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The RX-8 Is The Hilariously Affordable Rotary Sports Car You Deserve

Every couple of months there are rumors Mazda is working on a new Rotary engine. They happen at such a predictable interval you can set your watch by them. Every time an article comes out talking about a new Mazda Rotary scores of people claim they will buy one tomorrow. These brave keyboard warriors echo a sentiment in the heart of every gear head but let’s be honest. There’s probably not going to be another Mazda RX car. Even if there is, it will be expensive and out of reach for most Mazda enthusiasts. So rather than waiting for a car as real as Santa Claus go out and buy yourself an RX-8. The RX-8 may have its flaws but it’s an affordable and practical rotary sports car that you can actually buy.

You deserve more than just another Miata. Today you can easily pick up an RX-8 for around $6,500  in good condition. $6,500! For a car with the precious rotary engine, you claim to love. Sure it lacks the pop-up headlights of a Miata or the reliability of any other car but at this price, those glaring flaws are almost excusable.

The RX-8 came with a naturally aspirated 1.3-liter RENESIS 13B-MSP Wankel engine. This engine produced 231 horsepower at 8,500 rpm with an impressive 9,000 rpm redline in the North American RX-8. This engine was known for its smooth power delivery and ability to break itself. Earlier models had issues with flooding during short trips that were fixed on later examples. As Mazda continued to develop the RX-8 the engine became more livable. It was mated to a 6-speed manual which should have been the only option but a 4-speed auto was included to bump up sales. Automatics only had 191 horsepower due to a lower redline.

This strange engine loves revs and actually needs them to survive. Hitting redline keeps the crucial apex seals in good condition giving the engine a longer life. It also drinks oil and requires constant topping up. Some RX-8 owners even run two stroke oil which they claim improves performance and reliability. For all the crap this engine gets, it’s something very special. Anyone can build an engine with cylinders but only Mazda found a way to make Doritos work.

Anyone can build an engine with cylinders but only Mazda found a way to make Doritos work.

Photo from Popular Mechanics

Although the engine gets the headlines, the best part of the RX-8 is the chassis. It can seat 4 but weighs under 3,000lbs. It has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution and low center of gravity making this the ultimate momentum car. The first time I rode in an RX-8 I almost shit my pants. I knew RX-8s weren’t fast but I underestimated their handling. It was my first week of college and a high school friend of mine just traded in his Chrysler Pacifica for a red RX-8. As we tore through the surrounding Pennsylvania backroads I could tell his confidence was increasing. We quickly approached a tight turn that my Nissan Altima could barely handle at 25 mph but RX-8 easily took it even with a young inexperienced driver.

This confidence inspiring chassis and useable interior make the RX-8 a fairly capable car. Although it has a few flaws that make this a labor of love. First of all, it consumes gas and oil at an alarming rate. With a rating of 22 MPG highway and 16 City expect to spend plenty of money on premium fuel. While you’re filling up your RX-8 don’t forget to add the oil. The RX-8 is said to burn about a quart every 600 miles. Second, terrible reliability. The rotary engine barely makes it past 100,000miles, sure there are outliers but that seems to be the average. I’d suggest buying one that was recently rebuilt. Remember there’s also something called the LS engine and yes it fits.

Sure the RX-8 has its flaws but guess what so will any rotary powered car.

Just because the RX-8 is unreliable doesn’t make it a bad car. Think about all the Alfa Romeos and classic British sports cars that people swoon over today. As a new car the reliability matters but as a used curiosity it’s all part of the experience. Sure the RX-8 has its flaws but guess what so will any rotary powered car. So why wait for something new and expensive when you can buy a cheap RX-8 and have money left over to rebuild the engine or the inevitable LS swap. With a perfect chassis and added utility, this is a winning formula at only $65oo. It also sounds amazing and can easily be modded to shoot flames.

Written by Chris Okula - Contributor

Chris was raised on Top Gear and automotive magazines, which still

dominate most of his free time today (he is not a fan of the new

TopGear). After he graduated from Desales University, Chris started his career in the pharmaceutical industry, but missed writing which lead him to the creation of his own automotive blog. This blog lead him to work with Road & Track and now as a contributor here at Shifting Lanes. In his free time, Chris is constantly on the popular automotive auction site, Bring a Trailer, as well as Craigslist looking for ways to destroy his savings account and skip student loan payments.

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  1. Have owned this car for over 10 years now. Been just as reliable as any other piston cars. Drinks no less oil than my WRX and BMWs. Oil is squirted into the chamber by design not flaw. Have had RX7s in the past and apart from turbo ones, they are generally easy to own and maintain if you are a good car enthusiast.
    Like the write claimed, the driving dynamics of the RX8 still beggars belief and remains as one of the standards which newer “handling” cars are bench-marked against. My particular specimen has been my DD and road trip car having.
    The early reliability issues were attributed to poor ownership that didn’t know how to maintain a rotary engine car. Many were automatic and driven in hot weather. In terms of my ownership experience, the RX8 has been wonderful.

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