Click the image above for a gallery of the 2009 Mazda RX-8.

Mazda's redesigned RX-8 has officially been released into the wild and, surprise, it's exactly the same as the RS model that debuted at the Tokyo Auto Salon, right down to the wheels. Mazda admits that the 2009 RX-8 is simply a mild evolution of the outgoing model, with a few changes to the exterior and interior, along with a couple of mechanical revisions and a new suspension package.

On the outside, the RX-8's shape is largely unchanged, with a new front and rear bumper, restyled front fascia and larger exhaust pipes. Inside, Mazda has redone the instrument panel and included a "variable red-zone" on the tach that indicates when the Wankel is up to operating temperature (similar to BMW's M-powered products).

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Related Gallery2009 Mazda RX-8 R3


The mild refreshening continues underhood with a 232-hp two-rotor RENESIS fitted with a six-speed manual. When fitted with the six-speed auto 'box and steering wheel-mounted paddles, it churns out 212 hp. Some additional chassis bracing increases rigidity, along with a trapezoidal strut tower brace and new suspension geometry that keep things planted out back. The manual-equipped models also benefit from a lower differential ratio, from 4.777 to 4.444.

The real news, however, is the optional R3 package for the RX-8. This includes the rear spoiler, 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, side sills and fog lamps. The stock seats are swapped out for stunning thrones from Recaro and Bilstein was tapped by Mazda to provide the shocks.

It's all evolutionary, but we'd be lying if we said it was the reason for our trip to Mazda's booth later today. That goes by the name Furai and we'll have live pics of both models in the afternoon.


PRESS RELEASE

2009 MAZDA RX-8: FURTHER EVOLUTION FOR THE ROTARY REVOLUTION

Launched in 2003, the Mazda RX-8 hit the global market with a serious bang. The RX-8 has won more than 50 global awards since its release including 2003 RJC Car of the Year in Japan Australia's Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 2003, 2003 International Engine of the Year, 2004 Singapore Car of the Year, the 2004 U.S. Best Sports Car and UK Car of the Year 2004. It was also named on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 2004, 2005, and 2006. All together, Mazda has sold nearly 167,000 RX-8s around the world.

For 2009, Mazda will further the evolution of the four-door, four-seater sports coupe, giving RX-8 a refreshed exterior and interior design, enhanced performance and a new R3 sport package for the ultimate driving enthusiast.


Unchanged is the core of the RX-8 – a high-powered, lightweight and perfectly balanced machine powered by the world-renowned twin-rotor RENESIS rotary engine.

"Dating back to the Cosmo Sport released in 1967, every sports car ever developed by Mazda has had the same fundamental mission – to provide car lovers with a vehicle that's fun-to-drive, exciting to look at and easy to own," said Tetsu Nakazawa, Mazda North American Operations' RX-8 vehicle line manager. "The 2009 RX-8 embodies that mission, conveying the unique and distinctive Mazda brand DNA to the fullest."

To enhance the highly successful RX-8, Mazda engineers focused on innovation in three key areas for the 2009 RX-8: styling, performance and packaging. "The enhancements made to RX-8's exterior, interior, packaging and performance takes it to a whole new level of visual and driving excitement," remarked Nakazawa.

STYLING INNOVATION – REFRESHED DESIGN CUES PROVIDE "HIGH-QUALITY" DYNAMISM

RX-8 was designed with an athletically sculpted exterior that provides a sense of originality that's unrivaled in the marketplace today. For 2009, RX-8 receives design enhancements that are meant to freshen the styling and give RX-8 a new look, without impairing the basic design theme. Refinements for the 2009 model year include restyled front and rear bumpers and front fascia; sporty, high quality finish front and rear headlamps; and larger exhaust pipes (now measuring 90 mm across). The 2009 RX-8 also offers a new five-spoke wheel design featuring a symbolic and sporty design reminiscent of the rotary engine, with different arrangements for each wheel size.

Taut muscular lines give RX-8 the liberating look of an athlete in motion. The muscular styling maintains classic sports car proportions while adding a Zoom-Zoom edge that is unmistakably Mazda.

