MONTEREY, Calif. - No compromises.
Normally, when those words are used in marketing a sports car, it means performance has been maximized at the expense of packaging or affordability.
But in the case of the Mazda RX-8, the automaker means it has not sacrificed roominess - the car seats four - or trunk space for performance. With a starting sticker price of $25,700, including destination, Mazda also is making the vehicle accessible to more households.
The previous-generation RX-7 was sold in Japan through 2002 but pulled from the U.S. lineup after the 1995 model year. At that time, its price started at $38,250.
"The sports car market is not growing worldwide, but there still are strong aspirations for them," said Noburo Katabuchi, RX-8 program manager. But once aspirants are able to afford such a car, they often have children - which usually disqualifies the car.
Does this mean that Mazda made performance sacrifices to the gods of practicality? A few. Is the RX-8 truly a sports car? Sort of. After all, it is rear-wheel drive. But is it still a sports car if it has four doors?
The base model comes with a four-speed automatic transmission and a torque converter that can handle only 210 hp, so Mazda detuned the rotary engine for that version. Those vehicles were not available during the press introduction here, so their performance could not be measured.
Mazda made available the more expensive model powered by a 250-hp version of the twin-rotor Renesis engine.
The engine, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, features two additional intake ports, a variable fresh air duct and a larger air cleaner than the 210-hp version.
It seemed quick, but there was no opportunity to calculate 0-to-60-mph times.