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The RX-8. An overview and history. 2003 - 2012

Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 4:10 pm
by RX-8 Owners Club
In response to many queries from new forum users and particularly those seeking advice on buying a used RX-8, this post serves as an overview and basic used buyers guide.

This is not an extensive history of the RX-8 from before the drawing board to concept and onto production car as too much volume will result in the guide not being read fully, and similar questions continuing when answers are here. This non definitive guide can be easily scrutinised by others and no doubt will improve as it evolves.

Mazda RX-8 2003 - 2012

Brief background
The Mazda RX-8 first came to the UK officially in October 2003. The car is of the front engined rear wheel drive type, (FR). The car is revolutionary in design with comfortable seating for 4 adults, rear hinged rear passenger doors, (often called suicide doors), and a new development of the rotary engine named RENESIS. Earlier reliability concerns re rotary engine wear are claimed to have been addressed and longevity of use in the US, (where car has been available longer), backs this up. Owners of RX-8's enjoy switchable driver aids including TCS, DSC as well as the usual ABS the RX-8's driver aids do however afford credit to the intelligent driver. Whilst these gadgets will assist you when in need, they should not spoil your enjoyment when driving progressively but sensibly. The car has a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and has been very highly praised by many, (including Clarkson). The High Power version, (230 or 231PS), of the RX-8 famously lapped the Top Gear Test track achieving the same lap time as that obtained by an E46 BMW M3 !

First Generation (2003–2008)

231 & 192
Colours: Velocity Red, Brilliant Black, Lightning Yellow, Nordic Green, Winning Blue, Titanium Grey, Sunlight Silver, Strato Blue, Stormy Blue & Galaxy Grey.

UK RX-8's came in two basic specifications - either 192PS or 231PS.These two models are often referred to as the 190/Standard Power and 230/High Power variants. The 192 PS has the lower power output engine with 5 speed manual gearbox and the 231 PS comes with a six speed manual gearbox. The 231PS has the higher power engine, but ironically the 192PS variant delivers a little more low down torque, albeit not revving quite as high as the 231PS variant. As well as having the higher power output engine and the six speed gearbox the 231 PS variant also has the following items specified as standard aluminium/alloy foot pedal set, headlamp washers and xenon headlamps.

The actual engine capacity is 1308cc by virtue of 2X 654cc Rotors but due to the cycle used for the combustion process the capacity is classed as 2.6 cc this was due to the fact that an engines road tax was based on capacity alone and obviously the Government wasn't going to allow a powerful sports car to sit in the same tax bracket as a typical 1300cc car.
This all changed again when taxation was re-classified to it`s present levels in that it based on exhaust emissions, the RX-8 unfortunately not being very green in this department means high taxation rates.

The specifications to all UK cars, (192 and 231), include multiple airbags, BOSE 300 watt Hi-Fi system with 9 speakers, air conditioning with climate control and other equipment including ABS, TCS and other toys. Full specification can be found at the Mazda UK website, details of basic specification of models which at the time of writing, (4/06), have hardly changed since launch. Full specification can be found at the Mazda UK website by clicking here which at the time of this post being made (4/06) has details of the basic specifications of models which have hardly changed since launch. (Nordic Green and Lightning Yellow colours are rare and now discontinued in the UK with Stratos Blue being a more recent addition from the Mazda paint palette). The yellow was only offered for the first year. The Nordic was discontinued in 2006 at that time another colour Galaxy Grey replaced Titanium Grey. Strato Blue has been on offer since Jan '05 brochures at least.

Import Models This section is incomplete.
Available colours: Black Cherry

The RX-8 was available as an import with several key differences. Smaller 17" wheels, automatic gearbox, and some exclusive colours.

Special Editions
There are five UK special edition RX-8's:

Colours: Copper Red & Phantom Blue.
Engine: 231

The RX-8 Evolve was made available in 500 examples and has a special finish to the alloys and some styling accessories fitted, it comes in two exclusive colours consisting of 400 units in Copper Red and 100 in Phantom Blue and features a stone coloured leather with Alcantara trim. It also features restyled (Mazdaspeed style) mirrors. The front crest fins (strakes) B pillar trims also feature on this car as standard as well as other minor styling tweaks which includes smoked finished versions of the original alloys.

