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2006 Mazda RX-8 GT Road Test

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Michel Deslauriers
A real sports car... that's affordable

(Photo: Michel Deslauriers,
There's a difference between a sporty car and a sports car. We can say that a sporty car is a better performing version of a mainstream coupe or sedan. A sports car is designed and produced above all for performance and handling.

Sports cars are getting rarer today; it's more profitable for a manufacturer to take an existing model, drop in a more powerful engine and bolt on tighter springs and an aerodynamic package. Voila! Instant sporty car.

Despite the high production costs of producing a pure sports car, Mazda has the audacity to actually offer two, and both are relatively affordable. The MX-5 and RX-8 are low-volume cars, and completely different between one another. The latter is in fact the matter of today's discussion.

(Photo: Michel Deslauriers,
You don't climb into the RX-8, you put it on like a glove. We feel like we're in a space capsule that's ready for takeoff towards another planet. The cockpit of this RX-8 GT test car is trimmed with two-tone leather on the seats and door panels. "It's very kitsch, but I love it," said my girlfriend. Well, at least the cabin pleases everyone, whatever the heck you think of it.

The central tunnel is pretty big, the result of having an engine in front that powers the rear wheels. All the controls are within hand's reach, but there's a lack of storage space, however. The buttons for the heated seats aren't well located and I'm often flicking them on with my right forearm. Rear-seat space is precious, but once we're settled in, we're comfortable. A sports coupe with room for four occupants is rare these days.

The navigation system impresses passengers when its screen pivots out of the top of the dash, but makes a flatulent sound every time. I didn't find it easy to use, because it doesn't have a touch-screen, so it takes
(Photo: Michel Deslauriers,
more time to operate. By the way, the DVD player for the navigation system is curiously located in the rear-seat armrest, probably from a lack of space up front, and my kids had fun constantly defying my parental authority and ejecting the disc...

The shift lever works well and the clutch is perfect; not too light, not too heavy. The steering is ultra-precise, which is one of the strong points of the RX-8, and makes the car so fun to drive.
Michel Deslauriers
Michel Deslauriers
Automotive expert