2009 Mazda RX-8 R3 – Click above for high-res image gallery Hard as it may be to believe, the word "hummer" didn't always bring up visions of obnoxious, polarizing SUVs. In fact, there was a time not so very long ago that uttering that word evoked something entirely different, namely cars powered by Wankel rotary engines. For the past three decades, the world's sole purveyor of rotary-powered automobiles has been Mazda. The "Zoom-Zoom" brand has always been a little different from its compatriots. Back in 1963, a young Kenichi Yamamoto was heading up the research department at Mazda and latched on to the concept developed a decade earlier by Felix Wankel. Just as two-stroke engines were all the rage for a time in the early 1990s and fuel cells in the middle of this decade, the Wankel rotary seemed to be the next big thing in the 1960s and early '70s. For a time it seemed every major automaker had licensed the design from Wankel and was trying to commercialize it. Some like NSU did build rotaries while General Motors and Daimler Benz built an assortment of concept cars. By the mid-'70s, all had given up except Yamamoto-san and Mazda. From the original 1967 Cosmo, Mazda has built an unbroken string of hummers culminating with the recently updated 2009 RX-8 R3. The pony-keg sized power plant isn't the only unique element of the RX-8, which you can read all about that after the jump. %Gallery-33988% Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc. The car that really made the rotary famous in North America was the RX-7 sports car. Unfortunately, the RX-7 made a premature exit from the U.S. market after the 1995 model year, although it hung around in Japan until 2002. With its two-seat configuration (although rear "jump seats" were offered in Japan for some weird legal reason), the RX-7 was a true sports car. Unfortunately, "sports car" is one of those terms that always seems to cause contention among the zealots in any subject area. The truly hard core will undoubtedly argue that only an open top two seater with SU carbs can be a sports car. We prefer to look at the functionality of a machine and see if the name fits. When Mazda revamped its rotary design, called it the Renesis and dropped it into the RX-8 body shell with four proper seats and a corresponding number of doors, clearly the traditional definition of a sports car didn't apply any more. If you disregard the secondary half doors that provide access to the rear passenger compartment, the RX-8 certainly has the looks to be a sports car, especially in its newly face-lifted 2009 form. The RX-8 was the first in Mazda's lineup to get the brand's bold-fendered look. Thanks to the diminutive engine package, the RX-8 has a relatively short hood, but its overall proportions still have the cab rearward look one expects of the genre. That feeling is further enhanced for 2009 with …
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|MPG||16 City / 22 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd man w/OD|
|Power||232 @ 8500 rpm|
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