Colours: Brilliant Black & Galaxy Grey.
Engine: 231

The RX-8 PZ is based on the high power version (231ps) P standing for Prodrive who helped develop the car and Z standing for OZ who make the special alloys fitted to the car. Additional Specification is Upgraded coil springs and dampers, Unique 18-inch OZ alloy wheels, Unique aerodynamic rear spoiler, Unique upgraded Scorpion rear silencer.
Exterior colours are Brilliant Black, (480 units), or Galaxy Grey, (320 units). Cars apparently have different front and rear mesh grilles, Mazdaspeed door mirrors, PZ side badges PZ and Prodrive branded rear spoiler, Prodrive and OZ branded wheel centre caps and Prodrive branded silencer surrounds. Suspension firmness quoted in motoring press as 60% firmer than standard car.

Available colours: Copper Red & Stormy Blue.
Engine: 192

The Nemesis was only available with the 192 ps engine and 5 speed gearbox this special edition was limited to 350 examples consisting of 200 cars in Copper Red and 150 in Stormy Blue it came equipped with Nemesis badging, strakes on the front wheel arch vents, B pillar trims, RX-8 aluminium door scuff plates, Stone leather trim and luxury branded carpets.

Available colour: Sparkling Black.
Engine: 231

The Kuro arrived with the 231ps engine and 6 speed gearbox the special edition Kuro (Japanese meaning black) was finished in Sparkling Black Mica paintwork and was limited to 500 models equipped with Kuro badging, darkened light bezels, Kuro branded stainless steel scuff plates with unique build number, 18 inch dark silver alloys, and Stone coloured leather upholstery featured throughout.

40th Anniversary
Colours: Crystal White Pearlescent & Metropolitan Grey Mica.
Engine: 231

Equipped with the 231ps engine and 6 speed gearbox the 40th Anniversary model was launched to celebrate 40 years since Mazda launched its first Rotary powered car the Cosmo Sport in 1967, limited to 400 models consisting of 200 finished in Crystal White Pearlescent paintwork and 200 in Metropolitan Grey Mica with 40th Anniversary badging to the front wings, exclusive black leather and stone coloured Alcantara trim, luxury car carpets, stainless steel scuff plates with unique build number badges, 40th Anniversary badged Aerodynamic rear spoiler, blue light fog lights, 18 inch - 10 spoke alloy wheels in Titanium finish, Bilstein dampers and front cross members filled with polyurethane foam to reduce road noise.

Model changes/revisions
Since launch and to date, there have been no major changes or revisions to the RX-8. As with many new models, there has been the odd minor change/ tweak to specification. Improvements/changes since launch have included a so called improved oil dipstick, improved more hard wearing seat backs, a folding key, a modified starter motor as well as slight changes to the bolsters and side panels to the seats (early cars' bolsters and supporting panels have a modern ribbed appearance). Despite these minor changes there have been no modifications or changes to date that will affect residuals in terms of spec/performance overall finish.

Second Generation (2008–2012)

RX-8 R3
Colours: Aurora Blue, Crystal White, Velocity Red, Aluminium Silver, Diamond Grey & Sparkling Black.
Engine: 231*

Launched in mid 2008 it may be arguable whether the R3 is a new model or a revised edition of the existing model never the less cosmetically the car has changed, externally there are 6 colours consisting of Aurora Blue, Crystal White, Velocity Red, Aluminium Silver, Diamond Grey and Sparkling Black, a standard Sports Styling Pack with new front and rear bumper (for those interested the front is not immediately interchangeable with the existing model) side skirts and rear spoiler the front wing vents have been removed and replaced with new side repeaters, new LED rear lights have been fitted and the R3 gets 19-inch - 10 spoke alloy wheels clad with 225/40 Bridgestone REO50 tyres, but as you discover from the driving seat in the first half mile, there have been a few changes under the skin.
The bodyshell has been stiffened and dampers, springs, bushes and anti-roll bars revised including the use of Bilstein sports suspension and a urethane-filled front cross member.
At the rear, the multi-link suspension has been tuned to improve both the ride and handling.
Changes to the internal trim consist of lighter more supportive leather Recaro seats as standard fitment at the expense of the much praised heating to the previous seats, new steering wheel and slightly revised instrumentation including self switching wipers and lights.

*The RENESIS rotary engine underwent a few subtle changes too, such as an improved oil metering system and increased sump capacity the oil dipstick is now more easily accessable through the engine cover and there’s a new type of knock sensor, a revised exhaust with larger 90mm diameter tail pipes, the quality of the gearchange has been improved with the fitment of the slick shifting MX5 gearbox and the ratios have been shortened to make up for the engine’s lack of torque.

The Spirit-R was a limited edition R3 built to celebrate the end of RX-8 production. Limited to only 1000 cars and exclusively sold in Japan.

