2009 Mazda RX-8

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16 CITY / 22 HWY
Overall Quality
Overall Performance and Design
Predicted Reliability


What Changed for 2009:
  • Restyled front and rear bumpers and front fascia
  • Restyled front and rear lighting elements
  • Larger exhaust outlets
  • New 5-spoke wheel design
  • Improved body rigidity with structural reinforcements
  • Reconfigured rear suspension for better handling.
  • Final gear ratio changes on the manual transmission for improved performance
  • New R3 performance model
Mazda, alone among automakers, has persisted in developing the rotary engine, which employs a triangular rotor spinning within a single chamber to develop power rather than a traditional cylinder and piston design. The RX-8 is different not only in underhood technology but also in its design, which Mazda calls \"freestyle\" and \"athletically sculpted.\" It has interior accommodations for four, not just two as in most sports cars, with rear-hinged access panels providing entry to the rear bucket seats. Even with its 4-seat interior architecture and a trunk with 7.6 cubic feet of space, the RX-8 is a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) sports car with racing-style suspension and the compact rotary engine allows for a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. On the market in its current format since 2004, for 2009 Mazda has made several improvements to the RX-8, including the addition of a performance-tuned R3 model to enhance already impressive handling capability. Also, all models receive restyled front and rear bumpers, a revised front fascia with new headlights, bigger exhaust outlets, and a new wheel design with a rotory engine motif.

Model Lineup
The 2009 Mazda RX-8 is offered in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and the new-for-2009 R3 trim levels. Standard equipment on the Sport model with the automatic transmission includes cloth upholstery; air conditioning; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; power windows, mirrors and door locks; remote keyless entry; 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; and P225/55R16 tires on alloy wheels. The Sport model with the manual transmission adds a limited-slip differential, sport suspension, larger brakes, and P225/45R18 tires. Touring models have the Sport manual's equipment, plus a sunroof; Bose sound system with 6-disc CD changer; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; fog lights; and Xenon headlights. Grand Touring models add leather upholstery; heated front seats; 8-way power driver's seat; heated exterior mirrors; and keyless access and starting. Available options include a DVD-based navigation system; Sirius satellite radio with 6-month subscription; rear cargo organizer; rear spoiler; and an alarm.

The new R3 model includes a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks and front crossmembers filled with urethane foam. A rear spoiler, side sills, fog lamps, Xenon headlights and a sportier front bumper add to the R3's performance image. In addition, the R3's unique 19-inch forged aluminum wheels are equipped with high-performance tires. Inside, the R3 gets an uplevel Bose audio system, Bluetooth hands-free communications, Recaro sport seats, leather-wrapped parking brake, and keyless entry/start system.

A rotary engine revs freely and can provide substantial power in a compact package, Mazda says. Thus, the 2009 Mazda RX-8's RENESIS 2-rotor rotary powerplant displaces 1.3 liters, yet generates 232 hp at 8500 rpm and 159 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm when linked to the available 6-speed manual transmission. With the 6-speed automatic transmission, it makes 212 hp at 7500 rpm and 159 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm. The automatic can be shifted manually via the console shifter or steering wheel paddles. The RX-8 is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway with the manual transmission and 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway with the automatic transmission.

Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Mazda RX-8 includes dual front air bags; torso-protecting front side air bags; head-protecting side curtain air bags; 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution; and a tire-pressure monitor. All but the Sport models also have traction control and electronic stability control.

In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Mazda RX-8 received a 4-star rating for the driver and a 5-star rating for the front passenger in frontal impacts; 4-star ratings for front- and rear-seat occupants in side impacts; and a 5-star rating for rollover resistance. As of November 2008, the RX-8 has not been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

A rotary engine, such as in the 2009 Mazda RX-8, doesn't have pistons in cylinders. Instead it has a triangular rotor spinning in a cocoon-shaped combustion chamber. Rather than pumping up and down, the rotor spins to produce power. Mazda says the RENESIS rotary engine is 60-percent smaller and lighter than a comparable V-6 engine and 40-percent smaller and lighter than a comparable 4-cylinder engine. The benefits of rotary engines, which feature lighter weight and smaller size, are that they produce impressive power for their compact dimensions and allow for better weight distribution, making them perfect for application in sporting machines such as the RX-8.

J.D. Power Ratings

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