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Photos: 2008 Mazda RX-8

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CNET Reviews staff
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From its distinctive exterior styling to its unique rotary engine, the Mazda RX-8 is a mold-breaker. It is in serious need of a cabin-tech upgrade, but its precise handling and high-revving engine are a joy.
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The RX-8's suicide--or "freestyle"--doors open and close without the need for a B-pillar. For this design to work, the back door has to be closed before the front door (which latches to it, as it would to a B-pillar).
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The real story with the RX-8 is its 1.3-liter Renesis rotary engine, which is the only one of its kind currently in production. It works by replacing the pistons, valves, and other reciprocating parts of a regular internal combustion engine with two chambers, each containing a three-sided rotor orbiting a central axle. Despite its low displacement, the rotary engine puts out around 240 horsepower.
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While the stereo head unit may be something out of the 20th century, the audio in RX-8's cabin plays via a premium Bose-branded sound system, which delivers plenty of bass-line punch.
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The RX-8's Grand Touring's standard audio system comprises an in-dash, six-disc changer without the ability to read MP3 or WMA discs. From the evidence of a redundant button on the right of the stereo, it appears that the RX-8 may have once offered tape deck and even minidisc playback capabilities.
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The performance difference between the low end of the RX-8's rpm range and the top end is remarkable. Peak power arrives at a stratospheric 8,500rpm, 500 short of the redline.
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The RX-8 comes with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Thankfully, our test car came with the former, complete with triangular, rotary-themed trim.
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Our test car came with the optional "rotary accent package," which includes two polished badges of the same shape attached underneath the front and rear bumpers.
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With its distinctive high-revving rotary-engine and comic-book exterior styling, the Mazda RX-8 differentiates from the competition.
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Another notable feature of the RX-8's design is the prevalence of triangular symbols inside and out: A reference to the engine's three-sided rotor, these devices adorn the headrests, the gear shifter, and even the top of the hood, giving the cabin a slightly Masonic feel.

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