Hooniverse Asks: Will Mazda's RX-8 Ever be Loved?

Mazda is the reigning king (or queen, we don’t exactly know for sure) of value-priced sports cars. Their MX-5 Miata is not only the gold standard of that category, but it’s also considered to be one of the greatest cars of all time. Before there was ever a Miata however, Mazda offered the world the RX7, a rotary-powered sport coupe that was lithe, plucky, and wouldn’t break the bank. Between the MX5 and RX-7 Mazda took the reigns of everyman sports car purveyor from the British and Italians and ran with it.
Of course the RX7 enjoyed a number of iterations until market tides turned away from its favor, and the rotary’s thirst for fuel caught up with it. The RX-7 went away, and many lamented its departure. Even today, old RX-7s from all three generations are generally considered attractive options for cheap seats sportsters. The same cannot be said for the 7’s replacement however, the RX-8.
Still sporting a twin-wankel engine but now available only in 2+2 two and two half-door body style, the RX-8 has not engendered the sort of fanbase as has its predecessors. It’s now a former product too as Mazda couldn’t seem to encourage much enthusiasm for them when new either. Now that they’ve joined their RX-7 mates in the history books and used car market, do you think the tide will turn in their favor? Do you think that the RX-8 will ever be loved?
Image: CARmagazine

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  1. Maymar Avatar

    I love it, so I mean…
    Yes, that… Please don’t drive the values of these up, I still want to buy one while they’re cheap.

    1. The Real Number_Six Avatar
      The Real Number_Six

      350Z – nobody talks about how the RX-8 gets every preening douchebag on the road wanting to show you how fast their 350/370/G3x coupe is. When I owned mine I just prayed for corners or dual-lane cloverleafs so I could pass them on the outside with a finger waving in no particular direction…

    2. nanoop Avatar

      Once you have one:
      The sophisticated engine loves spinning up to 11krpm, the handling is balanced and trust-inspiring, reassuring seats that are comfy enough for cross-continental journeys, and the only four-seater with a ‘ring time under 8 minutes. You should really get one, too, as long as they are affordable.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Oh, for sure, I was being slightly sarcastic. I’ve driven a couple around the block, and it’s hard to say I could possibly know it well enough after that, but I want to spend more time with them.

      2. crank_case Avatar

        There’s plenty of 4 seaters with a sub 8 second ring time these days, even hatchbacks fer goodness sake.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Also, I’m old, I remember AC Schnitzer E36 M3s running a circle 8:15-ish as impressive. Honestly, I’m still impressed.

          1. crank_case Avatar

            Tell me about it, my “I’m getting old” benchmark is the Ford Sierra Cosworth. I remember when 200bhp in a family saloon was mindblowing, now folks say that the same headline figure in a GT86/FR-S “isn’t enough”.

  2. rsayers Avatar

    I think it’s just about to come around. Checking craigslist, you can find early examples in my area for under 5k, a few for under 4… all running examples. It won’t be long before people realize what a bargain these things are and start scooping them up. I owned a 2004, and it drives like nothing else I’ve owned.
    I suspect part of the reason people are cold on them is that unlike the previous generations, there’s no real way to make power gains. Most bolt-ons do very little for this car, and the power is a little underwhelming from the factory. WIth the chassis going for so little however, I bet we’re going to see a lot of different engines going into these in the next few years.

    1. discontinuuity Avatar

      You can get turbo kits that make well over 300 hp, and I imagine you could get quite a bit more if you get crazy with the porting.

      1. rsayers Avatar

        True, but that’s thousands of dollars and/or opening up the engine. I think there’s a certain appeal to a car where an intake will give you a noticeable gain in power. In reality, it just means that Mazda tuned the car very well from the factory, but people (myself included) love to be able to get a little bump over stock without spending an arm and a leg.

    2. mad_science Avatar

      Holy crap, they’re that cheap? I take back everything I’ve ever said about them.

  3. bbob Avatar

    i think people already love the rx8, but tales of engine failure means people are too afraid to buy them used at current used prices (at least here in norway)
    once they get a bit cheaper i guess people will start buying and gushing praise all over the internet.
    they are not bad looking, but i guess some people do dislike their very distinct, early 2000s shape.
    same as people hating on the jellybean rx7 and supra when they were getting a bit long in the tooth.

