Driving Habits


New owners are often unsure of how to drive the RX-8. They hear things about "don't drive it like a normal car", and "redline every day", and "shift at the beep", and don't really understand what they mean. Perhaps you haven't heard any of these, and are wondering, "why is there even an article about how to drive it?" Unfortunately, the answer can be quite confusing.

High RPM vs Low RPM

First, a core fact to understand is that the rotary engine loves to rev. It really does. It has all it's power up high in the RPM range, and it has no torque in low RPM. So the very nature of a rotary engine is higher revs. It only has 3 moving parts, and they handle high RPM very very well. Why? Because nothing is stopping and starting, it's just spinning. The engine is also very small, so there isn't much mass that is actually spinning around. So high RPM is nothing to be afraid of at all, and high RPM is NOT abuse.

In fact, the reverse is true. A rotary engine that spends too much time under 3,000rpm like a piston engine'ed car will likely be carbon choked to death. This is on top of spending all your time at low RPM where there is no torque, so it will feel incredibly gutless and poor performing. Low RPM lugging IS abuse to a rotary engine.

But watch that cooling!

High RPM does have it's issues though. The engine loves it, but the cooling system and transmission fluid do NOT. Extended periods of time over 7,000rpm on a stock cooling system will result in overheating and probably an engine failure from that overheating. It will also be cooking the transmission fluid significantly if done at lower speeds. Light load at high RPM also just generates lots of exhaust heat too, which isn't healthy for the side seals.

Cruise at 3,500-4,500rpm

One of the few places the engine can sit calmly and comfortably for long periods of time is in the cruise range, 3,500-4,500rpm. The engine is quite happy there, and this is where you should be cruising in light throttle steady-speed driving. Pick whichever gear you need to put your RPMs here, and leave it there.

Redline a day

There is a common saying about "Redline a day!". This isn't a strict regimine to follow, and it isn't even trying to say that doing this will prevent any problems. What this is actually trying to convey is to simply have fun with the car. Don't be scared of redline, and make sure you hit it regularly on full throttle acceleration, even in 1st or 2nd gear, which is entirely doable within speed limit restrictions. If you DON'T periodically redline you will definitely have carbon choking problems, so redline regularly to be sure that you aren't deliberately causing problems.
Note that "redline" in this case is about 8,500rpm, and it means UNDER FULL THROTTLE. Sitting in your driveway and redlining it does nothing good, and can do plenty of harm. Redline is good, if you are in gear.

That all sounds conflicting!

The key is to pay attention to how you drive, when, and for how long. Take everything in moderation. Run it to redline, but don't hold it there, let it cool off. Go ahead and lug it periodically if you need to, but don't stay down there. There really is no set guidelines or rule structures on exactly what to do when and how. Anyone that tries to fit all of this advice into a specific structure of how they drive is taking all the fun out of what is most enjoyable about the car. Drive it for fun, and enjoy driving it as it was meant to be driven, and you will probably be doing the right thing.