Interviewer, to audience: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have with us today an L2 rotary engine-powered 2010 Mazda RX-8. Production of this model began in 2003 in Hiroshima, Japan, so this one comes to us from its eighth model year of availability in the United States. RX-8 was the successor to the popular and successful RX-7. Let’s give a big hand and warm welcome to our guest!”
RX-8: “Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. I feel like it has been a little while since I’ve gotten this much attention, but it feels great to have a little bit of spotlight on me this Tuesday morning at Curbside Classic.”
Interviewer: “I remember when your model had made its debut, first at the 2001 North American Auto Show in Detroit, starting regular production for ’03. You made quite a stir with a body style that many just weren’t expecting and didn’t seem to know quite how to categorize, often referred to as a four-door coupe, or a ‘quad coupe’. A coupe with four doors. It was quite intriguing at the time. Let me ask you… How do you personally identify yourself? Do you identify more as a four-door, or as a coupe?”
RX-8: “I identify as both a four-door and a coupe. To many and from what I’ve gathered, I look more like a coupe, but I clearly have four doors, so there’s that. That’s factual. I’ve learned not to hand labels to people, because they’re going to see me the way they see me, but I still try to be visible for others that don’t fit into one category or another. To give them a voice. The thing about me is that I have no central b-pillar, and the rear doors can’t open independently of the front ones. Ingress and egress is so much easier for rear seat passengers with those two extra doors…”
c. 1981 Mazda RX-7. Lincoln Square, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, December 4, 2011.
Interviewer: “…Which I understand was one of your key selling points. You can seat four adults in relative comfort.”
RX-8: “I think the word ‘relative’ is key. I’m not going to seat four basketball players, but I should be able to haul four adults of average size and build around town on weekends. I wasn’t actually the only four-door coupe that was new to the market in ’03, the other being the Saturn ION. The preceding Saturn SC coupe also had an extra, third door on the driver’s side starting in ’99, which I guess might have made it the pioneer.”
Interviewer: “Ah, yes. The ION. It had a much more abbreviated run than you, available for only five model years, from between 2003 and ’07, where your production run ended in mid-2012. The Saturns were also a different kind of car than you, altogether… economy cars that aimed for a bit of innovation and differentiation with those rear doors. I digress. The four-door coupe idea then seemed to evolve from cars that look like actual coupes, like you, to sedans with swoopier or lower-slung styling like the ’09 Volkswagen CC and certain Audis, all of which are clearly in the idiom of four-door sedans. Aston Martin wasn’t marketing the Lagonda as a ‘coupe’, to provide one example.”
RX-8: “Exactly. You know, my dad seated only two and was shorter than me from bumper-to-bumper. I’m fully 6.6 inches longer at 175.6″, almost four inches wider at 69.7″ (without my mirrors), and I sit 2.8 inches taller at 52.8″. One huge difference is in my wheelbase, a full eleven inches longer than my dad’s, at 106.3″. I also weigh much more than Dad, almost a full half-ton at 3,100 pounds, versus his 2,200. Parked next to each other, our physical differences are obvious, but I’d like to think that people can still see the family resemblance and that I’m descended from him.”
Interviewer: “Absolutely, I can, especially in your similar Liquid Silver Metallic finish. It’s quite fetching.”
RX-8: “Thank you.”
Interviewer: “No, it really suits you. I also like the Sparkling Black Mica and Velocity Red also available for 2010, but Liquid Silver has that aura of futurism that seems very much of the early Aughts, in a ‘Sharper Image’ sort of way. Enough about appearances, though. Inside you beats the same heart as some in your bloodline… rotary power. In your case, you have a Renesis twin-rotor engine that displaces 1.3 liters and boasts 232 horsepower. You can sprint to sixty miles per hour in the mid six-second range. Is that correct?”
RX-8: “Yes, it is. I can also handle and corner exceptionally well. I may not be as fast as some cars that cost as much [the $27,825 base price in 2010 translates to almost $39,300 in 2023], but the RX family was never about all-out speed. Dad’s an ’81 RX-7 GS, and he could do the zero-to-sixty sprint in about eight-and-a-half seconds, give or take, with just 100 horsepower and his maneuverable size and light weight. In his day, he wasn’t quite as fast as competitors like the Nissan 280ZX or Toyota Supra, but in a Motor Trend comparison from June of 1982 against those other two cars, an RX-7 like him was judged to have the best dynamics like handling and steering, as well as being the most fun.”
Interviewer: “It’s not always about brute strength, and the first RX-7 is still a very beloved car… highly regarded by many enthusiasts.”
RX-8: “Thank you. A lot of people still love my dad. I also want to be clear that I was never trying to be just like him. He arrived to the market in a completely different era, and under different circumstances. The early RX-7 accomplished a lot, both for Mazda and the affordable sports car market. That’s a lot to live up to. We have different model names. Let’s not forget that.”
Interviewer: “Salient points, and thank you for that perspective. Let’s now address the elephant in the room.”
RX-8: “Which is…”
Interviewer: “You are, shall we say, a bit… thirsty.”
RX-8: “Fair enough. I mean, my EPA gas mileage ratings of 16 city / 22 highway aren’t great. I know this. But, no one chooses a rotary-powered car for our fuel economy, which is something Mazda figured out way back in the ’70s. My value proposition lies in the smoothness of the delivery of my powerband and willingness to rev and just go. With my nearly perfect fifty-fifty weight distribution, there are no surprises with the way I can blast through corners. Or, I should say there are only good surprises. I must be driven to be believed. It’s why I’m always smiling. And, if I may say so, one could do worse in the looks department.”
Interviewer: “…And modest! RX-8, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you with us today. Take care and be well, my friend.”
RX-8: “Much obliged. Thanks for having me.”
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, July 8, 2023.