The Truth About Cars » MX-5 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:37:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » MX-5 Fiat, Abarth Likely To Receive Mazda-Based Roadster Over Alfa Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:50 +0000 2011_Mazda_MX-5_PRHT_--_04-28-2011

Long rumored to wear the Alfa Romeo badge, the next-generation Mazda MX-5 may instead don a Fiat or Abarth necklace in 2015 if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has the last word.

Automotive News reports sources close to the project stated product planners from Mazda and Fiat met recently to discuss a roadster based upon the MX-5. Fiat’s planners are looking for a way to maintain the supply partnership deal with the Japanese automaker, lest the break-up leave Fiat in the red through 2016, when they hope to return to the black in their native Europe.

As for why, Marchionne has proclaimed that no Alfa will be made outside of Italy so long as he is CEO, a statement reinforced as recently as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show; Marchionne plans to head FCA until 2017 at the earliest.

The so-called heir to the throne abdicated by the Fiat Duetto Spider made famous by the film “The Graduate,” the Italo-Japanese roadster may find a home with Fiat or Abarth, too underpowered be paired with Ferrari or Maserati, while Lancia retreats into its home market as a one-model brand by the end of 2014.

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First Annual White Knuckle White-Out Challenge Sat, 23 Feb 2013 11:45:57 +0000

Most harebrained ideas are hatched under the influence This was no different. A thousand miles removed from Canada’s largest city, two freelance automotive writers were guzzling beer and bandying about ideas for potential stories. Most of the concepts were actually elaborate ruses designed solely for gaining access to OEM press fleets.

“Let’s drive to Toronto!” Mark heartily suggested. “It’s only, what, a thousand miles?”

“That’s sixteen hundred kilometers, in Queen’s English,” I corrected him. “Why? For what purpose?”

“Well, the Canadian International Auto Show is in February. Let’s crash that party.” White out!

Perfect. Smartphones were synced. Billfolds were audited. A plan was put into action. Deciding to go was the easy part; now we had to figure out how to get there. Clearly, driving would be the preferred method, given that we both write about cars. For me, a personal rule is that if I can drive to a destination with minimal fuss and aggravation, I will do so rather than suffer the anguish of thundering through the atmosphere in a poorly ventilated jet-engined cigar with wings.

Several OEMs were approached and the idea was pitched that two Large Persons driving a thousand miles to Toronto in the dead of winter would make for a great story. Two manufacturers grabbed hold of the concept – Mazda provided an MX-5 and Chrysler ponied up a Fiat 500 Turbo. Shod with winter tires, having a couple of sport compacts out of their natural elements promised to be entertaining.


Little did we know just how entertaining. Setting off at promptly 9:48am from far flung Truro, Nova Scotia, spirits ran high. The sun blazed, crystallizing the record snowfall from a major snowstorm that had dumped a foot of snow the day previous. As we vacated town, the hills rang with snow-blowers, and the occasional mating call of a rare species, the Snowplowus Interruptus.

We were in northern New Brunswick, about seven hours on the road, when the snow was back, to strike hard and fast. With little daylight remaining, we exited the highway, trundling to a halt at a little used coffee shop that smelled like pee. Eschewing their blackened offerings, we weighed our options. The snow was falling at an apocalyptic rate. Even a military convoy ahead of us had sought shelter at a nearby, downtrodden motel.

“I’d rather get a kick in the nuts than drive in the dark in this shit,” I blustered aloud while beating two inches of ice off the little Fiat’s wiper blades.

Taking a long drag on his cigarette, Mark flatly suggested that we at least make a run for the Quebec border, some 200km distant. Knowing full well that once I had the chance to curse the weather and refill the windshield washer fluid tank on the Fiat, I’d be game to continue the drive. He was right. We reentered the divided highway full of gusto, verve, and fuel.

“The little red-headed Italian likes to wiggle her hips,” I tersely reported over the two-way radio. Hardly the car’s fault, this. In fact, the snow was so deep that the front bumper of the MX-5 often acted as the most rudimentary of plows, biffing fluffy white powder up in the air and back over its bonnet. Snow was a good six inches deep on the road surface.

In the Fiat, the windshield washer fluid reservoir continued to stick in my craw, running dry at what seemed to be three second intervals. Memo to Fiat: please, please increase the windshield wash capacity. At a mere two litres, all it takes is for a few trucks to roar by the 500 Turbo to deplete its meagre allotment of blue liquid. At minimum, add a LOW WASHER FLUID idiot light to the cinnamon bun of a gauge cluster. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Fiat driver’s seat was astonishingly comfortable for this six and a half foot author.

Trucks rocketed past in the fast lane, secured by the weight of their 52 foot heavy trailers. With visibility near zero, I went on ahead in the Fiat, hazards blaring. I figured that if I illuminated the car, my chances of being found when I eventually deposited myself into a crusty roadside snowbank would rise from None to Slim.

It was during this leg of the journey that I dubbed the whole event the First Annual White Knuckle Challenge.

But you know what? The sojourn into the snowbank that seemed so inevitable simply didn’t happen. Not only did we forge through to the Quebec border, we made it all the way to our planned stop at a hotel which had been booked several days prior. It was a solid thirteen hours after setting out from Truro that morning and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

For two cars that are usually approached in winter with the same caution as one would approach a lump of plutonium that has suddenly appeared in the lettuce crisper, the 500 Turbo and MX-5 were totally and superbly competent machines. Cars are like sex: with the correct rubber on, they can go anywhere.

The next morning brought more snow covered roads and much appreciated daylight. Precipitation and perspiration ceased about an hour after we left the hotel, and we approached the froggy delights of Montreal with élan. Pausing for some photos at the base of a picturesque mountain in a random megabucks suburb, the two sport compacts suddenly looked like the entirely right choices for this journey. At that moment, I couldn’t have imagined driving anything else. Onwards, then.


Montreal drivers frequently displayed a dangerous mixture of apathy and aggression, prompting banzai lane changes and the occasional furrowed brow. In fifth gear, the Fiat’s turbo lag is best measured with a calendar, forcing one to row their way through fourth and even third gear in order to keep the 1.4L on full boil while maintaining flank speed in heavy traffic.

Navigating the busiest highway in North America, we wound our way to our hotel in downtown Toronto. Arriving in the dark, I reflected on how damn well these two cars performed, completely out of their element. The Fiat even returned good fuel economy, 7.2L/100km. That’s 40mpg , as close as makes no difference. On snow tires. In rough conditions. Win.

At the base of CN Tower, high fives were exchanged. We made it in one piece, even though the brown pants factor was high on occasion. That evening, more alcohol was consumed and more plans were hatched. What kind, you ask? Let’s just say it involves a couple of full-sized trucks and some precision driving. VTEC just kicked in, yo!

For this journey, Mazda provided an insured MX-5 while Chrysler provided an insured Fiat 500 Turbo, both with clutch pedals. Save the Manuals!

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]]> 45 Review: 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Wed, 21 Nov 2012 17:30:42 +0000 Back when I reviewed the Scion FR-S, I wrapped up by saying I’d want to check out the latest Miata before I passed judgment on the bang-per-buck value of the Subuyopet. So, I called up the PR flacks at Mazda: “Hey, remember how I didn’t totally trash the CX-5 I wrote about in July? Yeah, so now the entire Toyo Cork Kogyo organization owes me, which means I need a Daimyo Class ticket on the next flight to Tokyo, a BLACK TUNED MX-5 waiting for me, and an honor guard of eight dekatoras to escort me as I cruise around looking for an Autozam AZ-1 to ship back to Denver.” Disappointingly, what I got was a US-market MX-5 Club Sport dropped off at a shuttle lot at George Bush International in Houston, to which I’d flown Misery Class in order to judge at the fifth annual Gator-O-Rama 24 Hours of LeMons. I spent three days with a True Red ’13 Miata, mostly shuttling between my hotel in Angleton, Texas, and the race at MSR Houston.
You figure, hey, weekend at a race track with a Miata— get ready for a bunch of racy-sounding gibberish about “turn-in” and “performance at the limit.” Trail braking. Not this time; this track was crowded with stuff like ’73 Dodge Coronets and 560SEC Benzes bashing into each other, no place for a nice uncaged press car with 90 miles on the clock. Anyway, you can sum up the Miata’s track performance— as determined by racers who, unlike me, actually know how to get around a road course in a hurry— for the last 23 model years in five words: at home on the track. Now that we’ve got that established, this review is going to focus on the real-worldliness of this little red devil.
When I arrived at MSR, I took the Miata around the pits to do a little bit of “pre-sweating” of cheaters, and to pose the car with its Mazda racing brethren. Here it is flanked by the whiskey-still-equipped RX-7 and collapsed-barn find RX-2 of Team Sensory Assault.
The Miata hasn’t bloated much during the last couple of decades, as can be seen in this portrait of the ’13 parked next to the ’91 of Team Nucking Futs. The first-year Miata (in 1990) had a curb weight of 2,105 pounds; the 2013 manual-transmission version weighs 2,480 pounds. By the standards of Model Bloat, that’s impressive.
To be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable showing up at this track in a red Miata. The 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court has been hard on Texas Miatas over the years, destroying a couple in the (now discontinued) People’s Curse and generally making life difficult for the Spec Miata guys who attempt to bring their Texan brand of Mazda-bashing behavior to LeMons racing.
As it turned out, just about everybody who has anything to do with road racing— even those Mazda racers I’ve busted for cheaty-ass Racing Beat suspension parts at past races— loves the sight of a new Miata.
However, being around car freaks and racers makes one forget that the Miata has a much different image in the eyes of ordinary Americans, particularly those in edge-city suburban areas full of mouth-breathing Internet Tough Guys in Tapout shirts. Never mind that the Miata will obliterate 95% of testosterone-pumped cars in a real race— what matters is that the Miata falls somewhere on the machismo spectrum between fern bars and Hello Kitty when it comes to its image among non-car expert types.
Not that I’ve ever given much of a damn about that sort of thing, but the perceived manliness (or lack thereof) of this car became an issue while driving it on the rural highways south of Houston. Never in my life have I experienced so much hyper-aggressive tailgating, angry gestures, brake checks, and general highway assholery than in the three days of driving a red Miata with manufacturer plates on Texas roads. Did some joker put an Obama sticker on this thing? I wondered after my first white-knuckle drive to the track with one SUV grille after another looming in the rear-view. Apparently the sight of a little red sports car simply enrages Texas exurbanite males, in a way that all the rental Aveos and Corollas I’ve driven on the same roads never has.
This image problem reminds me of the one faced by certain dog owners. This is my dog, Jackson. He is 70 pounds of solid muscle, bred from a long line of water retrievers, fast, tough, and fearless (he’s also sort of a knucklehead, but we won’t go there).
Jackson is also a Standard Poodle, a breed that image-conscious American males cannot own if they feel even slightly insecure about their own masculinity. Decades of horrible haircutting jobs on no-doubt-mortified show poodles by those scary dog-show types (or, even worse, the mad-genetic-scientist abomination of the miniature poodle) have done to the breed’s image what decades of boring 24-year-old dental hygienists have done to the Miata’s image.
Which isn’t to say that driving the Miata Club for several days didn’t turn me gayer than Rob Halford right away. Fortunately, we had the Leather Daddy cap from the Macho Man penalty handy, so I could dress appropriately.
Now, if you’re going to go shopping for Tom of Finland prints in your Miata and it’s raining— as it was just about the entire time I had the car— you’re going to want a convertible top that doesn’t leak.
Soft-top convertibles almost always leak, at least a little bit, it’s a big hassle to raise and lower them, and they let in a lot of wind noise when the top is up. This is not the case with the ’13 Miata; it takes about four seconds and very little effort to operate the top by hand while sitting in the driver’s seat. It never leaked a drop, regardless of how wild the storms got, and the top remained unperturbed by high winds while cruising at 80 MPH.
The HVAC system is unusually powerful for a Japanese car (Detroit always wins in this category, because Detroit automakers test their climate-control systems in places like Death Valley and Bemidji). This came in handy when I got soaked by rain during the performance of my LeMons Supreme Court duties; the Miata’s heater was able to dry out socks fairly quickly (because the car’s engine was kept running for hours at a time during repeated sock-drying cycles, I was not able to get personally verified fuel-economy figures for it… but I did manage to avoid catching a case of Houston Jungle Rot).
The Miata Club is the sporty version, with six-speed transmission (the base Miata Sport makes do with five), 17″ wheels, and a bunch of snazzy trim bits. For this, you pay $26,705 MSRP instead of the Sport’s $23,720.
The engine in all the manual-transmission ’13 Miatas is the same 167-horse DOHC 2-liter unit, and if British Leyland had been able to come up with anything even half this good, we’d all still be driving MGBs. 167 horsepower feels like plenty of power in this car, though I did get my doors blown off in a drag race with the rental Malibu driven by the rest of the LeMons HQ crew.
The 4.10 rear-axle gear ratio and 0.79:1 sixth gear means that the Miata’s engine is spinning pretty frantically during highway cruising, and I’m assuming that’s one of the main reasons for the not-so-great-for-a-2,400-pound-car fuel economy (claimed 21 city/28 highway). Steeper gears would mean an intolerable reduction in fun, so the fuel-economy penalty is worth paying.
The climate and sound-system controls use simple knobs and buttons. Everything here makes sense, though I can’t help wishing (once again) that the science-fiction aesthetic of 1980s Japanese car interiors would make a comeback.
The Miata is reasonably civilized on rough pavement and long highway drives, a bit less punitive— but also a bit less grippy— than I found the FR-S to be. The word that always comes up in Miata reviews, stretching back to the era of Operation Desert Storm, is “fun,” and it remains impossible to avoid this word when writing about the MX-5. As 11,498 before me have also written, this car manages to combine the joys of an old-timey Italian or British open sports car with the ability to use the thing as totally functional daily transportation.
My quick-and-dirty gauge for judging the level of corner-cutting build-quality shortcuts is a glance under the hood at the electrical connectors. The MX-5 uses pretty decent ones, though one of these days I’ll need to get a press car while I’m not working at a LeMons race, so I can have the time to pull a door panel and look at the stuff that always fails first.
There was one mosquito-in-my-ear irritation that I’d have to remedy, were I to buy this car. See the oil-pressure gauge dead in the center of the instrument cluster, where your eyes are going to be drawn every time you glance down? It’s actually an idiot light, i.e. it registers an “everything is OK” reading when the pressure switch is happy. The “idiot gauge” is quite common these days, if disappointing in a car that’s likely to get thrashed on a race track at some point in its career (racers usually don’t notice gauges other than the tach in the heat of battle, anyway, which is why LeMons racers tend to install gigantic oil-pressure idiot lights), but what really drives me nuts about this one is that it’s not a binary OK/PANIC idiot gauge. No, it’s a ternary OK/OK/PANIC gauge, with engine speed determining which of two readings the gauge will display. So, if I buy a new Miata— which I’m now dangerously tempted to do— I’m going to pull out the gauge cluster, disassemble it, replace the offending gauge with the guts from a normal analog gauge, and add the appropriate sender. Otherwise, the sight of the ternary idiot gauge would offend my geek sensibilities every time I drove the car.
What else? The sound system doesn’t pack enough bass for those of us who appreciate 21st-century levels of boom, but the aftermarket can solve that problem easily enough. Other than the image problem and resulting disapproval from dudes with anxieties about their own Perceived Testicular Heft (henceforth referred to as PTH), the who-gives-a-damn fuel-economy penalty from the nervous rear gear, and a couple of minor annoyances so small I feel petty just mentioning them, this car has nothing but pluses. In fact, it’s the only car I’ve ever reviewed that I could see myself buying new (I felt that way about another Mazda… until I took it to the gas station), though I’d probably save the three grand and get the 5-speed Sport. Used 6-speed transmissions and 17″ wheels are readily available for reasonable prices, any time you feel the need to upgrade.
So, the MX-5 Miata Club is slower on the road course and at the dragstrip than is the similarly priced FR-S, but it’s easier to drive like a hoon and not die, Mazda has put decades of work into making it hold up to track abuse, the aftermarket will provide every imaginable performance upgrade for the next century, and it’s just an all-around better-balanced package. If you must have space for more groceries and/or can’t stand the idea of living with a convertible, the FR-S makes slightly more sense.

