Mazda added a trim level to the RX-8 for 2009, the R3, which brings in some sport and cabin tech elements.
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.
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.
This stabilizer bar, running between the tops of the two front shock absorbers, comes standard and contributes to the RX-8's excellent handling.
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.
19-inch wheels come standard with the R3 trim.
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.
Although there is room for four people in the cabin, the trunk space is limited, and can only really fit luggage for two.
The RX-8 offers easy access to the reasonably-sized back seats with its rear half doors.
Recaro seats come standard with the R3 trim. They have prominent side bolsters to keep you in place, but they have no power adjustment.
Navigation is unavailable with the R3 trim, although it comes standard with the Japanese equivalent trim.
Steering is very responsive in the RX-8 R3. We also like how Mazda integrates the steering wheel controls on the horizontal spokes.
We noted a lot of wasted space on the instrument cluster. The speedometer is strictly digital, while the tachometer is prominent in the center.
For the RX-8 R3, Mazda lowered the first gear ratio. Unfortunately, that doesn't solve the low torque problem.
Mazda's unique stereo controls become annoying when you just want to adjust the volume.
The R3 trim comes standard with a 300-watt Bose audio system, which includes Bose's Centerpoint surround processing.
Although the standard Bluetooth phone system is voice controlled, you do get feedback on the center display.
The audio system includes eight speakers, with a subwoofer and centerfill. The sound is good, although not the best we've ever heard.