car. Other racing series include the KONI Challenge Series in the Street Tuner class.

Future revisions

The next generation rotary engine, dubbed "16X," is currently under development.[5] Rumors also suggest that the RX-8 may be replaced by a new smaller, lighter, simpler rotary engine sports car similar in spirit to the original RX-7 and set to compete with the likes of the upcoming Toyota FT-86.


As of October 2006 the RX-8 has won at least 37 international motoring awards including 2003 International Engine of the Year, the 2003 Japanese Car of the Year, Australia's Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 2003, the 2004 Singapore Car of the Year, the 2004 U.S. Best Sports Car, and several UK Best Car Awards. It was named on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 2004, 2005, and 2006. It also took home 1st place on Car and Driver's "Four of a Kind" comparison test.[6]

Contemporaries and Legacy

The RX-8 is the last of a trio of significant Japanese rear-wheel-drive sports car revivals, following the Honda S2000 and Nissan 350Z. While different in many ways, these cars did represent a return of relatively affordable genuine sports cars from Japan, following an era of less spirited driving appliances and SUVs in the 90s. While the RX-8 is slightly more contemporary with the 350Z, it is more similar in spirit to the S2000, as both were compact and lightweight sports cars powered by small, high-strung, high-revving, sports bike-like engines. Incidentally, the RX-8 has occasionally been described by some as a sedan alter ego of the S2000 or even Lotus Elise, owing to its razor sharp handling response, powertrain, and relative practicality. Interestingly, at its last revision the S2000 also saw a "handling" model similar to the R3: the S2000 Type S/Club Racer. On the other hand, partially due to its time of launch, the RX-8 was frequently compared to the 350Z and the Infinity G35 Coupe. While the latter two's VQ V6 engines slightly out-power the RENESIS, all were relatively purpose-built sports cars that hit the market at similar times with very similar target buyers. Both the RX-8 and 350Z went on to achieve vast popularity with the enthusiast and aftermarket communities in Japan as well as the U.S.. The RX-8 has been regarded by the press as one of the best balanced and handling sports cars of all time. In addition, the RX-8 has a very sizable and dedicated following. It was also significant as the RX-8 revived the rotary engine for Mazda in the US. Curiously, various other makes have since attempted to ascribe the "four-door sports car" classification to their models, yet none of which has been a car that can be as properly called as such as the RX-8.

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