Revisiting the Rotary: 2009 Mazda RX-8 R3

By Scott West

Something that I’ve learned over the years is that when you find something you want, you usually have two choices – you can choose to wait for it, giving you time to think about whether or not this is something that you absolutely have to have, or, you can simply make the impulse buy right then and there, and not have to worry about someone beating you to the chase.

Such is my experience in car buying, especially when it comes to “rare” sports cars (having grown up and lived in the Midwest, there’s not a huge following of rear wheel drive import sports cars, unfortunately).  I was casually lot walking one Friday afternoon when I spotted a gorgeous Mazda RX-8 R3.  Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the RX-8, think of the R3 as your “track-ready” version, and a bit of a rare bird in my neck of the woods.  Without any prior knowledge of vehicle history, mileage, or asking price, I kindly asked for a test drive.

After merging out into traffic having just left the dealership, I was hooked.

The high-revving Renesis rotary engine and tight steering brought back memories of my high school days when my buddy and I would test drive all kinds of cars – during school hours, nevertheless.  Of the cars we drove, the Mazda RX-8 was, by far, our favorite.  There’s something inherently cool about a four-door sports car from Hiroshima that offers comparable performance and driving characteristics to many two-door sports cars manufactured in Stuttgart.  When you’re able to recognize this at 18, it’s something you tend not to forget.

Fast-forward about five more years to 2009, when I was ready to purchase my first RX-8.  The car in question was a 2006 RX-8 Grand Touring with just about every available option, sans navigation.  The dealership I chose at the time was the same one who granted me access to an RX-8 when I was still wet behind the ears, and this time, I was offered an extended test drive, having been allowed to evaluate the vehicle for roughly 24 hours or so.  Again, the smooth-operating and high revving rotary is what makes the car (I’ll just refer to the engine as Sade from now on), so special, and the sound it makes is pure aural sex.  Unfortunately, the car had several cosmetic defects, having been a used model obviously driven by an Akita lover who smoked too much.  I walked away.

Fast forward to the present day, where I’m presented with the proximity key fob to a 2009 RX-8 R3.  Having a little bit of RX-8 experience under my belt, this R3 version, to me, is like that kinky ex-girlfriend that’s best kept on speed dial – the one who you could never be with before because she was too needy in bed and sucked (your bank account) dry – but she’ll always put a smile on your face.  And smile, I did.  The car is literally point-and-shoot, and it does whatever you command of it.  Papers signed, and titles transferred, and she’s all mine.

So, what’s like with her?  For starters, she’s not a cheap date.  With EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 16 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway, she’s a bit of a lush.  Doesn’t help that she’ll only drink top shelf, either – but I just think she has good taste.  Problem is, with a 16.2 gallon tank, I end up buying her fishbowl Patrón margaritas because it’s the only thing that will quench her thirst when she’s dry.  Sade’s a screamer, with a 9000 RPM redline and she knows how to put it down, too – having 232 horsepower and 159 lb.-ft. of torque at your command, she never says “no.” She still likes it rough, with those Bilstein shocks and huge 19” forged wheels wrapped in Bridgestone 225/40/R19 rubber.  She likes to cuddle, too, with her factory Recaro seats that have very deep and aggressive bolstering.  While there’s not much lumbar support, the micro-adjust feature allows you to assume the perfect position while driving.

After all these years, she’s still a sexy little thing – with sleek lines and curved wheel arches, and a low, wide profile that just begs for the attention she so undoubtedly deserves.  One of the best parts is, she’s definitely a keeper – and may want a family someday because she’s got enough room for four.

I’ve got a long road ahead of me, with a gold-digging blonde bombshell of a car that speaks fluent Japanese – but the ownership experience couldn’t be better.


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Categories: Driven, Mazda

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