1st Generation (2003-2008)
The first generation of the RX-8 was released the year after the final departure of the beloved RX-7 in Japan, and it left many people disappointed. The successor replaced the twin turbos of the previous car with natural aspiration, despite keeping the same sized 1.3L 2 rotor engine. Mazda gave this new version of the 13B a new name as well, the RENESIS. Ignoring the terrible automatic options, which had reduced power outputs and redlines, there were 2 basic drivetrain combinations available around the world: The standard trim, not available in North America, which had 189hp and a 5 speed manual because of a reduced 7500rpm redline, and the high power trim, which put out 237hp and had a 6 speed manual and had the 9000rpm redline. The first gen also had a few notable special editions, not all will be included.
RX-8 Shinka Edition
The Shinka edition was a decently high production special edition, with 2150 built, almost three quarters of which were sold in North America. The Shinka edition was marketed as a more luxurious option than the standard RX-8, with the same engine and 6 speed manual, but also an exclusive “Cherry Mica” exterior and “Parchment” leather interior. The car also had slightly chromed wheels and modified shocks and front cross member for more comfortable ride quality.
RX-8 Evolve Edition
The Evolve edition was the first UK only special edition, only 500 were made as a sportier looking model with several exterior modifications including chrome exhaust tips, darker headlights, and darker wheels. The interior was even more special with dark leather and Alcantara seats and trim. It was available in two colors, “Copper Red Mica”, which Mazda chose for 400 of the cars, and the much rarer “Phantom Blue Mica” you see in the picture, which only 100 of the cars have.
RX-8 PZ Edition
Probably the peak of the special editions for the first generation, the PZ edition was UK exclusive and was developed by Mazda in conjunction with Prodrive, as well as Bilstein, Eibach, and OZ Racing. Only 800 were made, each featuring exclusive OZ Racing 10 spoke wheels, smaller mirrors to reduce drag, blacked out grilles, a spoiler, carbon fiber “Prodrive” badges on the spoiler and wheels, a custom Prodrive exhaust system, and serious suspension changes in the form of Bilstein dampers with Eibach springs.
2nd Generation (2009-2012)
The second generation RX-8 was mostly a facelift, although the chassis rigidity was also improved as well as the rear suspension. Gear ratios were shortened, acceleration was better, and the engine had slightly revised oil injection. The main models available were the Sport and Grand Touring trims, a naming system Mazda used for many cars around that time. The Sport trim was more basic and had very few options, but the same high powered engine while the Grand Touring trim had more luxurious interior and more options. There were very few special editions for the second generation, and only one was sold outside of Japan.
The R3 was not quite a special edition as much as a package you could get, it wasn’t limited edition but it was the most expensive model. It had Bilstein shocks and a modified front cross member, bigger and more aggressive wheels and high performance tires, and an aggressive bodykit. The R3 wasn’t very limited production but is still highly sought after and expensive.
The problems people talk about having with RX-8’s are very overblown, with proper care they are as reliable as any other rotary and far more fuel efficient, especially in the second generation cars. The basic models can be picked up cheap, so for someone who wants an intro into the rotary world without going quite as basic as an FB or FC, the RX-8 is the logical choice, just be prepared for the typical issues with rotaries and do your research.
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Great post, and I love mine. Although I think mine will be going soon, sadly. Still, it’s been a perfect car to me and it’s never really let me down, just maybe a little expensive to own
Thanks! Sorry to hear it might be on its last legs, any thoughts on what you might get next?
Amazing article! Should get Editors pick MattRobinson
You totally deserve an editor’s pick! Great work!!
I have this idea for my first car: I’m going to buy a cheap RX-8 and a Crashed C7 Corvette, take the 455 HP LS from the corvette and swap it into said RX-8
Haha have fun, might need some chassis strengthening for that, chassis rigidity may be an issue with that much power
Challenge closed ;) answer is a secret
There’s a few guys with theses and there’s are on over 140k miles with no issues.the key is to read the owners manual and drive them according to that.
Mine had 150k miles on the original engine and it ran like a peach! No issues at all. I regret selling it.
I love the Renesis engine, but nobody can pretend it’s the paragon of reliability, 140-150k engines are the exception rather than the norm.
Isn’t there a spirit r version as a last hurrah of the rx8? :0
Haha that’s the one I left off on purpose… shhhh we don’t want anyone to know it exists
I’ve always found people unduly concerned if you tell them you want an rx-8, I’m glad someone is talking sense for a change. Great article! Great car! Well done sir.
Thanks! It’s true people don’t bat an eye when you suggest that you might buy anything else with a rotary, but say the word “RX-8” and suddenly they tell you all the reasons not to. I’m sure many rotary fans would rather have an RX-7 but if you can’t afford an FD I think the RX-8 is better than an FB or FC