Updated Mazda RX-8 For 2008
14th January, 2008
Launched in 2003, the Mazda RX-8 hit the global market with the unique rotary engine still in place as its power source. Since then, Mazda has sold over 166,000 RX-8s around the world.
For 2009, Mazda will further the evolution of the four-door, four-seater sports coupe, giving the RX-8 a refreshed exterior and interior design, improved performance and a new R3 sport package.
Unchanged is the core of the RX-8 – a high-powered, lightweight and perfectly balanced machine powered by a twin-rotor RENESIS rotary engine.
“Dating back to the Cosmo Sport released in 1967, every sports car ever developed by Mazda has had the same fundamental mission – to provide car lovers with a vehicle that’s fun-to-drive, exciting to look at and easy to own,” said Tetsu Nakazawa, Mazda North American Operations’ RX-8 vehicle line manager. “The new RX-8 embodies that mission, conveying the unique and Mazda brand elements to the fullest.”
To enhance the RX-8, Mazda engineers focused on innovation in three key areas for the new RX-8: styling, performance and packaging. “The enhancements made to RX-8’s exterior, interior, packaging and performance takes it to a whole new level of visual and driving excitement,” remarked Nakazawa.
Refreshed Design Cues
RX-8 was designed with a sculpted exterior that provides a sense of originality, like many in the marketplace today. The new RX-8 receives design amendments that are meant to freshen the styling and give RX-8 a much needed updated look, without impairing the basic design theme. Changes to the RX-8 include restyled front and rear bumpers and front fascia; sporty, high quality finish front headlamps; and larger exhaust pipes (now measuring 90 mm across). The new RX-8 also offers a new five-spoke wheels featuring a symbolic and sporty design reminiscent of the rotary engine theme, with different arrangements for each wheel size.
The design of the rear-hinged back doors provide a large opening, allowing adult-sized passengers to enter and exit the vehicle if they are willing. This design is also advantageous when securing a baby or a small child in the back seat. With a rear seat area providing some passenger room for adults and some boot space for a short weekend’s worth of luggage, this car possesses an element of versatility.
Minor changes were made for the new RX-8 to provide a simple interior design that supports driving pleasure. The centre IP shape was redesigned to give a feeling of dynamic movement, a variable red-zone was added to the tachometer that will rise as the engine comes to operating temperature and a new steering wheel and redesigned front and rear seats are also added.
A low cabin floor allows the seats to be mounted low in the 'chassis', which, along with a low instrument cluster and bonnet, allows a low centre of gravity. Mazda designers concentrated on the shape of the front seat backs and the rear seat cushions to ensure adequate rear-seat knee room. Front seat slide-rails are positioned to allow maximum leg room for rear-seat passengers.
The rotary design element is incorporated through the interior of the RX-8, appearing in the seats. The cabin also evokes a sense of luxury and high-end quality. Mazda’s design team examined every aspect and component of the interior and has designed a driver-centric atmosphere. Through the use of advanced ergonomic research, Mazda engineers have now determined, like many others before them, that improper seating posture is a major cause of driver fatigue and built in optimum support in the front seats to help offset discomfort. In addition, the colour of the RX-8’s instrument cluster was developed to reduce eye fatigue and strain.
Through-and-through, the RX-8 is a reasonable attempt at a sports car theme that gives the driver an exciting and dynamic experience. In keeping with the Mazda philosophy of improving a model after the 'newness' has worn-off, the new RX-8 sees the engineers improve body rigidity through the addition of structural reinforcements, by adding a trapezoidal strut tower bar and enhancing the local rigidity of the front suspension tower areas. Also, the rear suspension geometry has been reconfigured for better handling performance and driveshaft rigidity is improved, lowering NVH levels and improving performance.
In addition, the differential gear ratio on manual transmission-equipped cars is lowered from 4.444 to 4.777 for improved off-the-line performance. While minimal, these performance changes give RX-8 increased acceleration and performance, as well as even greater responsiveness to the accelerator pedal.
To achieve this sophisticated dynamic, Mazda utilises the advanced RENESIS (Rotary Engine genesis. The Mazda RX-8 remains the only mass-produced rotary-powered passenger car in the world, as leading car makers around the world abandoned the idea, many years ago, because of the excessive fuel consumption amongst numerous other reasons.
The new Mazda RX-8 is available as either a 232-horsepower model fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, or a 212-horsepower model fitted with a six-speed Sport A/T automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
By turning a triangular rotor in a cocoon-shaped combustion chamber, the RX-8’s rotary engine efficiently performs the four processes of intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. The RENESIS engine is smooth and high revving — all the way to 9,000 rpm (7,500 rpm on Sport A/T–equipped models) — and offers a smaller engine footprint than traditional internal combustion engines (some 60 percent smaller and lighter than a comparably powered V-6, and 40 percent smaller and lighter than a four-cylinder).
