Even though the ride is firm, it never crosses into unbearable roughness in normal driving. Its responses to minor road imperfections gently remind you that you're driving a sports car, but it won't wallop you with the message.
Tire noise was especially noticeable. It varied by road surface — with an especially pronounced roar on concrete interstates — but it was always present on the highway.
Four Doors, Four Seats
I've gone back and forth on whether I like the RX-8's rear-hinged half-doors. A traditional coupe would have yielded more graceful body lines, but the extra doors make it a whole lot easier to get into the backseat. (Though it's still a pain to install a rear-facing infant seat back there.) Sports cars have never been about practicality, though, and I would go without the easier backseat access if it meant a sleeker two-door coupe shape.
By sports car standards, the RX-8's backseat is pretty usable and offers decent headroom, but there's one caveat: The driver or front passenger can't be too tall. I'm 6-foot-1, and with the driver's seat in a comfortable spot for me to depress the clutch and other pedals, there was little legroom left for anyone sitting behind me.
The RX-8's cabin materials are decent, with the only really cheap-looking stuff on the front door pulls. Otherwise, the piano-black accents look nice, and the dashboard isn't muddled by too many controls.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety doesn't usually crash-test sports cars, and it hasn't tested the RX-8. Standard safety features include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and antilock brakes. An electronic stability system is optional.
RX-8 in the Market
Like any car purchase, choosing a sports car involves tradeoffs. The fun of a high-horsepower engine is often tempered by its thirst for fuel, but in the RX-8, the thirsty rotary engine doesn't even offer the kind of power the competition does.
While demand for more powerful engines is abating somewhat in the face of heightened gas prices, sports cars are still largely defined by power and style; nimble, light-footed entrants like the RX-8 still play at the edges. The RX-8 has always been the scalpel to the meat cleavers of the sports car world, and if you want to slip behind the wheel of this back-road carver, time is running short.
Starting MSRP $26,795–$32,290
Highway: 22 – 23
212-hp, 1.3-liter Rotary (premium)
232-hp, 1.3-liter Rotary (premium)
6-speed manual w/OD
6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
New or Notable
• Final model year
• 1.3-liter rotary engine
• 9,000-rpm engine redline (manual transmission)
• Rear-hinged half-doors
• Seats four
What We Like
• Short-throw shifter
• Handling balance
• Firm but tolerable suspension tuning
• Backseat access
• Decent-sized backseat
What We Don't
• Modest power for a sports car
• Gas mileage