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Photos: 2009 Mazda RX-8 R3

With a unique and sporty design, the 2009 Mazda RX-8 R3 will turn heads, but it doesn't quite live up to its looks, and Mazda left out some key tech elements.

CNET Reviews staff

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Mazda added a trim level to the RX-8 for 2009, the R3, which brings in some sport and cabin tech elements.
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The R3 trim brings in Bilstein shocks and Mazda fills the front cross-strut with urethane, both measures improving the handling and softening some of the rough edges from the suspension.
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The RX-8 R3 still relies on the 1.3-liter Renesis rotary engine, which means it suffers from low torque and poor gas mileage.
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This stabilizer bar, running between the tops of the two front shock absorbers, comes standard and contributes to the RX-8's excellent handling.
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The RX-8 is one of the most interesting looking sports cars available. The wing on the trunk lid is part of the R3 trim.
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19-inch wheels come standard with the R3 trim.
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The high-point of the RX-8 is its handling. During hard cornering we could feel it pivot nicely, with the back end coming out in a very controlled manner.
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Although there is room for four people in the cabin, the trunk space is limited, and can only really fit luggage for two.
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The RX-8 offers easy access to the reasonably-sized back seats with its rear half doors.
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Recaro seats come standard with the R3 trim. They have prominent side bolsters to keep you in place, but they have no power adjustment.
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Navigation is unavailable with the R3 trim, although it comes standard with the Japanese equivalent trim.
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Steering is very responsive in the RX-8 R3. We also like how Mazda integrates the steering wheel controls on the horizontal spokes.
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We noted a lot of wasted space on the instrument cluster. The speedometer is strictly digital, while the tachometer is prominent in the center.
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For the RX-8 R3, Mazda lowered the first gear ratio. Unfortunately, that doesn't solve the low torque problem.
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Mazda's unique stereo controls become annoying when you just want to adjust the volume.
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The R3 trim comes standard with a 300-watt Bose audio system, which includes Bose's Centerpoint surround processing.
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Although the standard Bluetooth phone system is voice controlled, you do get feedback on the center display.
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The audio system includes eight speakers, with a subwoofer and centerfill. The sound is good, although not the best we've ever heard.

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