Since it’s release in 2004, Mazda’s RX-8 has been a media darling. Quirky, unique styling with tons of neat little rotary references have guaranteed that there is no mistaking the RX-8 for any other car on the road. Personally, I’ve never gotten past the oddity of the Saturnesque suicide doors. Reviewers have praised the free revving rotary, and rightfully so. The engine revels in being spun to it’s 9000 rpm rev limiter and has a lovely, though muted howl to go along with those revs. The only weak spot seems to be the lack of torque, which rotary afficionados tend to overlook due to the ability to spin the hell out of the little engine to make ponies.
Enter the Mazdaspeed parts catalogue…
This particular car is a promo mule put together by Mazda Canada to market the Mazdaspeed brand, it has received a healthy dose of Mazdaspeed parts. Visually, the car is sporting a full body kit that includes nice, subtle front, rear and side skirts and a boy racer adjustable rear spoiler.
On the performance side, the car has a cold air intake, exhaust and racing brake pads. Rims and tires were also upgrades and visually looked stunning on the car.
On the road, the package brings the car to life. Start the engine and blip the throttle and there is a throaty sucking sound from the CAI, as the rotary whooping sound howls from the dual, stainless exhaust tips. That muted exhaust note is gone and is replaced by the scream made famous by 2 generations of rotary race cars. It dredges up memories of old Rx-2′s and 3′s and IMSA GTU RX-7′s screaming around Mosport. This thing is loud and the wail is unmistakably rotary. Perhaps the coolest thing is the double backfire from the pipes on fast shifts, up or down. I’d love to see this thing at night, as there has to be a burp of flame out the pipes on rapid shifts. To be honest, I find the stock exhaust note to be a bit of a bore, but the scream & burp of the Mazdaspeed exhaust and intake cannot be underestimated. The cool factor is extreme. It’s hard to tell if the car is actually faster than stock without performing any real tests, but it certainly feels quicker.
Through a twisty bit of on/off ramp, the handling proved to be a bit confusing for this retired rally car driver. With visions of Tom McGeer’s old RX-7 rally car drifting through corners, I tried to get the car loose and it had a strange reaction. While running quickly through a tight uphill left, rather than having the back end come loose, the front end lifted and the car began to understeer abruptly. A quick lift on the throttle planted the front end, which allowed the bck end to gently come around into the corner. Not sure if this was due to an oddly programmed stability control, or suspension dynamics, but it was weird. Then of course the exhaust note took over the senses again. Did I mention the backfires? Flames are cool!
The RX-8 really benefits from the Mazdaspeed mods. Enthusiasts who love to wind the snot out of a car will love an RX-8 with this treatment, just be sure to choose a higher gear when the local constabulary are nearby. This screamer is LOUD.