The rotary-engined sports coupe is reborn in Mazda's strikingly original new RX8 coupe.
Mazda turns on the hyperbole in its media information on the innovative four-door, saying it has "the look and feel of a high performance athlete ready to spring into action."
Well, that's simply hyperbole but we do agree with the company's assertion that the car has a "dynamic look" that mingles with "stability and tension."
One of the key elements is the bonnet design. It sweeps forward like the engine cover of a 1950s, front-engined Formula 1 car to finish in a large and bold air intake.
The front fenders have a cycle guard look about them that is reminiscent of the makeshift sports racing cars that were often cobbled together from 1950s single seater race cars.
The four-door cabin has a two-door look. There are no outside handles on the rear-hinged back doors which can't be opened until the conventionally-hinged front doors have been opened.
The shape of the cabin and the car's rear end also evoke 1950s sports race cars, particularly the rounded-tail coupes built purely for racing by Ferrari, Lancia and Maserati.
Those cars had muscular styling that reinforced the muscularity of their powertrains and chassis. The RX8 has a similar feel.
It draws, too, on Mazda rotary sports car heritage, with the rear screen evoking RX7s.
There are contemporary Mazda cues, too, like the striking rear lights which take inspiration from the successful Mazda 6 sedan and wagon. Mazda calls the RX8's pillar-less centre-opening door system freestyle.
It's an ingenious set-up that is pivotal to the RX8's uniqueness. And the lack of a central pillar makes a large door opening that allows easy access to the front and rear seats.
For safety, the rear doors don't open until the corresponding front door is also open. They're operated by handles set into the leading edge the rear doors.
All four doors feature an original construction that benefits from the latest computer analysis and rigorous impact tests to assure the highest levels of safety.
When the doors are all closed, a high-strength vertical steel pipe in the rear doors act as a built-in pillar. Mazda says it provides greater strength than even conventional centre pillars.
In addition to giving the vehicle a dynamic shape Mazda also looked at ways to reduce the weight of the vehicle and improve aerodynamics to maximise performance. These included using a lightweight material for the rear window and the use of a flat roof to improve high speed stability.
The interior is classy.
The instrument panel uses mainly conventional analogue dials, but the speedometer is a digital read-out in the tachometer - a useful touch in these days of rigid speed limit enforcement.
A nine-speaker Bose high-performance six-disc Compact Disc sound system is fitted. It has a high-gloss piano black control system and steering wheel mounted auxiliary controls.
Other features include climate controlled air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, and an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat.
Interior trim combinations include stylish black leather or the striking black and red leather combination which features red leather trim on part of the steering wheel and the seats.
The four bucket seats are ergonomically sculptured to provide optimal support.
Mazda NZ is evaluating a brown and black leather trim option which looks particularly good and gives the cockpit a unique ambience.
The exterior colour options are Velocity Red, Winning Blue, Lightning Yellow, Brilliant Black and Titanium Grey.
The grey is particularly attractive, especially in combination with the black and brown leather trim option.
The boot is deep and spacious, though NZ cars get a space-saver wheel which robs some luggage capacity. Cars sold elsewhere don't have a spare and rely on a puncture repair kit to provide get-you-home assistance.
The initial RX8 shipment is already sold out, which isn't surprising, given the attractive $61,995 pricetag.
Both the six-speed manual and activematic five-speed with manual shift automatic gearbox versions are identically priced.
Making the car additionally attractive is Mazda's three year/100,000 kilometre free scheduled servicing plan.
- Mike Stock. Photos by Mazda.
Full driving impressions in next week's Auto Trader.
Specifications of the Mazda RX8.
Type. Four-door, four-seater sports coupe.
Engine. 1308cc (654cc twin rotor) rotary. Maximum power: 177kW at 8200rpm (manual); 141kW at 7000rpm (auto). Peak torque: 211Nm at 5500rpm (manual); 220Nm at 5000rpm (auto). Multi-point fuel injection.
Transmission. Six-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox. Rear-wheel drive. Limited-slip differential.
Wheels. 18-inch by 8.0-inch alloy.
Tyres. 225/45 R18 91W.
Suspension. Front, double wishbones. Rear, multi-link.
Steering. Electric power-assisted rack and pinion.
Brakes. Ventilated discs with ABS and electronic brake force distribution.
Performance. 0-96km/h, 5.9 seconds. 0-160km/h, 15.8 seconds. Top speed, 250km/h. Fuel consumption (manufacturer's figures): 12.6 litres/100km (manual); 12.2 litres/100km (auto). Turning circle, 10.6 metres.
Dimensions. Length, 4435mm. Width, 1770mm. Height, 1340mm.
Wheelbase, 2700mm. Ground clearance, 120mm. Front track, 1500mm. Rear track, 1505mm. Kerb weight, 1354kg (manual); 1381kg (auto). Fuel tank capacity, 61 litres pg 96 octane unleaded.