GR8T Expectations...

BY Burnpavement

Our 'Ribena Berry' is a real head-turner, dropped jaws and pointing-fingers are a common reaction at bus-stops and taxi-stands. But can it perform as well as it looks?

Eversince we got the keys to this gorgeous car, we've been driving it all the time, neglecting our other Projek car - also a Mazda - the MX-5. I wanted to personally get to know the RX-8's Wankel engine better. A 1.3-litre unit that generates enough power to embarrass a car with twice its capacity is pure genius to me.

With looks this good and a 235 bhp rotary engine under that sexy violet bonnet, my expectations were naturally raised.

One of the first few things to hit me though, was the soul-less sound of the engine. I felt like I was driving a vacuum cleaner. If not for the Fujitsubo exhaust, the car would have sounded quite sad. But at the same time, I really appreciated its silky smooth revs - nothing revs like a rotary engine, nothing! It's quite surreal actually, you feel no strain from the engine. All the way from 0 to 9,000 rpm, the engine willingly spins and the revs climb with increased vigor. 

I had the opportunity of 'gunning' the RX-8 down a closed road a few days ago. My hopes of hitting the claimed top speed of 225 km/h were dashed when I had barely hit 180 km/h and ran out of road. Still the acceleration was rapid and steady.

So, is the car fast? Yes and no. Yes, if you're used to driving naturally-aspirated cars like a Honda or a Toyota car with variable valve timing. No, if you (like me) are more inclined to force-induced cars.

But power isn't everything, and in the case of the RX-8, it truly isn't. To buy the car for power is to miss the point entirely. The true beauty of this car lies in the overall package.

Consider this, it has four comfortable seats (the driver's is electric-powered), an electric sunroof, full leather upholstery and door panels, a premium sound system, well insulated cabin, quality materials inside and looks to kill. And it is, by no means, slow. On top of all that, it's really beautiful. I mean just look at it, the fender bulges, the rakish lines...

It could handle a bit better though, and the steering is a tad bit light. But more on that later.