The 2009 Mazda RX-8 receives freshened interior and exterior styling and a new R3 model. This four-passanger sporty coupe is unique for using a rotary engine, which replaces pistons pumping in cylinders with triangular rotors spinning in oval chambers.
It also has rear access doors that don't open independently of the fronts. RX-8 comes in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and R3. RX-8 Has either a 232-hp 1.3-liter rotary engine with a 6-speed manual transmission, or a 212-hp 1.3-liter rotary engine with a 6-speed automatic. The automatic allows manual shifting via floor lever or steering-wheel paddles.
Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. A limited-slip differential is standard for all but automatic-transmission Sport. The R3 is aimed at enthusiast drivers. It includes different front and rear fascias, 19-inch wheels, Recaro sport-tuned suspension. Exclusive to the Grand Touring model are leather upholstery, heated front seats, power driver seat.
Consumer Guide Automative places each vehicle into one of 18 classes based on size, price, and market position. The Sporty/Performance Car class consists of two-seat roadsters, 4-cylinder hatchbacks, and V8 muscle cars. Regardless of configuration, all have an emphasis on affordable performance.
Our Best Buys include the Mazda MX-5, Mini Cooper, and Scion tC. Our Recommended picks are the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and Volswagen GTI. New this year is a coupe version of the Pontiac Solstice, and the Nissan 350Z is scheduled for a makeover.