Eighty-four-year-old Peter Francis wants to change his Audi A3 1.
Eighty-four-year-old Peter Francis wants to change his Audi A3 1.8T Sport for what he believes will be his last car. He is intrigued by the Mazda RX8 but is concerned that this is the only rotary- engined car on sale. Reliability and specialist servicing are uppermost in Peter's mind as he considers whether an RX8 is worth buying.
First of all, hats off to Peter for not taking the easy option of an automatic hatchback. The RX8 is an inspired choice because no other sports car has a rotary engine and no other sports car has four doors. Here is a Mazda with just about everything going for it, with absolutely stunning looks, room for four inside plus a dynamically satisfying drive. Just about every published road test has commented on what a wonderfully accomplished package it is.
The four-door set-up is clever and practical, even if you just want to throw a coat and shopping in the rear seat. The RX8 functions as both a proper practical vehicle and a focused sports car. The most remarkable thing is that Mazda is only charging from £20,100 to £22,100.
The one drawback of the rotary engine is that petrol consumption is on the high side and it returns just over 35mpg overall. Oil consumption can also be considerable in the early stages. My friends at Car magazine found themselves tipping in a pint every 800 miles. However, I have also spoken to people who have paid for an RX8 with their own money and who thus probably treated it more gently and they report no undue thirst for oil.
A car for the head
Essentially Peter should not worry too much about reliabilty. Mazda knows what it is doing and has been refining the RX7 concept for decades. Indeed, for less than half the cost of an RX8, he could buy an RX7. It is gorgeous to look at with curves in all the right places and punchy supercar performance to go with the sensational styling: 150 mph and 0-60 mph in six seconds. This Mazda is not just another Japanese coupé, it is the most radical, exciting and underrated performance car ever and arguably several degrees cooler than an RX8 and its trick doors.
Every bit as well built as a Porsche and arguably more involving than a dozen other Japanese clone coupés, the RX7 always has been tremendous value for money. The secret is buying a decent example, then being committed to keeping it that way with the correct servicing schedule.
It needs TLC but, once an RX7 is running sweetly, it is love. There is no generally agreed life of a rotary unit, but they can fail below 70,000 miles. Most commonly it is O-ring failure, which is pretty much the equivalent of a normal engine's head gasket. Mazda Rx-7 Owners Club (www.rx7club.co.uk) is the best bet. The newest club covering all rotaries is www.mazdarotaryclub.com.
A car for the heart
Peter could buy an Audi TT which is now around in large numbers at low prices, but again for less than £10,000 he could buy a futuristic coupé with the most charismatic of badges. If he buys a Porsche 928, he will not meet one coming the other way, and it has pop-up headlights and an absolutely massive V8 engine.
A former car of the year (1978) the 928 still looks like the future. The ultimate GT model has 330bhp, which translates into a 168mph top speed and 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds. The handling is brilliantly neutral. For some, the steering may seem a trifle heavy but is still so precise. Pushing a 928 to the point of tyre squeal only provokes the slightest of slips, warning you to back off, a bit. The 928 is a full-on supercar which behaves impeccably under everyday driving conditions. You can get all this (list price in the early 1990s, £50,000-£70,000) for absolute peanuts. That V8 is unburstable but do buy a well-maintained example. Porsche Club GB (www.porscheclubgb.com) has great resources, especially the Post magazine for its members and contacts to specialists, and it costs £49.
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