Feel the ride


A “80s kid” is not a kid anymore but Mr Disney once said that “adults are only kids grown up”. It took me few years to get Walt’s concept. It suddenly became clear to me the moment I realised that my wife was pregnant. Nothing to do with vehicles you’d say. And you’d be wrong.

A petrolhead always look at any sort of vehicle as a toy to feed his passion. Always regardless to age.
Growing up, we gain responsibilities, the free time shrinks, almost disappear but a passion will always be one of the reasons we wake up in the morning with a smile and the relentless energy to do what we love to do.
Here I am now, 30ish, a lovely wife and our first baby due in a couple of months.
I’ll leave deeper thoughts about the obvious relevance of a baby comparing with any other materialistic possession.
A baby is a “game changer” in so many ways that it is hard to describe, here I will only consider how this change affects a man personal fleet.

Having the luck of being entitled to a company vehicle, the” family vehicle” is already sorted, meaning that I may be free to choose anything ranging from a single seater to an MPV.
As a matter of fact a single seater is already in our fleet, but it also comes with two wheels and that’s beyond any practical aspect for a family.
We need another car. Well, I need another car.
Ok I’ll rephrase it, “I want another car”. And that’s the grown kid inside me speaking.

What I am after is something RWD, four seats and possibly four doors to make my life easier in case I’d want to take the baby-to-come for a drift… well in case my wife’s reading this, I just meant “a spin”. I swear.
After asking opinions around I made my mind clear on one fact, “I am not conventional”. So don’t come to me with any “BMW 335i” like advices, since I need something definitely weirder.
What do I mean for “weird”? Is it like “Chrysler Crossfire weird”? Or it is more like “Renault Spyder weird”? Whatever it is, it has to have four seats, it has to be “unconventional” but also somehow practical and can reward with some RWD driving pleasure? My head is “spinning” like a… like a “rotor”?
Am I thinking what you think I’m thinking?
A wankel rotor? As a mechanical engineer I always had a soft spot for the rotary engine, but an RX-8? Seriously? A Mazda RX-8?

It is a bad idea, a very bad idea. My rationality tells me to look elsewhere for how “delicate” is the maintenance of this engine and chances are, that a good part of what’s available on the used market has already “passed the point” and most probably needs the engine to be rebuilt.
Somehow I convinced myself that the very bad reputation of the wankel comes from the older versions and that the new Renesis version of the engine has solved most, if not all, of its weaknesses.
I’ve also managed to convince myself that even though it isn´t turbod like the glorious RX-7, it still has over 230 bhp and revs up to 9000 rpm. Being a lover of high-revving Japanese engines I seriously cannot resist the temptation.
It took me more than a month to find the right one, only one previous owner, few miles on the clock, met-black, black leather, never been crashed and pristine conditions inside and out.
It is mine now.

Since a kid is never really satisfied with its toy I had to invest another good chunk of money for its DIY first maintenance, front brakes, fluids, spark plugs, cables, coils and now finially it sits in my garage, clean and ready.
It fits perfectly between the german-estate (boring) family car and the abovementioned two wheeler. My personal fleet now says “you’re going to be a dad in few months and this was a responsible choice”. Awwww.
The response from family and friends has been “peculiar”. It ranged between a “are you kidding me? Is this your concept of family car?” look from my wife, to a more simple “a wankel? but why?” from friends and colleagues.

After few weeks owning the toy I have to say that the Mazda RX-8 has the worst “fuel-consumption-for-fun” ratio I have ever experienced but also that it likes to oversteer at any speed. Which is good.
Why did I go through this? Here’s why.

A random day at the end of the summer, just a bit shy of 30 air degrees, fresh asphalt and a black high revving Japanese unusual machine swiping among tight mountain corners.
As tighter the corners get the car tend to understeer, its long wheelbase does not help to make it feel agile enough in these circumstances, but I’m sure that some sticky tyres may help.
Nevertheless its steering feels very precise and quite direct, exactly what you need to manage the mid-corner oversteer, to keep it sideways for as much you want.

The engine revs high, very high. And you’ll want to keep it revving as high as you can for a couple of very good reasons. First reason being its peculiar and very engaging sound and second reason for its embarrassing lack of torque and power anywhere below 5000 rpm. But even after that don’t expect much in terms of torque. There isn’t much.
But you’re not left completely alone, the gearbox is an heavenly device of jap precision, that helps you always find the right gear for the corner you are about to throw the car into.
Yes, you can literally throw the car into the corner, the over dimensioned front disks come in hand to slow it down as much as you need, as they tend to be very modulable rather than hard or strong. The very low weight of the engine and its position between the axels, close to the centre of gravity, make the car enter and turn at the apex as nothing else ever experienced before.
High revving sound, excellent gearbox to play with, direct steering and RWD mixed all together and thrown into a mountain road. My-oh-my, this is engaging!

Now it comes the question. How do I explain these sensation to other people?
To those that didn’t see it as a “responsible decision”, here I am, looking at the waiting-for-my-baby rear seats in the mirror, while drifting and listening to that 9000 rpm glorious screaming rotary engine. This is why.
I did it “just because”. Because being a petrolhead means being passionate about vehicles and engines and passion rarely goes together with logic.
And I assure you that once that scan showed me that I would have been father of a baby girl, I lost all the logic that I had left in me.

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