Mazda revealed the RX-8 sports car in 2004. It was meant to be a successor of the legendary RX-7, but took on the innovative shape of a “4-door quad coupe”, having two extra suicide rear doors, an unusual and rare shape to this day.
Mazda kept the Wankel rotary engine alive, installing a rev-happy 1.3-liter in a front mid-mount layout. However, it never captured people’s imagination the same way as the RX-7, which remains a cult classic, one of the Top 3 JDM legends.
Some might argue that the RX-8 didn’t have the Porsche-rivaling performance of its predecessor. But the unconventional styling also played a part. And so, more than 10 years after the end of production, it would be interesting to see what an RX-8 might look like in 2023.
YouTube artist TheSketchMonkey took it upon himself to modernize and update this sports car. But the short history presented at the beginning of the video is just as interesting as the Photoshop process that follows. First, we’re reminded of the Mazda RX-01 concept, presented at the 1995 Tokyo Auto Show.
This was supposed to be a preview of the Wankel sports car’s future. But the overlords at Ford didn’t think Mazda needed another sports car beside the Miata. So when the RX-7 reached the end of the line in 2002, it took quite a while for this RX-8 project to get underway.
TheSketchMonkey also mentions how the RX-8 was designed by the son of the guy who dreamed up the RX-7. Just to clarify, Matasaburo Maeda was the chief designer of the first-generation Mazda RX-7, made in 1978, not the last model you’re probably thinking about.
Mazda calls this “The Maedas’ Touch.” Ikuo explains that there’s a difference between his design philosophy and that of his father’s: “If you called my father’s design quiet and sleek, mine is both dynamic and full of movement. He was trained as an engineer and his work reflected the trend for the simple and functional, whereas I have been breaking away from that and representing the more emotional brand of today.”
Even though the RX-8 design is unloved, it’s actually quite successful because they made 192,000 units compared to just 68,600 for the third-generation (FD3S) MX-7. Part of that has to do with price and availability.
If you search for the right RX-8, it will begin to grow on you. There’s a version called the R3 in Japan with a bumper that was supposed to go on the Mazdaspeed version that they never made. Also, a late model Grand Touring with the wing and chin spoiler is nifty.
Anyway, what do you think of the 2023 Mazda RX-8 redesign rendering? It’s got much nicer creases down the sides and a nose it stole from the latest MX-5 Miata. But for me, the suicide doors still make it uncomfortable to look at. It’s not ugly, just an uncanny shape you don’t normally see on a car.