May 24, 2004

RX-8 REPORT: I turned my grades in this morning, and set out for a picture-taking drive through the boonies. It was nice, and along the way the RX-8 turned over 5000 miles. Since people occasionally email to ask what my longer-term impressions are, I thought I’d record a few here.

Overall, I feel about like I did when it was new. It’s phenomenally balanced — so much so that you sometimes forget just how fast it is. The gearshift is smooth, and the engine is very responsive. The steering is taut, and has good feedback. The brakes are fabulous.

I’ve found that I actually like the interior and the driver’s seat more than I did when I bought it. The seat is more comfortable, even on fairly long trips, than the seat in my Passat, which is saying something.

Fuel economy doesn’t suck, especially given the horsepower, but it’s nothing to write home about. I get in the low 20s on the highway, the upper teens in town. (Extended high-rev trips in the mountains push it lower, though; the Passat’s better, but then it has less than 2/3 the horsepower). Oil consumption — something that rotaries have issues with — hasn’t been bad. I added one quart between buying the car and doing the 5000-mile oil change last week. However, you are supposed to check the oil regularly. I do, and the dipstick location, to put it mildly, sucks. (The oil-volume sensor will sometimes falsely tell you that you’re low on oil; it seems sensitive to a combination of slope and jiggle that a couple of roads I’ve encountered possess, giving a false low reading that goes away after a minute. Be sure to check before you add more oil!)

A guy in a big pickup dinged me with his trailer hitch in the parking lot a couple of months back. I kept honking, but he just couldn’t see me. This made a hole about the size of, well, a trailer hitch in the plastic panel surrounding the right-side exhaust. To my pleasant surprise, replacing the part cost only $36.

Bottom line: I can drive the car all day, have a blast, and get out less tired than when I got in. So I’m happy. If you want more technical stuff, here’s a long-term review from Auto Week. And here’s an interesting article on the hand-assembly process used on the engine. (Thanks to reader Jim Herd for both links.)