Further Information

Options early car
Options include the usual metallic or mica finish paints & a factory sunroof (which restricts headroom for taller drivers). The car can be specified with the optional SATNAV which is only available to customer who also specified/upgraded their interior trim to optional leather. The leather interiors came in black only with black and red leather trim only available on red or black cars. (an exception to the leather colour rule appears to be an unknown but limited number of UK cars which came into the country, (supposedly by error), with the overseas spec tan sections located as with the red sections of the red/black trim). An early yellow motor show prototype/concept of the car featured a yellow car with yellow and black interior although this trim never made production. The leather interior option includes heated front seats with power to the driver seat with adjustable lumbar support.

Care / Ownership & Minor Warranty Issues
The owners manual has a recommendation from Mazda that the oil should be checked every second fill up or 500 miles. If buying used consider checking whether the previous owners has checked and topped up the oil when required. Mazda only recommend using Semi synthetic 5w30 oil (as used by author) but some have used synthetic without problems, (synthetic was associated to wear of seals in the RX-7 but has not been linked to wear in the RX-8 which is of a different design). The RX8 doesn't use as much oil as reputed by the motoring press, (Mazda claim average usage of oil at just .25 litres per 1000 miles which is in line with the authors consumption but a little less than some others). It is quite usual to see a milky foaming residue on the dipstick particularly on earlier cars which do not have the modified dipstick fitted to rectify this so called foaming.

The catalyst sits low to speed humps so do check underneath for damage from accidental impact. There have been some cases of early catalyst failure so as with any used car with a catalyst consider an emissions test or other check. As a rule any rattles from the catalyst requires further scrutiny on this warranty covered item.

Mazda dealers have updated most cars with the latest software engine PCM/ECU updates to address some concerns re a risk of flooding the engine, as a result instances of this are fewer but the fact remains this can still rarely occur, it is perhaps another reason to get an emissions check done on the warranty covered catalyst in any concern.

Warranty issues that caring early owners should have kept an eye on or had done include :

Corroding Alloys have been replaced under warranty where some rims have had signs of minor corrosion.

Fins/strakes & /or front crest, (where optionally fitted), can corrode- again covered by warranty.

Ideally, (not essentially), a modified starter motor & lead plug set will have been fitted to early cars (this was only done for those that asked expressing concerns re the early slower starter). A more recent edition is a ventilation kit which dealers can fit under warranty for anyone concerned re the engine potentially not revving over 7k rpm on rare occasions. There have been some instances of very minor rust spots to one/both inner door sills and very rarely to the boot lid, the inner sill problem was attributed to the design of the rear door seal (later 2006 cars had a revised seals fitted) which abraded the paint in that area causing corrosion to set in, this tended to be dealt with only if the owner raised a complaint under the warranty, this problem should be rectified by Mazda approved bodyshops on any early affected cars, (armorfend on the inner sill or top of bumper by bootlip may indicate the correct remedial work has been done). Do not worry re this as the marks are barely visible - even to those who know what to look for.

Handbrake recess cover/trim gaiter by tunnel should be changed with replacement part under warranty if damaged.

Illuminated gear knobs can fail but also be replaced under warranty.

Seat backs on early models can wear slightly due to fouling by the seatbelts.

A modified oil dipstick has been made available. This reduces the foaming/milky oil on the dipstick before first wiped, (not an area for concern), but some have reported the amended dipstick sleeve that comes with the new stick can slide out of dipstick tube.

The centre areas of the wheel hubs, (like on many cars with large wheels & exposed areas behind the spokes), can suffer cosmetic corrosion and weathering. Some dealers have painted these areas on customers cars under warranty but the consensus seems to be that the best solution is for owners to carefully mask and paint the areas and calipers often resulting in a neater job minus the overspray, (It is believed dealers are only allowed to claim 30 minutes for this warranty work when authorised).

Unlike the US there is no legal requirement to publish all improvements changes and service bulletin items so, (as with other UK supplied makes & models of cars), not all RX-8's will have been attended to and pampered as much as some others. Do not be put off by a car which has flexed it's warranty muscle.

A joint recall was sanctioned for tank insulation and front suspension wishbone inspection a check with your local dealer should tell you if important recall work has been done. (Early owners were requested to receive an update to the ECU by their dealers, however, a quick check by the dealer will let you know if this has not been done - in any case subsequent software updates have followed).
A special service campaign was introduced in order to replace corroding oil cooler pipes with modified components fitted on models prior to a production change in October 2007 as several cases had been reported where oil loss was evident through failure of these pipes this is a very important issue so checks should be made with a Mazda dealer to confirm that the pipes have been changed, also included with this work modified front wheel arch liners are fitted these are to rectify a problem where salty water can find its way on to the oil pipes.
Rear wheel arches also received some remedial work to add extra protection in the form of sealer applied to the outer lip of the arches.