The RX-8's unique "freestyle" four-door design is proof that a true sports car does not need to sacrifice space or convenience for performance. The advanced design of the rear-hinged rear doors, provides a large door opening, allowing adult-sized passengers to easily enter and exit the vehicle. This design is also advantageous when securing a baby or a small child in the back seat. With a spacious rear seat area providing ample passenger room for four full-size adults, and enough trunk space for a weekend's worth of luggage, this sports car proves its versatility.

The RX-8's exterior styling presents a genuine sports car form, while the interior boasts a comfortable and intelligently designed cabin. Minor enhancements were made for the 2009 RX-8 to provide a simple and functional interior design that supports driving pleasure. The center IP shape was redesigned to give a feeling of dynamic movement, a variable red-zone was added to the tachometer that will rise as the engine comes to operating temperature and a new steering wheel and redesigned front and rear seats are also added.

An extremely low cabin floor allows the seats to be mounted low in the chassis, which, along with a low instrument cluster and hood, allows a low center of gravity and allows outstanding occupant visibility. Mazda designers concentrated on the shape of the front seat backs and the rear seat cushions to ensure adequate rear-seat knee room. Front seat slide-rails are positioned to allow maximum leg room for rear-seat passengers.

The rotary design element is incorporated through the interior of the RX-8 in creative ways, appearing in the seats. The stylish cabin also evokes a sense of luxury and high-end quality. Mazda's design team examined every aspect and component of the interior and has created an elegant, driver-centric atmosphere. Through the use of advanced ergonomic research, Mazda engineers determined that improper seating posture is a major cause of driver fatigue and built in optimum support in the front seats to help offset discomfort. In addition, the color of the RX-8's instrument cluster was developed to reduce eye fatigue and strain.

PERFORMANCE INNOVATION – MORE SPORTS CAR DRIVING PLEASURE

Through-and-through, the RX-8 is a pure sports car that gives the driver an exciting and dynamic experience. For 2009, engineers improved RX-8 body rigidity through the addition of structural reinforcements, by adding a trapezoidal strut tower bar and enhancing the local rigidity of the front suspension tower areas. Also, the rear suspension geometry has been reconfigured for better handling performance and driveshaft rigidity is improved, lowering NVH levels and improving performance.

In addition, the differential gear ratio on manual transmission-equipped cars is lowered from 4.444 to 4.777 for improved off-the-line performance. While minimal, these performance changes give RX-8 increased acceleration and performance, as well as even greater responsiveness to the accelerator pedal – always a rotary-engine and
RX-8 hallmark.

To achieve this sophisticated dynamic, Mazda utilizes the advanced RENESIS (Rotary Engine genesis – or rebirth of the rotary engine) engine. The Mazda RX-8 remains the only mass-produced rotary-powered passenger car in the world. While exhibiting unusually high power output for a naturally aspirated engine, RENESIS outstrips comparable reciprocating engines in terms of acceleration, the feeling of power in reserve and quick response.

The 2009 Mazda RX-8 is available as either a 232-horsepower model fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, or a 212-horsepower model fitted with a six-speed Sport A/T automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a Formula 1-style driving experience.

By turning a triangular rotor in a cocoon-shaped combustion chamber, the RX-8's rotary engine efficiently performs the four processes of intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. The RENESIS engine is remarkably smooth and high revving - all the way to 9,000 rpm (7,500 rpm on Sport A/T–equipped models) - and offers a smaller engine footprint than traditional internal combustion engines (some 60 percent smaller and lighter than a comparably powered V-6, and 40 percent smaller and lighter than a four-cylinder). In fact, the packaging and styling that define the RX-8 would not have been possible had Mazda engineers chosen a conventional piston engine.

Improving upon 40 years of rotary designs, the RENESIS engine features side intake and exhaust ports with nearly 30 percent more intake port and twice as much exhaust port than its predecessors. The efficiencies gained through shortening intake/exhaust overlapping period and using the larger intake and exhaust ports in delivering world-class performance.

The RX-8's normally aspirated 1.3-liter engine might appear diminutive to the untrained eye when compared to large-displacement V-8s or heavyweight V-10s or V-12s. However, through the incredible efficiencies of a rotary powerplant, an advanced three-stage intake system and an electronic throttle, the RENESIS engine delivers smooth, linear power on a grand scale.

