NEW FOR 2009:

– New R3 model
– Refreshed exterior and interior design
– New standard equipment: audio auxiliary input, automatic headlamps, automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirror, garage door opener, anti-theft alarm, MP3 capability on CD changer, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, power windows with global open and close, recline levers for front passenger seat for easier rear-seat access, 64-litre fuel tank, and rear lip spoiler and mud guards (on manual transmission models)
– GT adds power memory driver’s seat, Bluetooth capability, Sirius-ready integrated satellite radio, leather-wrapped parking brake lever, power sunroof and pushbutton forward on driver’s seat for easier rear-seat access
– Extended engine warranty
– Exterior colours: Sparkling Black Mica, Electric Blue and Diamond Grey Mica added; Stormy Blue Mica and Winning Blue Mica deleted

For 2009, the Mazda RX-8 receives several new items on its list of standard equipment, and an extended warranty on its rotary engine, which is now covered for 8 years or 160,000 km, whichever comes first, up from 5 years or 100,000 km (the rest of the powertrain remains at 5/100). There’s also a new R3 sport model, which slots in between the base GS and top-line GT.

The world’s only mass-produced rotary-engined car, the RX-8 is powered by a 1.3-litre rotary engine, also known as a Wankel engine, named for its inventor. With the base six-speed automatic, the engine produces 232 horsepower, which drops to 212 with the optional six-speed automatic. Torque remains at 159 ft-lbs with either transmission choice.

Although it looks like a coupe, it has small, rear-hinged rear doors which can only be operated when the front doors are open. A full-length console makes it a four-seater.

Features on the GS include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls, limited-slip rear differential, sport-tuned suspension, aluminum pedals, six-CD/MP3 Bose premium stereo with nine speakers and auxiliary input, auto-dimming rearview mirror, garage door opener, anti-theft alarm system, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps with washers, power windows with global open and close, fog lights, cruise control, keyless entry and start, cloth upholstery and exterior temperature gauge.

The R3 adds 19-inch lightweight forged alloy wheels, rear spoiler, sport integrated front bumper and side sills, side skirts, lightweight leather-trimmed Recaro seats, dynamic stability control with traction control, Bilstein dampers, front suspension crossmember with urethane fill, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, self-levelling Xenon headlamps, leather-wrapped wheel with red stitching, and door and console trim with red stitching.

The GT builds on the GS and adds dynamic stability control, self-levelling Xenon headlamps, eight-way power driver’s seat with memory, heated leather seats, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, Sirius-ready integrated satellite radio, synthetic leather door trim panels, and power sunroof.

The RX-8’s engine uses triangular rotors turning in a chamber to spin the driveshaft; its main advantage is horsepower well beyond its displacement. However, the design suffers from higher fuel consumption, cold-weather starting difficulties and high oil consumption.

It’s an impressive machine, with almost 50/50 weight distribution, direct steering, flat cornering and rapid acceleration; since there is no reciprocating piston movement, the engine is dead-calm smooth. The new R3 model adds even more fun to an already extraordinary driving experience with even sportier characteristics and Recaro seats.

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