Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Car & Driver's 10 Best Cars 2004

Nice to see that our new wheels made it onto Car & Driver's best list -

The Mazda RX-8:


Car & Driver has a pretty solid description of the ride but overlooks the best aspect of the high revving engine :

The chassis is as stiff as a double shot of Dewar’s, the steering is laser accurate, the suspension hits the sweet spot between firm and punishing, and the weight distribution is about as close to perfect as perfect gets. We’re talking about the ingredients that distinguish automotive athletes from the plodders—traits that make the car an extension of the driver’s will.

Consistent with previous Mazdas wearing RX badges, the RX-8 is propelled by an engine lacking pistons and valves. Mazda put itself on the U.S. sales map with the rotary engine back in 1970, and the RX-8’s 238-hp 1.3-liter twin-rotor Renesis is the latest edition. Like other naturally aspirated rotaries, it’s a little short on torque but long on smooth and a pleasure to live with.

Not only does the RX-8 deliver exceptional sports-car pleasure, but it’s also capable of delivering it to more than two. The rear seats can accommodate two adult-size passengers, in comfort, and the rear demi-doors, à la Saturn quad coupe, make the RX-8 easy to climb into and out of. Wow. A practical sports car. What’ll they think of next?

It takes a bit of experience with the Renesis engine to wring out the full power band -- once you learn how, its a sheer delight. Yes, off the line the car is no match for big V8s. The torque is light at the low end -- but it comes on strong once the tach swings past 5,000. From there, it kicks you back into the seat as it revs towards the 9,000 RPM red line. 0-60 in under 6 seconds is very respectable -- but I'll bet it beats many big blocks in the 30-70mph sprint.

My only complaint about the car -- accurately described as a practical sports car -- is the  lack of a 2 driver memory. If you build the car for practicality, as Mazda did, they should assume there will be more than one RX8 driver per household. Adjusting the side view mirrors and seats each and everytime me or the wife gets behind the wheel is a bit of a pain. Considering that the car has nearly every imaginable electronic gizmo -- Navigation, heated seats, heated sideview mirrors, Xenon headlights, auto dim rear mirror, multi garage opener -- it makes little sense not to offer the memory setting as an option.

By the way, if you are not taking the car from dealer stock (we got our 2004 at a year end sale), then order the  indash multi disc CD player. You'll have less stuff lying around the door pockets.


10 Best Cars
January 2005

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