Improving upon 40 years of rotary designs, the RENESIS engine features side intake and exhaust ports with nearly 30 per cent more intake port and twice as much exhaust port than its predecessors. The efficiencies gained through shortening intake/exhaust overlapping period and using the larger intake and exhaust ports in delivering world-class performance.
The RX-8 uses an aluminium double-wishbone front suspension, reducing unsprung weight over the use of steel components. By mounting the upper and lower arms on a highly rigid sub-frame, the long arms ensure linear alignment changes throughout the jounce and rebound of the front wheels. All corners are fitted with mono-tube gas-filled shock absorbers designed with large-diameter internal pistons and valving, which offer excellent road feedback and a smooth ride.
An electric rack-and-pinion power-steering system transmits just the right amount of road information back to the driver. Mazda engineers have chosen to pursue their own path by using an electric motor for steering assistance rather than a conventional power-steering pump. The electric motor provides additional assistance at low speeds to ease parking and reduces steering assistance at higher speeds to provide greater road feel, responsiveness and feedback. And, in keeping with the rest of the development on RX-8, it is far lighter and easier to package than a conventional power-steering rack.
To cater to the driving-conscious enthusiast, the new RX-8 will offer a new R3 sport package. Providing the very best in rotary-powered motoring, the R3 harkens back to the R1 and R2 packages offered on the mighty third-generation RX-7, and adds a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and front suspension cross-members filled with urethane foam. Filling the cross-members makes for a smoother ride, minimised NVH and greater suspension control.
On the visual side of the package, a rear spoiler, side sills, fog lights and a revised front bumper are added to give a newer updated appearance, along with 19-inch forged aluminium-alloy wheels with high performance tyres. Inside, the R3 adds a 300-watt Bose® audio system with surround sound and AudioPilot® noise compensation technology, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, front Recaro sport seats with leather side bolsters, leather-wrapped parking brake handle and keyless entry and start system.
Three other trim levels are also offered including: a Sport trim, a Touring trim (adds HID headlights, fog lamps, auto dimming mirror with Homelink® and 6-disc auto changer on top of the Sport trim features and DSC; add 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension and larger front disc brakes to these items for A/T cars, and Bose® audio system, moonroof, SIRIUS satellite radio are offered as the package option), and a Grand Touring trim (on top of the Touring trim features, adds automatic air conditioner, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Bose® audio system auto headlight, rain sensing wiper, power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory function, leather seating surfaces — heated front seats — and heated outside mirrors and Keyless Entry & Start system. A DVD-driven satellite-navigation unit is available as a stand-alone option. Additionally, a moon roof and SIRIUS satellite radio are offered as an package option.)
When designing the RX-8, safety was given as much of a priority as was performance. For Mazda, the safety process incorporates both accident avoidance and accident protection. In effect, this approach to safety means the RX-8 can help the driver avoid various dangers and protect occupants in the unfortunate event of a collision. In roll over tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the RX-8 achieved an impressive five-star rating.
Mazda engineers integrated numerous active and passive safety elements throughout the car. Active safety features, which require input from the driver, include the use of large ABS-equipped disc brakes on all wheels as well as precise steering and suspension systems. Dynamic Stability Control (available on Sport models with Performance package, standard on Touring and Grand Touring) delivers a superior level of handling that can be disabled when driving and road conditions allow safe operation.
Passive systems, or those that take effect automatically without the driver’s involvement, also are present throughout the RX-8. Despite the absence of a centre B-pillar, the RX-8 has a rigid body, accomplished through the use of the vertical pillars built in the rear doors and a series of locking pins, which hold the doors together and bind each door directly into the roof and floor. Integrating the frame components helps dissipate crash energy through the vehicle’s structure. Other standard passive systems on the RX-8 include front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags. Additionally, the front end and engine bay have ample crumple zones, the front seats are designed to reduce whiplash injuries, the brake pedal is designed to break away in the event of a collision of sufficient force to protect feet and legs and all four seating positions are fitted with three-point seatbelts. Even pedestrian protection was considered, as the RX-8 is fitted with Mazda’s "shock-cone" bonnet design that yields more to the impact of a pedestrian onto the bonnet than a standard design, yet is strong enough to not deform in normal use.
Readers should note that recent criticism about Mazda's safety record did not relate to the RX-8.
No details on the local availability or local specifications has been announced as yet. But worldwide distribution of the new model is not expected to be delayed.
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