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Marketwatch on the RX-8
Submitted by SuperUser on Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 4:16pm

The RX-8's are rolling into US dealers as we write this. The first ones have been delivered on July 11th, 2003. Many news outlets, including USA Today and CBS Marketwatch are covering the sports car's introduction. Without going into Mazda marketing overload, we are sampling some of these stories on the return of the rotary engine to the US, and the intro of the RX-8.

CBS Marketwatch

2004 Mazda RX-8
'We don't want to look like anything else out there'
By Ron Amadon,
Last Update: 1:02 AM ET July 12, 2003

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (CBS MW) -- Prowling the floor at the Frankfurt Auto Show too many years ago, one car stood out like a Salvation Army booth next to the beer hall at the OctoberFest. It was an NSU RO-80 with something called a rotary engine

The NSU designers turned out a stunner in the auto world of the late '60s.

"We don't want to look like anything else out there," they might have said of the RO-80. Instead that was said by a Mazda official two weeks ago explaining the new rotary powered 2004 RX-8, four-door, four-seat sports car that will be appearing shortly at dealer lots. See slide show.

Mazda has performed masterful improvement surgery on the engine over years, and now has a sweetheart twin rotary that is light, fuel efficient, and small. It's 60 percent smaller than a typical V-6 and 30 percent smaller than the typical V-4.

The so-called Renesis rotary cranks out 250 horsepower at 8,500 rpm. You can rev it to 9,000 and it will sound nothing but sweet. The real power doesn't really kick in until about 3,500 but from there on up it will more than please a rev-happy owner.

Due the rotary's light weight and small mass (it's about the size of the transmission), Mazda could lower the hood of the RX-8 and move the engine well back of the front wheels to achieve the much desired 50-50 weight distribution.

Because Ford-controlled Mazda (F: news, chart, profile) wanted something totally new, it added two seats in back, accessed through half doors that do not open independently of the front ones. It's a nifty idea for storing stuff on a long trip, or small kids, but two adults would not be happy there for anything other than short trips.

Handling is sports car sharp, making the car a hoot to drive. A well-equipped RX-8 with the Miata-like six-speed stick should go for about $30,300 -- a base model sells for about three grand less.

Based on two five-hour trips in a couple of preproduction models, we would strongly recommend opting for the optional multi-adjustable power seats.

Mazda wants to sell up to 12,000 RX-8s this year and up to 30,000 next year.

We can see no reason in the world why they should not meet or exceed that target. With its crisp handling, distinctive styling, first class sports car interior and ample storage space, the RX-8 deserves serious consideration from anyone looking for the newest, rev-happy, sports car in town.
Ron Amadon is a radio reporter for

Boston Globe

Rotary engine may set apart Mazda sports sedan

By Bill Griffith, Globe Staff, 7/12/2003

No man (or woman) has greater love for ''his'' car than Robert T. Davis.

Where some people wear their hearts on their sleeve, Davis wears a rotor over his heart -- the logo of the Mazda rotary engine. It's a symbol of his unwavering devotion to Mazda's rotary engine program.

Davis, senior vice president of marketing and product development for Mazda's North American operations, is the man responsible for bringing the Mazda RX-8 to market this month.

''A lot of guys have said they could build a four-door, four-passenger sports car,'' said Davis. ''They all failed miserably.'' So here was Davis last month, telling the New England Motor Press Association that Mazda was going to rewrite that negative history with just that model: A four-door, four-passenger, rear-wheel drive RX-8 sports sedan.

And all because of the rotary engine, the niche segment of the automotive market that has set Mazda apart since company head Tsuneji Matsuda saw the potential of the Wankel rotary engine (introduced in 1959) and obtained the Asian rights to the technology.

''Mr. Matsuda was a successful industrialist,'' said Davis, ''and he wanted to get into the automotive business. But he knew the company would always be little unless it found a way to be different.''

Mazda introduced the Cosmo Sport (twin rotor) in 1967 and followed with the RX series. Though the rest of Mazda's product line has traditional engines, the company always has maintained its rotary research.

''There's great pride in being different,'' said Davis. ''And there's pride in being able to crack the rotary code, something that GM [holder of the US rights] and Mercedes [European rights] couldn't [or wouldn't] do.''

The RX series has earned a devoted following in the United States. The selling job that Mazda will have to do is in convincing buyers that this four-door sports sedan has the true Rotary DNA of its two-seater predecessors.

Davis says it will happen.

''The marketplace has moved on,'' he said. ''The RX-8 combines the best of the RX performance with the convenience of room for four passengers and space for their luggage.''

Davis promises a perfectly balanced car that quickly will win over the doubters. ''We got it right because of the rotary engine,'' he said. ''Think of the rotary as a big air pump. It basically has three moving parts, the two rotors, and an eccentric shaft.'' That basic simplicity means there's less vibration and higher rpm. The RX-8 will be powered by a 1.3-liter RENESIS 2-rotor engine that produces 250 horsepower at 8,500 rpm. That's not a typo. ''The redline is 8,750 rpm,'' said Davis, ''and the engine will go to 9,000 rpm before the fuel will cut out.''

