Short on options
Inside, the Mazda RX-8's cabin is comfortable and contemporary, without a hint of wood grain or the faux-fiber and brushed-steel accents that seem to dominate current interior designs. Front bucket seats are firm and supportive with enough side bolstering to keep occupants in place during aggressive driving.
Controls are fairly intuitive and grouped within easy reach, although there are a few more buttons than necessary. The stereo has both a seek and a tune function, in the form of a rocker switch and a knob below it, where one switch could easily do both tasks. The same is true with the moonroof, where open and tilt functions are separately switched.
The control that does work flawlessly is the six-speed transmission lever. It feels like it's connected directly to the gears beneath it, providing short, precise connections with each gear. A soft, yet direct clutch action works nicely with the transmission to make the most of Mazda's modest 159 pound-feet of torque.
There's little in the high-tech touch-and-feel department to thrill and amaze gadget aficionados. You won't find a Bluetooth interface for cell phones or keyless starting lurking inside the RX-8, but you'll find a well-equipped sports car with solid performance that's priced just above compact sedans. For those who want more, a Grand Touring package adds a 300-watt Bose stereo, heated and powered leather seats, a moonroof, HomeLink, xenon headlights, fog lights, and stability control. The package also adds $4,250 to the window sticker.