Mazda RX-8 design
The RX-8 was designed as a front mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive 2+2 coupé. The car has a near 50:50 weight distribution, achieved by mounting the engine behind the front axle and the gas tank ahead of the rear axle. Weight is trimmed through the use of materials such as aluminum (hood, rear doors and trunk), and a carbon fiber composite driveshaft on the manual gearbox car; designed to reduce rotational mass connected to the engine. The rest of the body is steel, save for the plastic front and rear bumpers.
The car features a pair of rear-hinged "freestyle" doors (similar to suicide doors) in order to provide easier access to the rear seats. The RX-8 has no B-pillar between the front and rear doors, with the leading edge of the rear door acting as a 'virtual pillar' to maintain structural rigidity. Because of the overlapping design, the rear doors can only be opened when the front doors are open
Mazda RX-8 Powertrain
The RX-8 is powered by a 1.3 L (1,308 cc) naturally-aspirated Renesis Wankel engine, which features newly designed side intake and exhaust ports, versus peripheral exhaust ports of its predecessor the 13B-REW. The engine is smaller and lighter than previous rotaries, primarily due to the lack of a turbocharger and associated parts. Because rotaries have multiple combustion chambers per rotary, the displacement of all the combustion chambers must be measured for true displacement. When measured fully, some describe the engine as displacing 2.6L (2 full rotations of the eccentric shaft). However, the engine is classified by most sanctioning bodies and regulatory commissions as 1.3L.
The engine is designed in various configurations for different models, but in its most powerful setup develops 250 PS (247 hp, 184 kW) at 8,500 rpm with a sustained redline at 8,500 rpm, peak redline of 9,000 rpm and fuel rev limit/cut-off at 9,500 rpm. It won the International Engine of the Year and Best New Engine awards in 2003 and holds the "2.5 to 3 liter" size award for 2003 and 2004.
The power is delivered to the rear wheels via a five- or six-speed manual gearbox or a four- or six-speed automatic through a torque sensitive limited slip differential (which is standard with manual, and optional for automatic, models). The six-speed automatic was introduced in model year 2006 to replace the four-speed.
In late 2003 Mazda issued a press release stating that the actual horsepower of the RX-8 could be up to 5% less than previously advertised. Mazda offered to buy back any of the affected vehicles sold in the United States. Those who chose to keep the cars were given other incentives such as free maintenance, parts, and accessories. Independent engine-dyno testing has shown the engine to make approximately 217hp, however.
In August 2006, Mazda announced that a miscalculation with oil metering had led to the engines in a few RX-8s to experience problems with severe power loss and rough idle. Mazda voluntarily recalled all 2004 and 2005 and some 2006 models to test for this problem, and all engines that failed a vacuum test were replaced at no charge, even if the car was out of warranty. The catalytic converter and leading spark plugs were also checked and replaced as needed. Mazda extended all recalled vehicles' drivetrain warranty to 5 years/60,000 miles. Most affected vehicles were in hotter climates, and were exposed to high traffic, low rpm driving and long idle periods. Mazda estimated that less than 1% of engines needed to be replaced. For vehicles that did not require an engine replacement, Mazda updated the PCM to provide more oil injection at idle and under low rpm driving.
Mazda RX-8 Models
The RX-8 is available in various models in different markets around the world. Standard models include:
6-speed manual "High Power" with an output of between 170 kW (231 hp) and 177 kW (237 hp) and a 9,000 rpm redline. Japanese models produce 184 kW (255 hp).
5-speed manual "Standard Power" tuned to 141 kW (192 hp) with the redline reduced to 7,500 rpm.
4-speed automatic tuned to 141 kW (189 hp) in some markets, while the U.S. automatic is stated to deliver 197 SAE net hp (158 kW)
6-speed automatic (available in the U.S. market as of 2006) developing 212 hp (170 kW) with a redline at 7,500 rpm.
Shinka / Evolve / Sports Prestige Limited / Mazdaspeed M'z Tune
Mazda introduced a special Shinka edition to the U.S. market in 2005, and to the UK market in 2006 where it was branded as the Evolve. Unique features include Shinka badges on the B-pillars, re-styled mirrors, alcantara-trimmed leather seats on the 2006 MY, stiffer chassis and suspension tuning, and polished wheels. For the 2005 MY, the Shinka was only available in Black Cherry Mica, and in 2006, it was available in Copper Red as well as some of the standard model colors. Power output remains unchanged from the standard models. This model is also offered in Japan as the Sports Prestige Limited RX-8. The Shinka option is not available for 2007. Mazda Japan is working on a Mazdaspeed version of the RX-8 dubbed the Mazdaspeed M'z Tune and will be released as a 2007 model (http://www.rx-8.mazda.co.jp/mz_tune/).
In May 2006 Mazda released the RX-8 PZ for the UK market. The car was jointly developed with motorsports company Prodrive. Only available in six-speed manual, it featured custom 10-spoke alloy wheels supplied by Italian F1 team supplier OZ Racing in 'Dark Silver' finish, mirrors developed to reduce drag, front and rear black mesh grilles, and a rear spoiler to provide more stability at higher speeds. Both the alloys and rear wing are badged in carbon fibre with 'Prodrive'. Significant revisions were also made to the suspension to improve the handling: Dampers from Bilstein and coil springs from Eibach are used in addition to reducing the ride height by 15 mm and an increase in spring rate of 60%. Finally the car is supplied with a unique upgraded twin exhaust system, with exhaust tailpipes branded 'Prodrive'. Only 800 were made at an MSRP of £ 25,995 ($51,990). It was available in two colours, Galaxy Grey (320) and Brilliant Black (480).
Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE
At the 2004 North American International Auto Show, Mazda unveiled the RX-8 Hydrogen RE concept car, designed to run on either hydrogen or gasoline. In February 2006, Mazda revealed that it would start leasing a dual fuel RX-8 to commercial customers in Japan, and in March 2006 announced its first two customers, claiming the first fleet deliveries of a dual hydrogen/gasoline production car.
Mazda RX-8 Awards
As of October 2006 the RX-8 has won at least 37 international motoring awards including 2003 International Engine of the Year, the 2003 Japanese Car of the Year, Australia's Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 2003, the 2004 Singapore Car of the Year, the 2004 U.S. Best Sports Car, and several UK Best Car Awards. It was also named on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Mazda RX-8 Racing
The car is used in the Formula Woman racing series in the United Kingdom which started in 2004, Mazda uses one of its cars to compete in the Britcar championship. Drag racer Abel Ibarra uses a 4-rotor powered spaceframe version of the RX-8 to compete in the NHRA Sports Compact series and is used in drifting events by Kouichi Yamashita and Rod Millen for the D1 Grand Prix and Formula D series.
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