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Perfect for a driver with the right circumstances

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 12/7/2016 Jonathan Baker

I bought my 2007 RX-8 Seven months ago. It had 62,000 miles on it and the engine had about 15,000. (At least half of the RX-8's I looked at were on their second engine.) It is slightly modified with a cold air intake, aftermarket exhaust and 19” wheels with Hankook Ventus V12 Evo summer tires. I bought the car shortly after I started commuting to work by train minimizing the impact of the poor fuel mileage. Should I have to return to a lengthy commute here in Los Angeles, the car will be up for sale in an instant. My city mileage in the 17-18 range. I can’t give a useful hwy figure because all my non-city driving is blasting through mountain roads. That of course is where this car shines. It is spectacularly agile and balanced and there is nothing like having the throttle control of running in 2nd or 3rd gear at 6000- to 7000 rpm and still have a couple thousand more at your disposal. The car is completely neutral in the turns, and the Hankooks (which isn’t a brand I would normally consider) are the stickiest tires I’ve ever owned. So far, the car’s ability easily exceeds my talent.There is no question this is a sports car. You have to be engaged with it for the fun to happen. It won’t come from just a pressed throttle. With little in the way of torque, you have to work to access the power which is then quite rewarding. You sit low, both brakes and throttle respond quickly and effectively. The steering is no match for the non-assist rack I had in a Miata, but still surprisingly communicative given that it is electrically assisted. When not used as a toy, the car is benign if thirsty partner. I have put adults in the back though not for long distances. The usual rear seat occupant is an oversized backpack that carries work, lunch and gym items and the rear door makes it quite accessible, though things can get a bit involved in cramped parking situations. The navigation system just shows how much displays have improved in the past 10 years, and the database seems convinced I live in in Massachusetts, so I love the fact that I can make the screen disappear. I do find the nav screen a great companion in the mountains however, where seeing the shape of the next curve informs me of the appropriate approach speed and what gear to take it in. Like most RX-8 owners, I keep a quart of oil and funnel in the trunk, though thus far only use the better part of a quart every three fill ups. Don’t check your oil in the dark. As the dipstick receiver much like the engine itself, is very low back by the firewall and hard to aim for when you can’t see it.I was skeptical about the digital speed display at first, but rather like it now, especially as it allows the tach to be large and centered. The steering wheel has just the right amount of buttons and the dash controls are both easy to find and operate intuitively. Visibility is good, particularly though the wrap-around rear window. The taut leather seating surfaces do a good job of imitating vinyl, but still keep me in place in the mountains. The Bose stereo is adequate, though I wish for a simple auxiliary input. A previous owner installed an iPod connect cord which, though an adapter plugs into my iPhone 6. Unfortunately, the connection only works when it feels like it.As mentioned, my vehicle had a modest amount of modification. I don’t know how much of a significant difference the intake makes, but it sure looks good when the hood is open. Likewise, I’m not sure how effective the exhaust is beyond broadcasting to the world whenever I’m in the 6000 to 9000 rpm range. The just-short-of black 19” wheels look more bad-ass than is probably appropriate for this 50-something year old and the low profile tires definitely add some harshness to the ride, though as mentioned, they redeem themselves in my self-indulgent mountain excursions.It is those mountain drives that give this car a reason for being. Frankly, if you don’t have reasonable access to lightly traveled twisty roads, you won’t get to use it for what it’s best at and I’d recommend a different choice. The occasional freeway cloverleaf just isn’t enough.Edmunds has asked me to update:I've now had the car for a year. Nothing above has changed, nor has my view of the car. My view of my Mazda dealer, however had changed considerably. The cold air intake is low enough that it will stall the car out in a foot of water. The first time this happened, I had it towed to my dealer who said I needed a new engine. Not so. The second time it happened I simply remove the water from my intake, then remove the plugs, turn the engine (while jumped until all the water blows out. I'm considering returning to a normal intake, but it rains so little here, it is easy to put off the decision. Beyond that, I am getting a few squeaks and rattles I haven't been able to track down.

Average Rating : 4

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