Mazda RX-8

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Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8
AssemblyHiroshima, Japan
PredecessorMazda RX-7
Mazda Cosmo
ClassSports car
Body style(s)4-door quad coupé
LayoutFMR layout
Engine(s)1.3L Renesis NL
Transmission(s)4- or 6-speed automatic and 5 or 6-speed manual
Wheelbase2004-08: 2703 mm (106.4 in)
2009-: 2700 mm (106.3 in)
Length2004-08: 4425 mm (174.2 in)
2009-: 4470 mm (176 in)
Width1770 mm (69.7 in)
Height1340 mm (52.8 in)
Curb weightManual: 1309–1373 kg (2888–3029 lb)
Auto: 1384 kg (3053 lb)
Fuel capacity60 L (16 US gal; 13 imp gal)
ManualsService Manual

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 has sold rotary engine vehicles in the US since 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. With the third generation RX-7, Mazda held nothing back and delivered a super high performance sports car with little compromise. 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 to Mazda pulling 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 90's, thanks in part to various popular cultural influences such as the Sony PlayStation video game Gran Turismo, 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 220hp. 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" 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" 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 coupé. The car has a near 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 (hood & rear doors), and a carbon fiber composite driveshaft on the manual gearbox car. All this contribute to reduced rotational mass (Moment of Inertia) connected to the engine. The rest of the body is steel, save for the plastic front and rear bumpers. While 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 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 had been meticulously designed to boast enough room to house four adults, making it a genuine 4-seater.

First Generation (SE3P)

Mazda RX-8 SE

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 210hp 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 250hp. For the North American market, Mazda revised the reported output rating of the standard and high power RENESIS soon after lauch to 197hp and 238hp, espectively.[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 (192 PS; 189 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 "Shinka" in North America and "Sports Prestige Limited" 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. The most significant mechanical change were slightly revised Bilstein shocks and suspension cross member injected with urethane foam to improving ride quality. Shinka returned for 2006 as a production trim package, now available in Copper Red, Galaxy Grey, and Whitewater Pearl.


In May 2006, the Mazda released the RX-8 PZ for the UK market. The 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).

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 in homage of the Mazda Cosmo Sport, which were originally 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 special wheels of a new design. 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.

2009 Facelift

2009 Mazda RX-8 (North America)
Productionstarting 2009

The new revision of the Mazda RX-8 debuted at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show, with production model year starting in 2009. Meaningful changes have been described by Autoblog as being:

Some additional chassis bracing increases rigidity, along with a trapezoidal strut tower brace and new suspension geometry that keep things planted out back.

Additionally some minor cosmetic changes have been made most notable in the front fascia, fenders, and tail lights. No changes to the engine's power output have been made, though the manual transmission models will see a lower final drive ratio of 4.777 from the previous standard of 4.444.[3]

The updated version is slightly slower than the previous model (0-100km/h in 6.7s from 6.4).


At the 2008 Detroit Motor Show information was given regarding the optional R3 package. The R3 adds a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and front suspension crossmembers filled with urethane foam. Filling the crossmembers makes for a smoother ride, minimized NVH and greater suspension control. On the visual side of the package, a rear spoiler, side sills, fog lights and sporty front bumper are added to give an aggressive appearance, along with 19-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels with high performance tires. Inside, the R3 adds a 300-watt Bose® audio system with Centerpoint® surround sound and AudioPilot® noise compensation technology, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, front Recaro sport seats with leather side bolsters, leather-wrapped parking brake handle and Mazda advanced keyless entry and start system.

Ireland and the R3

Due to new tax regulations it is extremely doubtful that there will be any R3's in Ireland. This new system means that it will cost €2000 per year to pay for road tax. Nothing has been done by Mazda or the Irish government to combat this problem.

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 facelifted RX-8, upgraded brakes and suspension, and Yokohama wheels clad in Advan AD08 tires.

Warranty Extension Program

According to an article listed on Autoblog, Mazda of America has extended the warranty on the RX-8 for models built from 2004-2008 Renesis engine.[4]. An article found on displayed an actual letter from Mazda declaring exactly what was being covered and the extended warranty particulars.[5]


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 Daytona 24-hour Grand Am GT-class win campaigned by SpeedSource Race Engineering. This victory also marks the 22nd endurance race win at Daytona by Mazda rotary-powered race car.

Future revisions

The next generation RENESIS engine, dubbed "16X," is currently under development, with a planned release by 2010.[6]


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.[7]


External links