General Condition
The RX-8 has a very pleasant interior which also has some different materials. This is no china cup but various plastics can be prone to wear if not cared for. Plastic interior door sills can sometimes be prone to scuffs, (old fashioned black boot polish is favoured remedy). The silver transmission tunnel trims can be prone to scratches. The interior should be rattle free although as with many cars, (including BMW and Mercedes), the odd rare trim rattle may need some detective work for your own sanity if that sort of thing annoys you, (plenty of cars including the authors have none). As with all used cars be prepared to make an allowance for cost in the price of any bodywork scuffs, alloy repairs etc. Light frontal stone chipping, (ideally correctly treated/repaired), is to be expected on all but the lowest mileage used examples.

The car originally came specified with Bridgestone RE040 tyres which are not cheap to replace. Some owners are on the next set or sets of tyres. Some have opted for RE050 Bridgestone’s and others have switched from Bridgestone completely. As with any sports car check on the make/type spec of tyres as any replacements or other work should be reflected in your spending/buying budget, (Tyres can approach £180 per corner from a dealer but cheaper elsewhere). Expect around 20k miles from a set of new Bridgestones as a guide if you rotate the fronts with the rears at 8-10k miles, (some have seen well over 20k on one set but other owners have had to replace far earlier). As with all cars it is important to ensure tyre pressures are correct for safety, handling and tyre wear longevity, (incidentally a car running seriously wrong pressures on a test drive may not drive as well as another one running the correct PSI/Bar).

History & Warranty
As with any car service history is of benefit and if in warranty period omissions may void the warranty. There are rotary specialists around & the changes to rules on servicing mean a full Mazda service history is not required to keep a warranty intact as long as cars are serviced in accordance with manufacturers recommendations, however, most if not all have been serviced at main dealerships in the warranty period. Incidentally the warranty is transferable and is a 3 year product with option to extend to 5 years of cover.

Driveability, usability and performance
There has been occasional talk of the RX-8's inability to deliver torque and particularly low down in the rev range. It has to be understood the RX-8 is not a conventional car and whilst this car may not pull from low down the rev range like many powerful diesel cars, it has an ability to deliver enjoyment to the driver who is prepared to sometimes use higher revs and change gear when the most is called upon from the engine. This car is not top output EVO IV but rest assured this car will perform. Quoted figures for the High power version are as low as 6.4 seconds for the 0-60 dash and a top speed quoted as 147 mph (where legal). For both cars the mpg figures, (as with other makes/models), can be at variance to officially quoted government figures. High teens consumption is not unheard of (particularly on short urban journeys in colder months), but nearer mid twenties consumption is heard of on warmer days whilst cars are on long restrained runs. Although the car is marketed as a 1308cc, (2x 654cc rotors), the RENESIS engines have the equivalent swept volume of 2616cc. I recommend that buyers compare consumption to E46 BMW 330ci, R32 Golf and/or Nissan 350z rather than against a 1300cc family hatch to avoid disappointment or false expectation.

There are a growing number of cheaper used imports being offered from sale around the UK, (Japanese grey imports). The specifications are not the same as UK cars and the power output is not in line with UK cars (250PS). The UK RX-8 is exported to the UK with a slightly lower powered engine in high power specification, (231PS). The UK engine rumoured so tuned as to comply with Euro IV emissions requirements. Imports will not be covered by the same warranty as UK cars however, warranties may be offered by the seller. Imported cars may have slightly different specification. Imports may feature automatic gearboxes ( perhaps of benefit for some), smaller wheels, (than UK spec 18" for both versions). White paint was never offered to UK customers. The author (whilst aware of grey imports and imported RX-8's) is no definitive expert on imported examples. At the time of writing it is believed there is at least one UK Mazda dealer selling new and used Japanese imported cars. The only importable limited edition seems to be the Shinka which Mazda introduced in 2005. It has a 250PS output, (as regular overseas RX-8 models), plus several upgrades, and other technical modifications. It came with Shinka badges on the B-pillar, Black Cherry Mica paint, parchment leather-trimmed interior, updated materials, and enhanced chassis and suspension tuning. At the time of writing the author has not seen or heard of one of these cars in the UK (no doubt I will be proved wrong). There are too few owners of imports known to the author for any opinion to be given regarding whether to buy an import or not but it may be worth checking with your insurance company or servicing agent/dealer/workshop first. If unsure whether any car is an import or not just supply the VIN /chassis number to a Mazda dealer who should oblige you with the information

We hope the above information is of use to anyone interested in the Mazda RX-8.
Please feel free to browse the forums for more information using the search facility, but please, still feel free to ask any unanswered questions you may still have.

