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Cars Worth Noting: 2004 Mazda RX-8

2004 Mazda RX-8

As I was tearing up the streets around Detroit in the RX-8, Mazda chiefs were anxiously awaiting to see if they repeat as winners of the Sixth Annual International Engine of the Year Awards, presented on May 26th at the Engine Expo in Stuttgart, Germany. The RENESIS (Rotary Engine gen- ESIS) 13B rotary engine is the heart and soul of Mazda’s flagship RX-8 and sets it apart from its competitors.

The twin-rotor 13B displaces 1.3L and pumps out 238 hp at a staggering 8,500 rpm with a red line at 9,000 rpm. The sound of the rotary is unmistakably unique, somewhere between a jet engine and a turbine. While the rotary is no torque-happy big block, putting out 159 lb. ft. at 5,500 rpm, it doesn’t hamper acceleration, though you really have to wind it up to make it go fast. Mazda claims a 0 to 60 time of 6.0 seconds.

The rotary isn’t the only thing that makes the RX-8 stand out. The RX-8 turns heads with its unique styling. The smaller engine allowed for what Mazda calls a front-midship powertrain layout. The engine sits lower and farther rearward than a convention ICE, which not only allows for the low sloping hood, but also contributes to the vehicle’s 50/50 weight distribution.

The ‘freestyle’ four-door architecture adds two suicide-style rear doors and deletes the Bpillar allowing for easy access to the deep set rear buckets. There was plenty of legroom for my 16-year old son who loved the red and black cockpit-like interior.

Massive 12.7 in. front and 11.9 in. rear discs provide plenty of stopping power and the P225/45R 18 Bridgestone tires stick well in the corners, though the wide tread did manage to find just about every lump and ripple in Detroit’s nasty streets.

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