Getting the RX-8 right centered on three objectives: Styling, ingenuity, and driving dynamics.

Among the styling goals were that the RX-8 couldn't look like a sedan. It had to have small DayLight Openings, better known as windows. It also had to be perfectly balanced, weight-wise, leading to a long front overhang and short rear overhang. The wheel openings had to be well-defined, all the better to accommodate the planned 18-inch wheels. And the headlights had to be horizontal and not part of the fenders. ''You style with sheetmetal, not lights,'' said Davis.

Design-wise, the rotary is 60 percent smaller than the conventional V6 in the Mazda6, and 1.5-inches lower and 2.5 inches further back in the vehicle than the earlier rotary in the RX-7. ''You actually can stand in front of the engine in the engine compartment of the RX-8,'' said Davis.

More ingenuity comes with the door styling. It's what we used to call a hardtop -- no pillar between the doors. ''Overall, despite the lack of that B pillar, the car has 88 percent more structural rigidity than the RX-7,'' said Davis. ''We expect it to earn a five-star safety rating because of the system that locks the doors and the way they interlock with reinforcing beams.'' That lack of a center pillar enables the rear doors to be small and open forward to allow rear-seat access.

''I'm nearly 6 feet 2 inches and can sit comfortably behind an average-sized driver,'' said Mazda's Jay Amestoy, vice president of public and government affairs. We'll have to take his word for it until colleague Royal Ford gets to put the RX-8 through its paces in the coming weeks.

For those who want to see the car in person, Mazda will have an RX-8 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough today and tomorrow from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. as part of a ''Mazda Rev It Up'' tour in conjunction with an ESPN interactive open house. Mazda also will have the Mazda6 and a `Mazdaspeed' Protege on display.

Performance? The RX-8 reportedly will go from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and, equally important, go back down from 60-0 in 114 feet with the four-wheel disc brakes.

But, most important, the RX-8 needed to have a Japanese soul. ''The overall styling had to be mechanical-but-warm,'' said Davis. ''The Japanese word for it is takumi -- a warm sense of craftsmanship. It's more a piano finish, with a lot of leather and not brushed aluminum.''

Mazda has sold 1.8 million rotary-engined vehicles in its history, but only 45,000 in the past decade. ''I guarantee you that we'll sell more than that (45,000) in the next year and reach 2 million overall by 2005,'' said Davis. Ford, now the corporate parent of Mazda, has agreed that rotary engines will remain part of the Mazda brand.

What's made the RX-8 possible is something its buyers never will see -- new seal technology inside those rotary engines, the result of ongoing Mazda research. ''The metallurgy was very difficult both with the rotors and shaft. Both the seals and seal technology are proprietary to Mazda,'' said Davis.

So is the takumi. ''Everything is in harmony. It's going to sound right, feel right, brake right and look right,'' said Davis.

''The RX-7 had its own mystique and fans,'' he said. ''We plan to keep our hold [on] those people by giving them a car that's sports-car perfect. The target customer for the RX-8 has maybe one child at home or is an empty-nester. But they have friends and want a car that will seat four comfortably. They also like the rotary heritage and want the versatility in performance this car will give them.''

Guaranteed by the guy with a rotary logo over his heart. Visit Griffith can be reached at

This story ran on page F1 of the Boston Globe on 7/12/2003.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

USA Today

Quick Mazda RX-8 combines class, sportiness
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Bringing back the automotive past is no sure bet. Nissan successfully reprised its Z sports car, but Ford's revived two-seat Thunderbird will be retired in two or three years for lack of buyers.

The show-car styling gets stares, while the interior holds more than expected.

Mazda now steps onto the encore podium, bringing its rotary engine back to the USA as powerplant for the 2004 RX-8, a four-door sports car.

The back doors blend into the styling because they are small, hinged at the back and have no outside handles. Front doors must be open to use the rears, similar to how it works on extended-cab pickup trucks.

The classy, quick sportster is an antidote to automotive angst. A long hood, prominent wheel openings and what-the-heck-is-it looks cure any lack of driving distinction. The engine's rev-forever personality banishes dawdling doldrums. The back seat's invitation to bring the kids gets Mom and Dad thinking, "road trip."

And the prices — $25,700 for the automatic transmission model, $27,200 for the six-speed manual version — will have you wondering what makes others worth $40,000. It's worth noting that the 1995 RX-7, Mazda's last U.S. rotary car, was $42,000 — about $51,000 in today's money.

Is RX-8 practical? A test car was crammed with two adults, two kids, fold-up baby stroller, luggage, toys, games, books, etc. for a beach overnighter.

Tight? Very. Livable? Yup.

Much more than 150 miles each way, though, and "livable" would not apply. Still, what a great combination: Commuter, kid-toter, weekend toy.

