2011 Mazda RX-8 Expert Review

You'll Like The 2011 Mazda RX-8 If...

If you love the idea of a lightweight sports car with neutral handling and a high-revving engine, the 2011 Mazda RX-8 makes a wonderful companion.

You May Not Like The 2011 Mazda RX-8 If...

If you're looking for a sports car with strong low-end torque or a deep, rumbling growl, something like the Nissan 370Z or Chevrolet Camaro SS might be a better fit. Those who prefer an automatic transmission will find they must give up 20 horsepower compared to the RX-8 equipped with the six-speed manual.

What's New

There are no major changes for 2011.

Interior Features

The 2011 Mazda RX-8's interior design is nearly ten years old, yet it still looks fresh and original. Beyond the high quality materials and intricate design elements (the triangular rotary piston shape is repeated throughout the cockpit), the RX-8 offers an excellent set of front and rear bucket-style seats covered in either ribbed sport cloth or leather, a rather roomy rear seat and, on the R3, Recaro front sport seats. The RX-8's instrument cluster is clearly influenced by the track, with a large tachometer front and center, flanked on either side by gauges for the temperature and fuel. The RX-8's speedometer is located inside the tachometer housing in the form of a small digital readout. One drawback of the RX-8's aging design is the lack of some more modern audio features, such as an iPod integration cable to permit iPod control via the stereo. Currently, the only way to listen to music from an iPod is through the auxiliary audio input jack located in the center console.

Exterior Features

The 2011 Mazda RX-8's styling has aged well and still carries the same bulging front wheel arches, reverse-facing rear doors and low roofline as when it first debuted back in 2003. Whereas many fastback coupes employ a hatchback design, the RX-8 has a proper trunk, which allows valuables to remain secure. 18-inch, ten-spoke wheels are standard on the Sport and Grand Touring trims, with 19-inch wheels standard on the R3. All models show off LED tail lamps and large chrome exhaust tips.

Driving Impressions

While resting at idle, the RX-8 exhibits the distinctive vibration that is the calling card of its rotary engine. The vibration is not intrusive in any way, and actually makes the car feel as though it has a beating heart. Slipping into first gear, the 232-horsepower RENESIS engine is slow to pull away at first, but as the rpm rise, the 2011 Mazda RX-8 is swept up in a rush of power that propels it forward. Given the RX-8's 9000 rpm redline, keeping the engine between 4000 and 6000 rpm will ensure there is plenty of power (and torque) on hand when needed. Mazda's six-speed manual is one of our favorites, requiring only the slightest flicks to slip from gear to gear. The electrically controlled steering is neutral and extremely precise in both its execution and feedback.

Pricing Notes

The 2011 Mazda RX-8 Sport with either the manual transmission or six-speed automatic has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $27,500. A loaded Grand Touring with automatic tops out in the $35,000 range. The R3 starts around $33,000 and has only a few dealer-installed options to offer. To see what the RX-8 is selling for in your area be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. As sports cars go, the 2011 Mazda RX-8 holds only average resale value, on par with the Mitsubishi Eclipse but well below the Audi TT, Ford Mustang GT and Nissan 370Z Coupe.

Notable Equipment

The 2011 Mazda RX-8's standard equipment includes a 232-horsepower rotary engine (212 horsepower with the automatic), six-speed manual transmission, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), rear defroster, four cup holders, rear console, keyless entry, dual power mirrors, six-speaker AM/FM stereo with CD, side-impact and side-curtain airbags, rear-seat pass-through, cruise control, sport suspension, tire pressure monitor, power windows, power locks and a tilt-wheel with touch controls. Grand Touring models gain a power moonroof, heated leather front seats, rain sensing wipers, traction and stability control, auto on/off HID headlamps, automatic air conditioning, torque-sensing limited slip differential, heated side mirrors, power driver's seat and a 300-watt, nine-speaker Bose Centerpoint audio system with six-disc CD changer. The R3 adds to the Sport's standard equipment a sport tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, side sills, fog lights, 19-inch wheels wrapped in performance rubber and Recaro sport seats.

Notable Options

The Grand Touring model can be equipped with a DVD navigation system, while Sport and R3 trims can have Sirius Satellite Radio and a six-disc CD changer installed.

Favorite Features

Six-Speed Short-Throw Shifter

The RX-8's marvelous six-speed short-throw shifter can make other six-speeds feel imprecise by comparison.

Rear-Seat Console

A rear-seat console keeps siblings separate and provides storage for a navigation unit.

Under the Hood

The RENESIS rotary engine displaces a mere 1.3 liters by rotary measurement formulas, yet produces an impressive 232 horsepower (212 with the automatic). A maximum torque rating of 159 pound-feet is not much to brag about, but with a 9000-rpm redline (7500-rpm with the automatic transmission), you can milk every ounce of the engine's power before upshifting. What makes the rotary engine unique is its simple architecture. Instead of pistons, valves, camshafts, connecting rods and a crankshaft, the rotary requires only an output shaft surrounded by triangular-shaped rotors housed in chambers that are shaped somewhat like ovals with pinched middles. The rotary is therefore mechanically very simple, has minimal moving parts and is quite small.

1.3-liter RENESIS 2-rotor rotary

232 horsepower @ 8500 rpm (manual)

212 horsepower @ 7500 rpm (automatic)

159 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (manual), 16/23 (automatic)

Editors' Notes

Many car companies assign the word "unique" to their cars, but in the case of the 2011 Mazda RX-8, the term truly applies. What makes the RX-8 unique? The answer is a combination of attributes beginning with Mazda's RENESIS rotary engine, the only such engine offered in a production car. Then there are the RX-8's small reverse-facing rear doors, another feature you won't find on any other sports car in its class. Of course, the RX-8's lightweight and impressive handling have earned it praise from owners and enthusiasts alike, but there is a dark side to being unique. Despite improvements made last year, the rotary engine still consumes oil at a greater rate than a traditional piston engine, and the RX-8's fuel economy can be downright abysmal. Still, if you can live with these eccentricities, the RX-8's cool look, roomy rear seat and good size trunk make it a very easy sports car to live with.

Road Test Video Reviews

  • Roadfly.com - 2011 Mazda RX-8 Review & Test Drive
    Roadfly.com - 2011 Mazda RX-8 Review & Test Drive
  • 2011 Mazda RX-8 Sport Start Up, Exterior/ Interior Review
    2011 Mazda RX-8 Sport Start Up, Exterior/ Interior Review
  • Here's Why You Should Buy The 'Unreliable' Mazda RX-8
    Here's Why You Should Buy The 'Unreliable' Mazda RX-8
  • 2011 Mazda RX-8 R3 | 1.3L Rotary Engine (Walkthrough)
    2011 Mazda RX-8 R3 | 1.3L Rotary Engine (Walkthrough)
  • 2011 Mazda RX-8 Review
    2011 Mazda RX-8 Review
  • 2011 Mazda RX-8 top three car quirks review
    2011 Mazda RX-8 top three car quirks review

Owner Reviews


2 Reviews

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Owner reviews are verified by our team and cannot be altered or removed.

Mazda rx8-a fun, fast car to drive.

Sporty appearance, great looking car. Quick get up and go allow you to move in and out of traffic seamlessly. Surprising amount of legroom in front seats. Car is not good in snow or on slippery driving surfaces, as its a rear wheel drive car. Car uses more than average amount of oil, due to the fact that it is a rotary engine.

- Thomas B

Easy to operate Mazda offers a smooth ride and works reliably.

It's an okay car- reliable and easy to use. I like how smooth of a drive it is. If I buy a new car it'll just be because it's time, but no real complaints.

- Maria C