We can barely go a week in the auto industry without hearing of a car that beats all previous records for its kind at an auction. Whether it’s a 1950s Ferrari, a 1960s GT40 or a 1970s muscle car they all have two things in common: they are in limited supply (either now or originally) and they were what the young adults of the day aspired to.
Fast forward to now and have a look at what the baby boomers want. They want the car of their dreams so they can recapture their youth. Mazda’s RX models have always been popular and even now are commanding a premium. Check out how much you can purchase an unmolested RX-2, RX-3 or RX-7 for. The RX-7 Spirit R is holding its value well with used examples with 40,000kms fetching around $35-40,000, and they’re not even old yet.
While this is not intended to be investment advice, you have to look at what this final RX-8 is. Only 12 have been imported into New Zealand and just a handful remain. It could potentially be the last rotary-engined car Mazda makes (unless it can make its 2007 concept 16X motor appealing and far less thirsty), and only 2000 examples are being made. You can guarantee that more than 90% of these will be driven almost daily, some will be modified and some will meet an untimely end.
In 30 years time, when the current crop of teenagers become empty nesters with disposable income, how many Mazda RX-8 Spirit R models will still be roadworthy? And how many will only have a handful of kilometers on the odometer?
So, you could buy a Spirit R for $56,695, put it in storage and hope it appreciates enough for your retirement fund. But that’s just speculation, and we’re not sure whether you’d be able to resist getting in it for a back-country blat.
Sink your (hopefully not-too-ample) rear into the deep bucket seats, fire up that rotary engine and it settles into a motorbike-style purr. Blip the throttle and the revs rise quickly up to 8500 – the red line. Perfectly positioned for your left hand is a short-throw, rotary-themed gearstick ready to select one of the six manual gears.
Give it some gas, lift that clutch and the Renesis engine’s unique tone rises with your acceleration. Dip the clutch and grab another gear. Rinse and repeat. Heel/toe on the downshift for a smile-inducing faux-racing experience. Now, it’s not fast by any stretch of the imagination. Compared to the turbo RX-7s that I hankered after when I was in my early 20s, the RX-8 is pedestrian and restrained, and that is possibly to try to tame the massive fuel consumption that rotary engines are famous for. You will be filling up at the pump frequently in the Spirit R as the quoted fuel economy is 12.1l/100km and you won’t be driving it to get good fuel economy.
The suspension is taut and, because the car rides on massive 19-inch wheels with low profile tyres you can feel exactly what it’s doing on the road. Red brake calipers peek through the wheels. At the rear there’s a dual exhaust and on the flanks there is the special Spirit R badge. There are rotary hints in the design language throughout the RX-8 from the bonnet to the knob that adjusts the seat back.
The front seats are the highlight of the interior. They hug you like an over-zealous aunty (but without the slobbery kisses). Their two-tone red and black theme is carried through to the rear seats which are really only good for storing things. Access to the rear seats is using the ‘suicide door’ that will only open once the front door is open.
Sitting in the driver’s seat your instrument view is dominated by the rev counter. The speedometer is a small digital display within the rev counter. Rotary engines rev up large, but not while they’re cold, so the rev counter incorporates a temperature-dependent redline for the engine.
The rest of the instrumentation and dashboard is looking long in the tooth. This is a run-out model and it’s showing signs of the RX-8’s 8-year history. While the RX-8 is pitched as a sports car it is lacking some minor features that are standard on almost all cars now, like a trip computer and Bluetooth phone integration.
Interior features include a 300W, 9-speaker stereo, cruise control, a handbrake level that looks like it’s out of Top Gun, and racing pedals.
The RX-8 feels go-kart-like. You sit low and the handling is responsive. It was hilarious getting out of the RX-8 into my next test car: a Toyota Land Cruiser. Driving the Land Cruiser felt like I was flying in a crop duster because it was so tall and wallowy in comparison.
The RX-8 turned heads during my time with it. Even though it’s been around for a few years, the new wheels and bodykit make this the best-looking RX-8 there’s been. It’s come of age. The question now is what value you’ll get from it, whether that’s monetary in the future, or by putting a smile on your face now.
Check out second hand RX-8s for sale here.
- Could be an investment (if not for the future, at least for you to invest in having some fun driving)
- Handles well
- Intoxicating rotary engine sound
- It’s the best-looking RX-8
- Dated instrumentation
- High fuel usage for the performance
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham