The first of several trips across America sent it to Arizona, where editor-at-large Bedard subjected it to a rigorous triple-digit sunshine test and found it wanting. We hadn't heard the last of Mr. We savored the giant instrument dials and their red light-saber pointers on a honeymoon drive through New England, while complaints surfaced about the tight-fitting cabin and shortage of passing power. The stubby shifter even has the shape, sliding through its narrow, closely spaced gates with light pressure and a gratifying mechanical linkage. It's a beautifully balanced machine that is so composed on twisty roads. A redesigned body bubbles rearward with two extra rear-hinged doors and four seats, riding on a new, flex-free sport chassis with power from a new, cleaner rotary engine. Those three kinks in the avenue between the library and the rail crossing, the one where cops have no place to hide, became the Maison Blanche curves at Le Mans.
. That oft-used dipstick resides beneath a tangle of hot, dirty hoses and the equally oft-used oil-filler pipe underneath the engine's plastic acoustic cover. We admired the boom-box cabin detailing and particularly its decorative trochoids. Speaking of 5W-20, the Mazda went blotto on the stuff. And ample hot air there was. We hauled boxes, luggage, and people in the back seats, but the prominent center console soon showed scars of abuse.
Racers say rotary engines get faster as they age, the engine's best lap always being the last one. Even in full-freeze mode with the fan roaring and the vent set to recirc, it couldn't keep up. The mostly black cabin strained the air-conditioning system. So there is a reason no other car company has developed a rotary. It needs to sound sexier. However, its female voice should take some lessons from the Jaguar wing of Ford.
All rotaries supply oil to the combustion chambers to lubricate the rotor seals. The dealer also conducted recall 1604B, a fix to the passenger-airbag wiring, and recall 1704B, replacing a heat-insulator bracket that could crack and fall off. The trouble light was shining again even before the car left the shop, and this time, P0420, our canary in the tailpipe, had up and died. The lack of folding seats to extend the trunk also cramped the car's utility. But not before the check-engine lantern came on at mile 451. Presumably, there are new faces in our dealer's service department as well, so if ever a car were ripe for a long-term test, this one is it. Gentlemen, start your scan tools.
We used the motorized-hideaway navigation system to avoid L. Mazda actually won Le Mans, you know, in 1991. It's a six-speed, for Pete's sake! Two big silver ones are pressed into the front headrests, one into the center of each bumper. At 5026 miles, the check-engine light flashed on. Lovers of Herr Wankel's spinning rotors faced eight years of celibacy. Although the owner's manual doesn't mention oil consumption and offers no advice on the subject, we started allocating space in the meager trunk for spare oil jugs and checking in with the dipstick regularly. Distant cheering could be heard from the Lincoln-Mercury, Volvo, and Mazda dealer across town.
These curve-sided triangles honor the two rotors that make the engine special. Still feels brand-new after almost 35,000 miles. . . . . .
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