  4. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I sometimes wonder how much the RX-8 suffers from having the RX-7’s emotional baggage to carry around. The name implies it as being “one greater” than the legend before it, which it wasn’t. It was also too bitty in design. Those rear doors probably broadened its market, but they also diluted the recipe.
    I wonder if it the RX-8 would have been better off with a different name and a turbo-4, leaving space for a more focussed, simpler RX-7 to carry the rotary legend onwards.

    1. roguetoaster Avatar

      I believe that Mazda was trying to go the Miata route after the rather complex swan song FD RX-7. However, I don’t think they intended it to be one greater, just the next generation of the rotary sporty car, and if you had a turbo 4, it wouldn’t be an RX-anything.

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        That’s what I meant. The RX-8 would have been better with an I4 as an MX-6 replacement.

  5. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Wait, the RX8 is unloved? Why doesn’t anybody ever tell me these things!

  6. Kiefmo Avatar

    There’s nothing wrong with the RX-8 that can’t be resolved by replacing the thing up front that goes “hmmmmmm” with one that roars like the Almighty gargling nails.

    1. roguetoaster Avatar

      While that is a good choice that makes for an interesting car it seems that the more natural route would be an F20C from the S2000.

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        For a near-identical powerband with increased reliability? Sure!
        But I have this dream of a stupid-powerful V8 in a small car.
        And if I ever lay hands on an S2000, it might get a J-series under the hood, as Honda is an engine company first, so a Honda with anything other than a Honda engine is just plain sacreligious.
        Even Honda thinks so:

        1. BigRedCaveTroll Avatar

          Off-topic, but I’ve always wanted to put an S2000 drivetrain into a Morris Minor. Is that wrong?

          1. Kiefmo Avatar

            No. No, that is perfect.

      2. Tanshanomi Avatar

        My natural inclination would be to get a UZ engine from a wrecked Lexus.

        1. roguetoaster Avatar

          Would that be a one Uzi, two Uzis, or three? Don’t even get me started on the 2 Jay-Z.

          1. Tanshanomi Avatar

            It would depend how many Uzis were on my local CL.

        2. Kiefmo Avatar

          While it’s a mostly reliable engine, you’re aware of the maintenance nightmare it can be when something does go wrong, right?

        3. mad_science Avatar

          Hard to put a manual behind them.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      I would feel compelled to try and fit a Ford Coyote in there, if I absolutely had to tear out one of the fundamental points of this car, to at least try and keep it in the dysfunctional family.

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        That DOHC beast might be able to be crammed in, but what a maintenance nightmare!

  7. GTXcellent Avatar

    I don’t know, I liken them to the colonnade Chevelles.
    ’64-’72 Chevelles are some of the most loved cars ever built. ’73-’77 Chevelles have been touted as the next big collectible classic car for 20+ years, yet still only a select handful of crazies want them.

  8. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    They aren’t unloved. They certainly aren’t unhated, either. It seems that there is seldom indifference among current and previous owners. The RX-8 is either the most amazing car they’ve ever owned, or the biggest piece of shit ever conceived by a car maker.
    As it happens, both parties are right. It’s a pretty amazing, terrible car.

    1. Roody Avatar

      With the well-respected RX-7 preceding it and the fact that there’s no RX-8 successor for people to criticize, it puts the 8 in an awkward place

  9. Alff Avatar

    Absolutely. It will find a niche, as its rotary powered predecessors have done. As much as I enjoyed seat time in the original RX-7, I will not be in that niche.
    If I ever come across a deal on a REPU or an RX3-SP, though …

  10. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Free hugs…don’t you mean “free cuddles”?

    1. BigRedCaveTroll Avatar

      But seriously, free candy.

      1. Alff Avatar

        Free Leonard Peltier

        1. Vairship Avatar

          But not Bill Posters!

  11. LEROOOY Avatar

    It’s tough to follow up on what many agree to be the prettiest car of the 90s+ “Computer Era.”
    I like these anyway. Like many here are pointing out, it’s a great chassis for engine swaps.

  12. Krautwursten Avatar

    I like wankels and I like quad doors, so I double like the RX-8. It’s just a shame that Mazda managed to introduce a different unreliable detail in every one of their engine generations.

  13. Preludacris Avatar

    I sat by a window at a restaurant last night and as I ate I had the chance to admire one of these parked directly outside. I really like the design, especially the front end. Sleek, interesting, it’s got character. A future classic.