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August 12, 2003

READER DYLAN MORRIS WRITES: "More about the RX8 please! Throw in a pic or two if you get a chance."

Okay.

In general, my driving impressions match the ones from the test drive that I blogged earlier. Overall, the ambiance and feel is simultaneously that of a much more expensive car, and also evocative of the original, first-generation RX-7. I owned a 1980 model and loved it, though it had some rough edges.

This car doesn't have the rough edges. It's far more stable -- especially on wet roads, of which we've had a lot around here lately -- than the tailhappy first-generation RX-7. The response to the steering is very quick: think it, and it happens. I haven't broken the tail loose much, partly because of that. (The other part is that I'm carefully observing the break-in period, and I'm noticeably out of practice driving a fast rear-drive car. I haven't gone past about 7/10, though honestly on the twisty roads around here, much more than that would probably be suicidal because of the speed required versus the likelihood of finding something in the way). But the car corners like it's on rails, and when you're not pushing it you tend to wind up going a lot faster than you intended to because everything is so smooth, and so solid, that you don't quite realize just how fast you're actually going. The brakes are terrific.

Startup has the familiar burbling sound, but it dies out in a few seconds instead of a few minutes, which presumably indicates better fuel/air management. The engine note is very similar to my original RX. It's an aircraft-like sound.

The six-speed shifter is very smooth, and very positive. When I test drove the Infiniti G35 coupe I found the shifting a bit iffy, and put it down to my being rusty at driving a stick shift sports car. Nope. It just has an iffy shift mechanism.

Everyone loves the interior, which a lot of people say has an Italian look. It's very clean and un-gimmicky, but pleasing and functional. Controls are where they should be, and the car is largely free of annoying buttons and menus, as a sports car (or any car) should be. The back seat is surprisingly functional considering that the car is only a couple of inches longer than a Porsche Boxster. (The smaller size of the rotary engine makes that possible). The InstaDaughter likes it a lot, and there's room for a full-sized adult, at least for about-town short trips. (I can actually fit there if the front seat is up a bit, but I wouldn't want to stay there for very long. The InstaWife fits fine.)

The exterior turns heads everywhere I go. When the car is parked, it tends to draw a crowd, and when I drove it to the insurance office, the women there saw it through the window and ran outside to take a look. Kaus emailed me that he wasn't crazy about the look of the car, but that seems to be a minority view. I even had one guy, driving a new 350Z that still had a temporary tag in the rear window, follow me into a parking lot to look at the car. He said he wished he'd bought one instead of the 350Z, which has got to worry a lot of folks at Nissan.

I'm very happy with the car. So far I only have one complaint: the oil dipstick is a bit inconvenient. You have to pop off a plastic engine cover, then reach down among some hoses to remove it. It's no big deal, but given the need to check oil regularly on a rotary, it seems less well thought out than it might be. So far, though, I've used no measurable oil in over 500 miles. Gas mileage, on the other hand, has been so-so, but then it is a 250hp rotary, and I haven't been driving for economy.

That's pretty much it. Here's a much more technical review, for those who are interested in apex-seal composition and the like.

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