Long term tests

Mazda RX-8 R3

Newcomer to the fleet, Mazda's RX-8, is a true drivers' car. Pity about the fuel consumption...

Interesting fact: evo hasn’t had an RX-8 long-termer before. Exactly why this is the case we can’t quite figure out. We’ve rated Mazda’s quirky coupe highly ever since its launch back in 2003, and rightly so: it’s daringly different, eager to please and – always popular around these parts – rear-wheel drive.

Time to put things right, then, and welcome to the fleet our first RX-8. This is no ordinary RX-8 either, it’s in range-topping R3 spec. That means it comes with a long list of extra kit, including 20 per cent stiffer Bilstein dampers, 19in alloy wheels, a more aggressive front bumper, new side skirts, a rear wing, half-leather Recaro seats, automatic xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth and a Bose premium audio system. Impressively, all this adds just £1850 to the price of the standard RX-8, taking the total up to £24,473.

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It was a recent group test featuring an Aurora Blue R3 identical to this one that reminded us just how much we like the RX-8, not least because we preferred it to the other three cars present – VW’s new Scirocco, BMW’s 123d and Volvo’s C30 T5 – the Mazda’s ‘cracking chassis’ coming in for particular praise and earning the R3 a four-and-a-half-star rating.

And, when I drove our new long-termer for the first time, it was the chassis that particularly grabbed my attention. The ride is firm, but not filling-looseningly so, the steering direct and not wanting for more feedback, and even when taking it relatively easy on greasy winter roads the rear end feels keen and alive. You’re left in no doubt that the R3 is a drivers’ car first and foremost.

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It’s a feeling backed up by the way you have to stretch the 1308cc rotary engine all the way to 8200rpm to see it return its full 228bhp. Yes, it may sound like a vacuum cleaner (or, at a motorway cruise, like a vacuum cleaner next door), but even as someone who prefers low-down torque to chasing the red line for power, I have to admit that there is something quite captivating about the RX-8’s ability to rev to 9000rpm.

Pity, then, that it’s so darn uneconomical. Others in the team had warned me about the way the Wankel likes a drink, but for some reason I thought I’d be able to drive around it. You know, employ a light right foot on boring roads, save excursions into the upper half of that long rev-range for when they’ll really be appreciated. How wrong I was. My first tank of fuel returned an average of just 19.1mpg, making it less economical than our Evo FQ-360. Worryingly, I hadn’t exactly been caning the Mazda around either.

Still, I’m going to try to put that thought to the back of my mind, be grateful that petrol prices have dropped by a good chunk recently and try to concentrate on enjoying the way the Mazda drives. Here’s hoping that’s a frame of mind I’ll be able to maintain over the coming months.

>Find a used Mazda RX-8 for sale on the Classic and Performance Car site here<

Running Costs

Date acquiredJanuary 2009
Total mileage5503
Costs this month£0
Mileage this month1298
MPG this month20.2
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