So it’s a final farewell to the Mazda RX-8 which retires after a hugely successful career in which it challenged convention and gave sportscar fans a truly unique product.
It had a brilliant, rear-hinged half-door design which gave remarkable access to the back seats, at a stroke making it more popular with families. Its chassis was signed off by the team at Ford led by Richard Parry-Jones, one of the true greats of the motor industry, and it had a rotary engine, the only one of its kind in the world.
With a 50:50 weight distribution, front engine/rear wheel drive it handled beautifully, the engine – in either of the power outputs available – was creamy smooth and revved for England and once you had a few revs on the clock the performance was good. The RX8’s styling was exotic, the interior a triumph and there were few reasons not to fall in love with it.
Predictably, a lot of us did – as a matter of fact 14 per cent of all the RX-8s built since its launch in 2003 were bought by British drivers.
I claim a special link to the Mazda, having been fortunate enough to race one in the Britcar series. Team manager, Steve Guglielmi, told me that the engine was just about unbreakable.
Our red line was 10,000 rpm and he said the only time they had blown a motor was when a driver hooked fifth instead of third when changing up from second and the resulting sudden loss of revs had damaged the engine.
I admit to being sceptical initially when I first drove the RX-8, Sure, it looked great, the seating was brilliant and the handling everything expected of a Parry-Jones chassis but weren’t rotary engines thirsty and unreliable? History suggested so but Mazda had improved the rotor tips to overcome the notorious wear problems of earlier rotaries and reliability has not been an issue.
True, it was a bit thirsty and a bit lacking in torque at lower revs but every time I have driven one I have been struck by (a) how much fun it is and (b) how practical, how easy to live with it is thanks to its clever door design.
The RX-8 may no longer be available as a new car – but there are plenty around on the used car market. Buy with care and you can get an absolutely stunning machine.
Perrys is one of Britain’s
top car retailers and a franchised Mazda dealer, and always has a great range of used cars in stock