Disclaimer. This guide is to assist potential owners of the RX-8. Any inaccuracies or misrepresentations are unintentional. The author or the RX8 Owners Club cannot be held liable or responsible for any actions or consequences that may result from reading this guide whether consequence is resultant directly or indirectly. In any doubt always consider the services of a reputable vehicle inspector, UK Mazda Dealer or reputable Rotary & RX-8 expert notwithstanding any further liability shall rest with 3rd parties and not the aforementioned disclaimed parties.

Re: RX-8 Used buyers guide and FAQ response

Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:52 am
by RX8Head

The leather interiors came in black only with black and red leather trim only available on red or black cars.
Not sure when this became available, my car being just over a month old but it came with black and tan leather.

Otherwise looks like a great post for any one looking at buying a RX-8

Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:39 pm
by Peige
A little something that may need adding is the imports that Whites bring in, they have different power ratings (and even tyre sizes i think).. also an auto version which i don't think is a standard uk thing afiak.

The other thing that needs clarifying is what "actaully" is standard on the Hp/lp versions as dealers like to make a song and dance out of the extras that tend to be infact standard :roll:

Sombody more educated in rx's will know what i mean :lol:

Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:56 pm
by fnegroni
RX8_West_Country wrote:Thought - could this be mirrored as a Wiki article for wider consumption/input?
Been done already.

Which could be edited to include extra info on the UK spec one.

Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:15 pm
by AW8
RX8 head

Thanks. It occured to me today that I had omitted the black tan - your wish is granted.


Thanks but I did cover/mention the differences between 190/230 specs. I also gave a link to the mazda website :!: I have edited this section to make it clearer. I mentioned imports briefly but did not want to open a can of worms by upsetting those against imports or upsetting importers or import car owners. (I have seen the change to a more positive attitude towards eunos roadster owners on the Mx5oc boards and therefore had kept it brief to avoid issues. In any case I have now adressed this and hopefully in a tactful mannner so as not to cause problems with importers or import owners.............Piege your wish has also been granted but I may trim it if I get negative feedback re too much content.


:idea: Perhaps anyone with more import info than me may wish to do a totally seperate guide on imports if the club needs it. I can then just incorportae a link from mine and delete other import references.

As said before I avoided a definitive guide to keep it brief enough to avoid it being skim read and important info being missed, ( which seems to have happened already).

I maintain that many will not read 3 pages plus of my definitive info & besides if I put everything re the RX-8 on there it would leave very little for discussion and I know that many like to chat- hence the forums.

Must dash - Thanks again for all the comments :)

Posted: Sun May 07, 2006 11:18 pm
by Willjt
As a new forum user considering buying an RX8 this is excellent - thanks AW8.

I have a minor question relating to exterior colour mentioned that both Nordic Green and Lightning Yellow and now discontinued in the UK - what year were they cancelled?
Which colours would have been available in '03, early '04? (I assume all bar Strato Blue + Evolve colours)
Strato Blue looks great what's the earliest year I could expect to see this?

Posted: Sun May 07, 2006 11:55 pm
by RichardK
IIRC Yellow was only offered for the first year (this appears to be traditional for Mazda, but MX5s appear to demonstrate otherwise!), so 53 and 04 reg cars would be available Yellow. The Nordic was on offer until 06 I think - certainly was on the website when I ordered my car, which is in the 2006 colour Galaxy Grey (replaced Titanium Grey).

Strato was on offer from the Jan '05 brochures at least.

Posted: Mon May 08, 2006 11:42 am
Strato replaced Lightning Yellow and was available from late '04, Oct I think. I ordered mine in Dec 04.
The Yanks got White to replace the yellow :shock: I think we got the better colour :wink:


Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 1:09 pm
by AW8
I have now added details of the PZ. In the abscence of further feedback can we agree to put a sticky on this one or otherwise store it for reference and prosperity for the benefit of new forum users.

This guide is my legacy to the club as my 2003 RX-8 230 now sold

Re: RX-8 Used buyers guide and FAQ response

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:16 pm
by Delanor
Now updated with ref to recall work and later special editions/models inc` RX-8 R3.


Re: The RX-8 an overview and History 2003 - 2009.

Posted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 12:55 pm
by Delanor
Now updated to include engine capacity/taxation details.


Re: The RX-8. An overview and history. 2003 - 2012

Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 12:48 pm
by warpc0il
The jump in RFL (Road Fund License - Road Tax) applies to all cars registered after March 2006, which includes all the later Series 1 models.