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December 15, 2003

RX-8 UPDATE: Several readers -- including one who says he's a product analyst at Mazda -- have emailed recently to ask for a longer-term evaluation of the RX-8. So here it is.

The short answer is that I continue to love the car, and in fact appreciate it more as time goes on. It has a wonderfully balanced feel. It's a car that you wear as much as drive. It's not the fastest car I've ever driven, though it's quite fast, but it's definitely the most fun to drive. Pushing down on the accelerator going into a curve causes it to plant itself even more solidly on the road and just zip through. (The only problem is that you can wind up going a lot faster than you realize; fine as long as you stay on the road, but as Tim Blair noted, if you get in trouble at that speed, you're really in trouble. . . ). The feeling is extremely secure and taut.

The gearshift is a joy: smooth and positive. Unlike the shift in the 350Z or the Infiniti G35 coupe, it's very slick and not at all notchy. As with the steering, you think it, you don't think about it. Braking is just terrific, and although the ride is fairly taut, it's not uncomfortable. The seats are very comfortable -- to my surprise, they're some of the most comfortable seats I've ridden in, even over some distance. Trunk space, while nothing to write home about, isn't bad for a car this small (though the trunk opening is narrow), and you honestly can put grownups in the back seats. You wouldn't want to ride back there for a cross-country trip, but for normal-sized adults it's fine for a cross-town ride. There are plenty of cupholders (4) and storage compartments in the cabin, and the sound system is great.

Reliability so far has been fine -- no problems at all. The only complaint I have is that the oil dipstick is hard to reach -- buried down deep amid hoses and pipes. It looks as if they could have made the dipstick longer; I don't know why they didn't. That's a pretty minor flaw, though. Except for the fact that the passenger door can't be opened with a key from the drivers' side (you have to use the wireless clicker, or hit the unlock button inside the car) that's my only real complaint. The "night" setting on the control panel could be a bit brighter, as it washes out a bit even on maximum brightness if you have the headlights on during the day, but you can override that by selecting the "day" setting easily enough.

I've enjoyed the car very much, and I'd certainly buy it again. Here's my earlier post.