Mazda officials have no plans to replace the RX-8 sports car anytime soon, instead choosing to release a facelifted version as seen here in completely undisguised form. More of an update rather than a major overhaul, changes to the car will consist of a new set of bumpers, revised taillights and possibly a new suspension set-up.
We’ll have to wait until next week’s Detroit Auto Show to find out if the car’s trademark rotary engine will be coming in for a performance upgrade. A higher-spec version is also said to be in the works. Dubbed the ‘RS,’ the extreme version is expected to get 19 inch alloy wheels, Recaro sports buckets and a rear spoiler as standard.
UPGRADED MAZDA RX-8: EVOLUTION FOR THE ROTARY REVOLUTION
Mazda’s second world premiere at the NAIAS in Detroit today (Sunday) will mark the further evolution of the rotory-engined Mazda RX-8 four-door, four-seater sports coupe, giving it a refreshed exterior and interior design, enhanced performance and the option of a new sport package for the ultimate driving enthusiast.
The core of the hugely-popular RX-8 is unchanged – it remains a high-powered, lightweight and perfectly balanced machine powered by the world-renowned twin-rotor RENESIS rotary engine.
“Dating back to the Cosmo Sport released in 1967, every sports car ever developed by Mazda has had the same fundamental mission – to provide car lovers with a vehicle that’s fun-to-drive, exciting to look at and easy to own,” commented Tetsu Nakazawa, Mazda North American Operations’ RX-8 vehicle line manager.
“The new RX-8 embodies that mission and moves it forwards, conveying the unique and distinctive Mazda brand DNA to the fullest.”
To enhance the highly successful RX-8, Mazda engineers focused on innovation in three key areas for the updated RX-8 – styling, performance and packaging. “The enhancements made to RX-8’s exterior, interior, packaging and performance take it to a whole new level of visual and driving excitement,” remarked Nakazawa.
Refreshed Design Cues provide ‘High-Quality Dynamism’
RX-8 was designed with an athletically sculpted exterior that provides a sense of originality that’s unrivalled in the marketplace today. The new RX-8 receives design enhancements that freshen the styling and give it a new look, without impairing the basic design theme.
Refinements for the new model include restyled front and rear bumpers and front fascia; sporty, high quality finish front headlamps and twin circular LED rear lamps; and larger diameter (90mm) exhaust pipes. Updates extend to a new five-spoke wheel design, increasing in diameter to 19" and featuring a symbolic and sporty design reminiscent of the rotary engine.
Taut muscular lines give RX-8 the liberating look of an athlete in motion. The muscular styling maintains classic sports car proportions while adding a Zoom-Zoom edge that is unmistakably Mazda.
The RX-8’s unique ‘freestyle’ four-door design is proof that a true sports car does not need to sacrifice space or practicality for performance. The advanced design of the rear-hinged rear doors provides a large door opening, allowing adult-sized passengers to easily enter and exit the vehicle. With a spacious cabin that provides ample passenger room for four full-size adults, and enough trunk space for a weekend’s worth of luggage, this sports car proves its versatility.
PERFORMANCE INNOVATIONS – EVEN MORE DRIVING PLEASURE
Through-and-through, the RX-8 is a pure sports car that gives the driver an exciting and dynamic experience. Engineers improved body rigidity of the new RX-8 through the addition of structural reinforcements, by adding a trapezoidal bracing bar between the front suspension towers and enhancing the local rigidity of the tower areas.
Also, the rear suspension geometry has been reconfigured for better handling performance and driveshaft rigidity is improved, lowering NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) levels and improving performance.
In addition, the differential gear ratio is lowered (from 4.444:1 to 4.777:1) for improved off-the-line performance. These changes give RX-8 increased acceleration and performance, as well as even greater responsiveness to the accelerator pedal – always a rotary-engine and RX-8 hallmark.
The Mazda RX-8 remains the only mass-produced rotary-powered passenger car in the world. While exhibiting unusually high power output for a naturally aspirated engine, RENESIS outstrips comparable reciprocating engines in terms of acceleration, the feeling of power in reserve and ‘instant’ throttle response.
Depending on individual markets, the new Mazda RX-8 will be available as either a 231ps-model fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, or a 205ps model fitted with a five-speed manual transmission. The RENESIS engine is remarkably smooth and high revving – all the way to 9000rpm – and is significantly more compact than traditional internal combustion engines. In fact, the packaging and styling that define the RX-8 would not have been possible had Mazda engineers chosen a conventional piston engine.
ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE – THE MAZDA RX-8 R3
To cater to the driving-conscious enthusiast, the new RX-8 will offer a sport package. Providing the very best in rotary-powered motoring, this package 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, minimises NVH and ensures greater suspension control.
On the visual side of the sport package, a new rear spoiler, side sills, fog lights and sports front bumper are added to give an aggressive appearance, along with 19-inch forged aluminum‑alloy wheels with high performance tyres. Inside, this model adds front Recaro sport seats with leather side bolsters and colour coordinated stitching to leather-wrapped parking brake handle, steering wheel and gear knob.
Premium Cabin with even More Comfort
Minor enhancements were made for the new RX-8 to provide a simple and functional interior design that supports driving pleasure. The instrument panel was redesigned to give a feeling of dynamic movement, with a variable red-zone added to the tachometer that will rise as the engine comes to operating temperature and a new steering wheel, plus redesigned front and rear seats.
An extremely low cabin floor allows the seats to be mounted low in the chassis, which, along with a low instrument cluster cowling and bonnet, allows a low centre of gravity and provides outstanding visibility. Mazda designers concentrated on the shape of the front seat backs and the rear seat cushions to ensure enhanced rear-seat knee room. The front seat mounting-rails are also repositioned to allow maximum foot room for rear-seat passengers.
The rotary design element is incorporated throughout the interior of the RX-8 in creative ways, while the stylish cabin also evokes a sense of luxury and high-end quality. Mazda’s design team examined every aspect and component of the interior and created an elegant, driver‑centric atmosphere. Through the use of advanced ergonomic research, Mazda engineers determined that improper seating posture is a major cause of driver fatigue and built in optimum support in the front seats to help offset discomfort.
In addition, the colour of the RX-8’s instrument cluster was developed to reduce eye strain. The premium feel of the new RX-8 extends to the inclusion of latest technology features such as a 300-watt Bose® audio system with Centerpoint® surround sound and AudioPilot® noise compensation technology, Bluetooth hands-free phone system and auto sensing xenon headlights and windscreen wipers.
The Revolutionary Award-winner
Launched in 2003, the Mazda RX-8 hit the global market with a serious bang. The RX-8 has won more than 50 global awards since its release including 2003 RJC Car of the Year in Japan, Australia's Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 2003, 2003 International Engine of the Year, 2004 Singapore Car of the Year, the 2004 U.S. Best Sports Car and UK Car of the Year 2004. It was also named on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 2004, 2005, and 2006. All together, Mazda has sold nearly 167,000 RX-8s around the world.