Autodealer Dream buy: Mazda RX8

We look at the Mazda RX8 and what you should look out for before buying the rotary-powered sports car for the weekly commute or weekend drive.

It’s time for another Autodealer dream buy, where we browse through the web and pick a car that we’d like to own. This time, we’re all about the Wankel engine in the form of the Mazda RX8, a rotary-powered sports car with funky doors and a great chassis.

The rotary engine is a bit of an enigma; some get it and others simply cannot grasp the concept or see its purpose. Without getting into too many technical features, we can tell you, the RX8 makes use of a 1.3-litre engine that comes in two states of tune: a 141kW standard model and a 186kW High Power version.

The latter makes additional power, thanks to the addition of two intake ports for a total of six versus the four in the standard model, while the more powerful car also revs more with a redline of 9 000rpm, where the standard car is done at 7 500rpm. One can tell the difference between the two power grades by looking at the specification and gearbox options. The standard model comes with a five-speed manual and smaller 15-inch alloy wheels while the more powerful version comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and 18-inch alloy wheels.

What to watch out for:

  • The first thing you should have done to any RX8 is a compression test; these tests can be carried about by Mazda to test whether the engine is still healthy. Failing such a test could mean a worn rotor seal tip or wear of the water seals between the rotor housing, which often means having to replace the engine.
  • Ask any RX8 – or any rotary owner for that matter – about engine lifespan. Often these cars will not see more than 100 000km on the original engine due to improper maintenance or a lack of knowledge of these motors.
  • Have the coil pack checked as these cars are known to need a new set every 50 000km or so. While on the subject of starting, these vehicles cannot be started and switched off again immediately as this causes engine flooding. Allow the vehicle to start, warm-up and then switch it off.
  • Try to avoid the 2004-2005 models as these were involved in a number of recalls. Should the vehicle that you are interested in have missed a recall it could mean a nasty bill for you in the future.
  • Check the service history as periodic and expert servicing is required for these models to have any sort of longevity. The servicing must be regular and done by Mazda or a reputable rotary expert.
  • Make sure that the previous owner topped up the oil regularly as these vehicles need a top-up every second tank of fuel or so.

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