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2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe

Nov 2007 - First Report (5,300 miles)

2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe 2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe 2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe 2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe 2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe 2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe

It’s not every day you get to drive your dream car. In fact, most people never get to drive their dream car at all...ever. My wife is one of the lucky ones. In March this year we took delivery of a six month old Mazda RX8 (192bhp), a car she’s lusted after since first clapping eyes on one back in 2003. Now the lucky beggar gets to drive it every day on her daily commute. Me, I get to drive it at the weekends or during the week if she needs to play taxi driver, in which case she takes my Sorento.

It is surely a thing of beauty. Just look at it! Viewed from the front, the bonnet tapers-in towards the nose, and the wheel-arches stand proud of the wing giving it a real race-car look. From the side it is low and sleek and the standard 18" alloys with low-profile Bridgestones really fill the arches. From the rear it is neat and well-proportioned. In fact, as I walk around the car there is not a single detail that I dislike...apart from the tax-disc, which reminds me it costs £300 a year.

The gorgeous looks are carried through to the cabin. It’s a stunning piece of design and is a very special place to be. Whilst there is a prominence of black plastic it looks and feels of high quality (mostly) and there are high-gloss black and aluminium touches here and there. There are loads of interesting design touches; the sculptured instrument pod (which lights up bright white in the day and cool blue at night) with its large central rev-counter and inset digital speed display, the circular design on the central console and the "rotary" emblem on the gearstick and headrests. The transmission tunnel flows through from the front to the rear of the cabin so when you are in the back you feel snug and securely held in place. The standard Bose stereo is worthy of mention too, it sounds fantastic!

Not only does this car have the looks to die for, it is also a truly practical car you can use every day. Mazda’s decision to give the RX8 a long wheelbase and rear "Freestyle" doors (suicide doors to you and me) was a stroke of genius. It can carry four adults in comfort and access to the rear is a doddle, assuming you can get the doors open. Tight parking spaces are best avoided in most two-door cars, due to the size of the doors, but in the RX8 they’re a definite no-no if you need to access the rear seats. Best to park well away from everyone else or be anti-social and use two spaces, not a practice I condone. It also has a large(ish) boot. OK, you probably won’t get the kitchen sink in there but it swallows the weekly shopping with ease and enough bags for a weekend away. The boot has a deep recess in the centre, useful for keeping stuff under control when you’re attacking the bends, which is something this car encourages. This recess is at the expense of a spare wheel though and you have to make do with an emergency repair kit. Just as well that the car comes with 3 years breakdown assistance as I can’t see the missus faffing around with that in the event of a puncture.

One thing those doors are good for though is attracting attention, in a good way. The usual reaction is "wow, look at that". And that’s the thing...this is a bit of a "wow" car. It gets so many admiring glances and smiles from passers-by and positive comments from friends and colleagues. The missus says that, even after six months, she still finds herself returning to the car and thinking "Wow, is that really mine?". She also reckons it’s the Gucci handbag of cars...the ultimate fashion accessory. The fact that it drives so well is just a bonus!.

Once you’re safely belted into the figure-hugging driver’s seat you start the engine, and that’s where, for a true petrolhead, disappointment pokes you in the ear, literally. At idle, and under very light throttle loads, the engine sounds a bit like an electric motor. Gently whirring away with a kind of simultaneous high and low pitch hum. Many passengers I have carried simply describe it as weird. As the revs rise it sounds a bit like a muted V6 tucked inside a washing machine. Not very exciting. In order to get any kind of symphony from this instrument you have to mash your right foot to the floor and accelerate hard. Then it changes from ho-hum, through jet-turbine to banshee-wail as you near the 7,500 rpm redline (the 231bhp version revs to 9,000rpm!). I doesn’t quite make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and salute like a tuned V8 does but it’s not bad.

Trouble is, to get that aural excitement, so important in a car like this, you find yourself flooring it as often as speed limits and traffic will allow and that only worsens the fuel economy. There is no doubt that this is a thirsty car; fuel economy has so far averaged around 22mpg over 4,000 miles with a best of 26mpg and worst of 18mpg...not great for a 1.3 litre! And it’s not only the gas that it guzzles, it also has an excessive appetite for the black stuff...just under 2 litres in 4,000 miles. This, apparently, is normal.

That aside, the RX8 really is a pleasure to drive. The steering is quick and accurate and responds instantly to your commands. The grip from the 225/45 Potenzas is immense and I’ve yet to induce understeer. Interestingly, the DSC traction control system is quite lenient and is happy to let the rear playfully step out a little on a wet roundabout before intervening and taking the ball home...so be careful (or enjoy, depending on your mood!). Of course, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous you can always switch it off. The ride quality is exceptionally good, remaining compliant and comfortable at all times, which is unexpected when you consider just how sharp the handling is and how flat it remains in the bends. In fact, on a recent run, Nick followed me home in his Seven and was impressed by the Mazda’s composure and lack of body-roll. Praise indeed!

If I have to level critisism at the RX8 experience, it would be the rearward visibility. The mirrors are small, so when I’m reversing I feel inclined to stick my head out the window, but then I bang my head on the roof in the process. Also, when coming down a slip road to join the motorway the recommended look over the shoulder only brings you an eye-full of B/C pillars so you do have to rely totally on those mirrors. Only minor niggles I know, and when the car is so good at going forwards I can live with it.

Overall, we’ve been very happy with the RX8. It looks amazing, is fantastic to drive and every journey feels like an event. Ok, it doesn’ quite produce the right musical notes to make it into my own personal dream garage but, for the money (just over £17k at six months old and 1,800 miles) I can think of no current car that looks as good or feels as special.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the dealer, Lythgoe Mazda, Rochdale. Their sales service was good, they found us a car at a price we were happy with, but after sales service has been a little lacking; the car only came with one key and despite numerous phone calls, visits and promises, we have so far been unable to obtain a spare. I’m not going to give up though so watch this space.

Gav.

Feb 08 - Second Report (7,050 miles)...More

Feb 09 - Final Report (12,400 miles)...More

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2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe
2006 Mazda RX8 (192) Coupe