by Sam Livingstone
Mazdas RX8 made its international debut in production form, despite being one year away from its start of production date. The car has changed little in design from its two previous iterations in concept car form. Its most notable feature is its four door B-pillarless conceptual design, with the rear 'freestyle doors hinging from the C-pillar and so opening forwards.
This arrangement has been made possible legally by ensuring that the rear doors can only be opened when the front doors have also been opened, which is similar to the American market only Saturn coupes rear door.
The structural rigidity of this B-pillarless design has been maintained with a strong, high set centre tunnel running the length of the cabin, and the side impact performance implications have been addressed with a structural pillar built into the aluminium doors leading edge that then secures both into the roof and floor when closed.
The aesthetic design of the car leads Mazdas 'emotion in motion philosophy and differs most from its concept car predecessors with a more prominent and sharply defined grille aperture reminiscent of the racing Ferrari Testarossa of the 1960s.
One of the most striking features of the design is the strongly defined front wheelarches, springing upward and outward from the central nose form. The hood 'power bulge' and air outlets behind the front wheels also contribute to making this a very sculptural and unique front end design.
The naturally aspirated rotary engine is the source of the rotor shaped motif that appears in the rear fog lamps and in the cockpit on the gear shift, starter button and headrest. The attention to detail of the design extends to the chrome detailed interior of the front and rear lamp cans and the bevelled exhaust outlets.
The 50/50 weight distribution, low centre of mass and closely centralized polar moment of inertia from a compact powertrain positioned behind the front axle, endow the 250PS RX8 with purist sports car credentials. But, uniquely, Mazda have packaged this sports car with space for four adults and two sets of golf clubs.
Whether this formula proves to be as successful as that of the sedan based high performance coupes, like the BMW M3, remains to be seen. But whatever the commercial success of this Mazda, the RX8 is set to be one of the most interesting and innovative cars on our streets in a years time.