If you want a car that has universally been loved for its handling prowess, especially for cars under $100k, and you want a unique vehicle (the only rotary engine available in a modern car, "freestyle" doors that offer easier rear stea access while avoiding ridiculously long coupe doors, 9000 rpm redline, non-vanilla looks, etc), then the RX-8 (now only available as used) is an excellent option. I got my R3 new for less than what Insideline paid for their FR-S, so the value factor is excellent too. I drive the R3 on a daily basis, except when there is salt/snow on the road. I swapped out the OEM summer tires, and the handling is still great. Mileage is not a problem for my 22-mi round trip.
Handling, surprising amounts of rear seat room (fits two carseats) ... did I mention handling?
2011 Mazda RX-8 Coupe Sport 4dr Coupe (1.3L 2rtr 6M)
I am a Miata fan - had 3 of them in the past but had to let go due to having 3 kids. The RX-8 provides similar driving thrills but with the ability to seat 4 peoples so i can use it to pick/drop kids from school and still have fun driving. Everybody talks about rotary engine issues but Mazda offers 100K miles warranty on engine so don't see much point. Yes it requires topping off oil every 2nd or 3rd fillup but that's not a big deal at all. Infact, you will enjoy it - you will feel more involved with your car. I do miss the convertible part of Miata. Hoping they will build a rotary Miata someday.
The driving feel! Practical 4 seats/doors. Comfort, handling, quality and exclusivity. Being a Mazda built in Japan - reliability.
I think if Mazda makes this one a hybrid - that will address all concerns: It will have much better fuel economy, more torque off the line and still will deliver rotary fun when pushed hard. The electric motor needs to step up and work in tandem with the rotary to save this dying breed!
If you are a true enthusiast, the RX-8 R3 is for you; I drove the usual suspects- 370Z, G37s, 335i, all are great cars
However, the way this car comes together, the hand-in-glove feel you get, the intoxicating sound, and the perfect steering and shifter, and firm yet comfortable suspension tuning make this car truly special.
You have to know how to drive to let this car's brilliance shine through-
there is nothing like it.
Drove it through the Tail of the Dragon (US 129) and the car is made for it; StIs couldn't keep up, it is sheer brilliance when driven hard.
perfect steering, impeccable handling.
intoxicating sound and smoothness of the rotary
unique engineering and design
also practical with reasonably roomy trunk and rear seats
well-built and unique interior
decent Bose sound
worldwide fanbase on-line
needs infotainment update- especially for the R3 version-
of course fuel economy isn't great, but this is to be expected, its a rotary sports car
throatier exhaust sound at idle
higher-quality plastics in some parts of interior
2011 Mazda RX-8 Coupe Grand Touring 4dr Coupe (1.3L 2rtr 6M)
The RX-8 as a sports car is amazing.
It is such a nice car to be in and drive because it looks great both inside and out, is comfortable, and handles phenomenally well.
When you floor it, you are treated with a very responsive, short-throw transmission and an engine that will rev up to 9000rpm.
When you want to relax, the seats are comfortable, the cabin is quiet, and the rotary engine gently hums as you go along at highway speeds in top gear.
The only drawback to this car is the rotary.
It's low on power and torque yet is as thirsty as a V-8.
It is also designed to eat oil and requires a topping off every second fuel up.
There is also the issue of flooding.
This is not a performance machine.
Against it's rivals around the $30,000 range it is grossly underpowered, and the tricky engine needs babying.
However, it wins on refinement.
The car is well built, handles like a dream, and is overall a blast to drive.
I get that excited feeling every time I take a look at it, and I've been told by other owners that it won't ever fade.
The RX-8 is special and unique, and as the whole package it might just be worth it.
Here is a tip though.
The depreciation rate is staggering as this is not a very popular car because of the engine.
It is bad if you buy new but you get great deals for buying used.
Since it isn't so popular it is also pretty rare.