The RX-8 uses an aluminum double-wishbone front suspension, reducing unsprung weight over the use of steel components. By mounting the upper and lower arms on a highly rigid sub-frame, the long arms ensure linear alignment changes throughout the jounce and rebound of the front wheels. All corners are fitted with mono-tube gas-filled shock absorbers designed with large-diameter internal pistons and valving, which offer excellent road feedback and a smooth ride.

An electric rack-and-pinion power-steering system transmits just the right amount of road information back to the driver. Mazda engineers have chosen to pursue their own path by using an electric motor for steering assistance rather than a conventional power-steering pump. The electric motor provides additional assistance at low speeds to ease parking and reduces steering assistance at higher speeds to provide greater road feel, responsiveness and feedback. And, in keeping with the rest of the development on RX-8, it is far lighter and easier to package than a conventional power-steering rack.

PACKAGING INNOVATIONS – ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE RX-8 R3

To cater to the driving-conscious enthusiast, the 2009 RX-8 will offer a new R3 sport package. Providing the very best in rotary-powered motoring, the R3 harkens back to the R1 and R2 packages offered on the mighty third-generation RX-7, and adds a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and front suspension crossmembers filled with urethane foam. Filling the crossmembers makes for a smoother ride, minimized NVH and greater suspension control.

On the visual side of the package, a rear spoiler, side sills, fog lights and sporty front bumper are added to give an aggressive appearance, along with 19-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels with high performance tires. Inside, the R3 adds a 300-watt Bose® audio system with Centerpoint® surround sound and AudioPilot® noise compensation technology, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, front Recaro sport seats with leather side bolsters, leather-wrapped parking brake handle and Mazda advanced keyless entry and start system.

Three other trim levels are also offered including: a Sport trim, a Touring trim (adds HID headlights, fog lamps, auto dimming mirror with Homelink® and 6-disc auto changer on top of the Sport trim features and DSC; add 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension and larger front disc brakes to these items for A/T cars, and Bose® audio system, moonroof, SIRIUS satellite radio are offered as the package option), and a Grand Touring trim (on top of the Touring trim features, adds automatic air conditioner, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Bose® audio system auto headlight, rain sensing wiper, power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support and memory function, leather seating surfaces - heated front seats- and heated outside mirrors and Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry & Start system. A DVD-driven satellite-navigation unit is available as a stand-alone option and uses a single DVD for mapping the entire United States and portions of Canada. Additionally, a moon roof and SIRIUS satellite radio are offered as an package option.)

All Mazdas come with a roadside assistance program. With a call to a toll-free number, owners can access roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, a comprehensive three-year/36,000-mile warranty covers every part on the vehicle except those subject to normal wear. Also, all models receive a five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and a five-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty.

SUPERIOR SAFETY

When designing the RX-8, safety was given as much of a priority as was performance. For Mazda, the safety process incorporates both accident avoidance and accident protection. In effect, this approach to safety means the RX-8 can help the driver avoid various dangers and protect occupants in the unfortunate event of a collision. In rollover tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the RX-8 achieved an impressive five-star rating.

Mazda engineers integrated numerous active and passive safety elements throughout the car. Active safety features, which require input from the driver, include the use of large ABS-equipped disc brakes on all wheels as well as precise steering and suspension systems. Dynamic Stability Control (available on Sport models with Performance package, standard on Touring and Grand Touring) delivers a superior level of handling that can be disabled when driving and road conditions allow safe operation.

Passive systems, or those that take effect automatically without the driver's involvement, also are present throughout the RX-8. Despite the absence of a center B-pillar, the RX-8 has an exceptionally rigid body, accomplished through the use of the vertical pillars built in the rear doors and a series of locking pins, which hold the doors together and bind each door directly into the roof and floor. Integrating the frame components helps dissipate crash energy through the vehicle's structure.

Other standard passive systems on the RX-8 include front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags. Additionally, the front end and engine bay have ample crumple zones, the front seats are designed to reduce whiplash injuries, the brake pedal is designed to break away in the event of a collision of sufficient force to protect feet and legs and all four seating positions are fitted with three-point seatbelts. Even pedestrian protection was considered, as the RX-8 is fitted with Mazda's "shock-cone" hood design that yields more to the impact of a pedestrian onto the hood than a standard design, yet is strong enough to not deform in normal use.

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.