2004 Mazda RX-8 : turbo

Posted: March 18, 2012 in My Cars
Tags: , ,

Like so many of my older cars, I wish I had better pictures to share with my readers.  Unfortunately, the combination of poor cell phone technology and being a poor student, in addition to general malaise and laziness associated with being a student means that my photo documentation of this gorgeous, capable sports car is lacking.  I still have my words . . .

I purchased this car, used, with 30,000 miles.  It was immaculate, in perfect shape.  It came loaded with the Grand Touring package – red leather, 9 speaker Bose sound system, heated seats, HID projector headlights, and the navigation which popped up from the center of the dash.  The car was rather practical as well – you could fit four real sized adults in there, and the suicide doors aided ingress and egress – it would make a fun, practical family car – although the gas mileage sucked.

With no hesitation, I began to modify the car.  My first steps were to replace the pads with Project Mu Beta Force pads (loud and squeaky), and 18×8.5 and 18×9.5 Kazera KZ-A wheels with 245/40/18 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s up front and 285/35/18 Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3s in the rear – different tires because of the size availability.  I must add that the hunchbacks on www.rx8club.com all swore up and down that a staggered setup would ruin the balance of the car, and that 285s wouldn’t fit in the back.  They were wrong on both accounts.

The 285s fit perfectly flush, it was tight – but they worked.  It was important to me to have lots of meat in the back because, as I had learned with my RX-7, you need rubber to put down the power.  Not that it was producing insane amounts of power – yet.  Needless to say, the balance of the car was not upset – if anything, it handled even better with gobs of grip that just wouldn’t let go.  The car was so inherently balanced from the start its nearly impossible to screw it up.

I also have to say a word regarding the mach lip on the wheels – you have to realize that back then, this wasn’t played out – in fact, nobody had wheels like this – they were just coming out and they looked great on the car, especially with the huge meaty tires.

I completed my basic modifications (you’ll notice I always do wheels/tires/suspension before adding power) with some thick, beefy Racing Beat front and rear swaybars, and then slammed the car to the ground with Tein basic coilovers – a great choice for street driving in my opinion as they take all the guess work out of matching springs with shocks, and the rates, while high, weren’t obnoxious for street driving (like my RX-7s 1000 lb springs in all four corners).

I drove the car like this for a while.  Now, most people rip on the RX-8 for not being “fast”.  Its true, it doesn’t FEEL fast, but you have to realize that it has a 6-port design – sort of like triple VTEC – with 2 ports, then 2 more opening at 4000 rpm, and 2 more opening for the full 6, up to the redline of 9300 rpm.  Yes – 9300 frickin’ rpm.  Holy cow.  The 6 port system kept the modest torque curve absolutely flat – which meant that power built and built and built all the way to redline – that’s why it didn’t feel “fast” – there was no instant hit of power, but just smooth, seamless power delivery.  Couple that with a light curb weight of 3,000 lbs, great gearing, and the car would run a mid 14, with some guys hitting high 13s with just bolt ons – not neck snappingly fast, but fast enough to keep up with traffic, get out of its own way, and take an automatic G35 coupe from the line or a roll.

Of course, I had big plans for the car – this included bolting on a GReddy turbo kit.  Now, the good thing was that the kit was bolt on – and I did eventually make decent power from the car – roughly 360 horsepower once the emission system was removed/modified (including a totally bad-ass center exit exhaust with a rotary shaped tip – I wish I had pictures of that).  The bad part was that GReddy’s engine management is garbage and the car did have a lot of problems before it eventually ran.  But when it ran, it ran correct – I’m talking walking a BMW M5 past 160 mph fast.

I did truly love the car with the turbo – it balanced it out and made the power that the chassis should have had from the start, making it into an amazing all arounder -handling, looks, power, and a hint of practicality.  Fuel economy even went up to around 23 mpg highway, although it took a hit around town from 16 down to 15.  I probably could have corrected this with lighter wheels and improved highway economy with some basic aero modifications – but I was happy.

I have great memories of this car.  I drove it through a DC snow storm with summer tires on it, and I have to say, while it was difficult, the traction control system took a lot of the hard work away from me – unlike my RX-7, which got stuck the last time it snowed when I had that car – and I’m talking maybe an inch of snow.

My wife and I even took it to Dover, Delaware for our first date (NASCAR!).  It was awesome – blasting past people on the short passing sections of the small country roads and refusing to give up grip in the twists and turns.

Alas, I got sick of dealing with the turbo’s issues and eventually traded it in to pick up my BMW Z4 – I have to say that while I miss this car, that Z4 was also something else.  I think about picking up an RX-8 again every now and again – I could fit my kid in the back, take it to the track, autocross it, daily drive it, etc . . . but I just never get around to it.  Maybe some day . . .

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