Full 2007 Mazda RX-8 Review
What's New for 2007
Changes for the 2007 Mazda RX-8 are few. An in-dash six-disc CD changer is now standard on Touring and Grand Touring models, while a new performance package becomes optional on the Sport trim.
With the 2007 Mazda RX-8, the lines of distinction between a sports car and a sport coupe are blurred. Sports cars are typically low-slung, sleekly styled and designed to seat just two adults. There may be a seat in the back but it's usually so small as to be useful only for small children or cargo. Sport coupes are typically bigger and seat four (or five) full-size people. The RX-8 combines the attributes of both -- it's a true sports car that seats four adults. Apart from that distinction, the RX-8 also features a pair of pillar-less rear-opening doors that allow access to its surprisingly roomy backseat. If that's not distinctive enough for you, consider that the RX-8 is the only production car in the world with a rotary engine.
For years, car enthusiasts have been intrigued by the RX-series' rotary engine and for good reason, as it has many advantages over a traditional piston engine. They include very high output with small displacement (the RX-8's engine is just 1.3 liters, yet puts out 232 horsepower), much lighter weight and fewer moving parts. The engine's small weight and size allowed the RX-8's engineers to optimize engine placement. The result is a 50/50 weight balance between the front and rear wheels, a low center of gravity and a low hood line that contributes to the car's sleek aerodynamics and sporty style. The RX-8 weighs about 3000 pounds, which is a good 300-400 pounds less than its main competitors. In terms of dynamics, very few cars achieve a better balance between handling precision and ride quality than the RX-8. But although the RX-8's rotary engine is very impressive in terms of output versus size, its fuel efficiency is poor and its torque peak occurs high in the rev range.
Pitted against its chief rival, the Nissan 350Z, the RX-8 makes for a better all-around sports car. Although not as fast in a straight line as the Z car, the RX-8 feels more agile in the twisties due to its lighter weight and perfect steering feel. The RX-8's suspension is tuned noticeably softer than the Z's, but the Mazda still offers spunky and agile handling while providing a more comfortable ride. Factor in a nicer cabin, a more comfortable ride and the ability to seat four adults and it's no wonder that the RX-8 beat the Nissan 350Z in an Edmunds comparison test. Of course, that test also included a Mustang GT, which took first place to the Mazda's second, but driving enthusiasts who prize athletic handling and overall refinement above ripping acceleration will probably be happier with a 2007 Mazda RX-8.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Mazda RX-8 is a four-seat hardtop with, essentially, four doors. The front doors are conventional, while two smaller reverse-opening rear doors ease access to the rear passenger compartment. The RX-8 line consists of three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Each is available with a choice of a six-speed automatic-transmission (with paddle shifters) or a manual-transmission version that also has six cogs. The RX-8 Sport automatic comes standard with 16-inch wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, a CD player and full power features. The Sport six-speed manual model and all the other trims are more performance-oriented thanks to a limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension, larger front brakes and 18-inch wheels. For the Touring trim, Mazda includes a sunroof, a Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer, HomeLink, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and xenon headlights. The Grand Touring model provides luxuries such as a power driver seat, heated seats, leather upholstery and heated side mirrors. A performance package can be added to the Sport that includes HID xenon headlights and foglamps for the six-speed manual, while the automatic also gets the limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension, larger front brakes and 18-inch wheels and tires. Stand-alone options include a navigation system and an in-dash six-disc CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
All versions of the Mazda RX-8 are motivated by a 1.3-liter rotary engine that sends power to the rear wheels. Paired with the six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, output is 212 horsepower. Manual-transmission versions get a 232-hp version of this power plant. Measured acceleration is mildly disappointing for a sports car; in our tests, a manual-equipped RX-8 took 7.0 seconds to reach 60 mph and 15.4 seconds for the quarter-mile. Although the manual version is rated at 18 city and 24 highway, we averaged just shy of 18 mpg in our long-term RX-8. Considering that the high-revving rotary engine tachs to 4000 rpm at 80 mph in 6th gear, the car's mediocre mileage is hardly surprising.
Side airbags and side curtain airbags for the driver and front passenger come standard, as do antilock disc brakes and a tire-pressure monitor. Stability control is standard on the Touring and Grand Touring and optional via a package for the Sport. In NHTSA crash testing, the RX-8 earned a four-star rating (out of a possible five) for driver protection in frontal impacts and five stars for the front passenger. The Mazda received four stars across the board for side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior design carries a circular theme, with three round gauges and a circular central dash control stack that houses the stereo and climate control functions. "Piano black" accents lend a touch of class to the cockpit. Unfortunately, an overly busy display for the audio system and climate control makes at-a-glance reading a challenge. Although the idea of a 2+2 sports car has been around for decades, the 2007 Mazda RX-8 takes it to the next level via the "free style" rear doors, which open opposite the fronts and, along with the lack of a B-pillar, make loading people and cargo much easier. Provided they are under 6 feet tall, those seated in the back will find supportive seating and ample room all around. Alternately, the rear-seat area is a great place to throw luggage or grocery bags, but maximizing luggage capacity via a flip-down rear seat isn't possible, as the RX-8 doesn't have that feature.
Although the 2007 Mazda RX-8 has the look of a race-tuned sports car, its demeanor on the road is considerably more docile. There's plenty of grip in the corners and solid feedback through the steering wheel, but a compliant ride means that it won't beat you up on the daily commute. The rotary engine requires high engine speeds to make serious power, but the delivery is virtually vibration-free and noise levels are subdued. Overall, the RX-8 is one of the best examples of a car that's both fun to drive and very livable on a day-to-day basis.