Toy is hardest to remember. You quickly grow used to the idea of a semi-practical sports car, use the stubby back doors to toss this and that into the back seat, and begin to drive as if it were a small sedan. Mistake.

The RX-8 sports a healthy 247 horsepower, and despite its piddling 159 pounds-feet of torque, the car is well-geared for slug-and-chug traffic — such as the two hours it took to travel 23 miles on the Washington Beltway, clutch in, clutch out; in, out; wait, go. The car was a champ.

Mazda says the car will accelerate more quickly and stop shorter than Infiniti G35 and BMW 330. The engine runs up to 9,000 rpm so fast, so smoothly, that timely shifting takes concentration. A piston engine sounds strained at high speed, warning you it's time to shift. The rotary never sounds strained. Your only aural clue is beeping at 9,300 rpm as the computer's about to shut the engine down to save it.

The test car was a manual-transmission model, and all comments refer to that version. Models with automatics are 207 hp (though a slightly better 164 lbs.-ft.), and have a 7,500-rpm cutoff. An automatic won't survive 9,000 rpm, Mazda says.

The six-speed manual gearbox is not the Miata's snick-snick delight, but has a solid, satisfying feel. The interior is attractive and well laid-out and has a premium feel. But the digital speedometer is a mistake, the gas pedal is awkwardly close to the driver, and the optional sunroof makes headroom too tight.

Crisp steering, unruffled cornering and right-now brakes that are a Mazda signature serve as reminders that the RX-8 really is a sports car. A less-pleasant reminder: the RX-8 slams hard over sharp bumps.

Here are two real stunners:

• The oil dipstick is nearly impossible to reach. That's madness on an engine that by design consumes slight amounts of oil and must be frequently checked.

• The optional navigation system is good. Many are evil, so finding a likable one is flabbergasting. Navigational controls are grouped on the console instead of interfering with stereo and climate-control switches. Programming is easy. Rerouting is logical and fast if you miss a turn. That's how to do navigation.

And the RX-8 is how to do a high-class, distinctive sports car to suit modern circumstances. Bravo.

•What is it? Four-door, four-seat, high-performance, rear-wheel-drive sports car powered by a rotary engine, a type of engine last sold in the USA in the 1995 Mazda RX-7 two-seat sports car.

•How soon? On sale late this month.

•How much? Automatic transmission model starts at $25,700, including $520 destination charge. Six-speed manual model starts at $27,200. Most popular model: $31,600. predicts you'll pay full sticker price.

•Who'll buy? Men ages 30-45, with small kids or none and yearly household incomes averaging $75,000.

•How many? About 12,000 the rest of this year, then 30,000 or so a year — a major number for Mazda.

•What's the powertrain? Renesis 13B, 1.3-liter, twin rotor engine rated 207 horsepower at 7,200 rpm, 164 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm with four-speed automatic transmission, 247 hp at 8,500, 159 lbs.-ft. at 5,500 with six-speed manual.

•What's the safety gear? Normal belts and bags, plus side-impact bags for front-seat occupants, head curtain side bags for front and rear occupants; anti-lock brakes with brake-force distribution.

•What's the rest? Major standard equipment: climate control; power steering, brakes, windows, mirrors, locks; AM/FM/CD stereo; cruise control.

•How big? About the same overall size as a Porsche 911; about 5 inches shorter than the RX-7. The RX-8 is 174.3 inches long, 69.7 inches wide, 52.8 inches tall on a 106.4-inch wheelbase. Trunk is 7.6 cubic feet. Weighs 3,029 pounds with manual transmission, 3,053 with automatic.

•How thirsty? Rated 18 miles per gallon in town, 25 on the highway with automatic transmission, 18/24 with manual. Premium fuel is specified.

•Overall: All the fun, few of the privations.

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No Rotor
December 31, 1969 - 4:00pm
Hi, I would like to know where the RX 8's are arriving. I contacted Mazda today and they told me that the West Coast would be the first to receive the 8's and that would be the last week in July. If they are already arriving I would love to know where. Thanks.
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RX8 arival time
No Rotor
December 31, 1969 - 4:00pm
Tustin Mazda has 2 pre-production models if you would like to look. One has a great looking aft/mkt exhaust.
Tustin Mazda Ca. Call first, the cars are going to the crusher!
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No Rotor
December 31, 1969 - 4:00pm
Several of the West Coast dealers are recieving cars as we write. I got a report today that dealers in the Ventura County area of California have them on the lots already... it was also reported that the floor models were priced at 36k, but the dealership said that they would deal at least to MSRP.

Last week the 1st official USA car was delivered to the owner at the port in Tacoma, Washington.

-Berny H.
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No Rotor
December 31, 1969 - 4:00pm
It's me again, you were right they have arrived on the West Coast, however anyone with the appearance package is out of luck (like me). They cannot figure out how to load them on the trucks to deliver them to dealerships. They sit to low to the ground to drive up the ramp. I contacted Mazda and they said they can't help, and that they will deliver them on the 30th.... about.

Sure glad I have waited months to be one of the first to get one!
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