29 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - Jackson the Standard Poodle in snow - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - Caricature Mazda Miata - Picture courtesy of Car Town Forums 29 - Jackson the Standard Poodle - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - Mazda Miata getting 24 Hours of LeMons Peoples Curse in Texas - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 68
Boomerang Basement Bolides – First Place: Mazda Miata PRHT Thu, 09 Aug 2012 15:55:03 +0000  

The conventions of auto writing require that we come up with at least one labored metaphor for every comparison test, so here goes: You guys remember that movie It Might Get Loud? Obviously, the Scion FR-S is Jack White: deliberately stripped-down and retro, perhaps too self-consciously context-sensitive, adored without reservation by a bunch of people who have never signed a mortgage. The Genesis 2.0t R-Spec is the Edge: a lot of sharp edges and technical brilliance intended to cover up a fundamental deficit of talent.

The Miata? Well…


When we meet Mr. Page in the aforementioned movie, he is being chauffeured to an ancient English home. He is a sixty-ish man in a bespoke greatcoat: quiet, reserved, old. He tells a few stories in a voice that barely registers over the road noise and looks thoughtfully out the window at the lovely countryside and whatnot. You know he wouldn’t fit into the infamous dragon suit, and you wouldn’t want to see him in it even if he could manage the trick. Sure, he used to be a rocker, but now he’s a dead ringer for your college roommate’s grandfather.

Then, somebody hands him a guitar. Oh, look, old chap, it’s that 1959 Gibson he used to carry around. Frightfully ancient now, just like the fellow wielding it. Jack White is watching him dispassionately, perhaps wondering exactly why they’ve disinterred the man and the instrument for the movie when he, Jack White, is the man of the hour, he‘s the one who soaks the panties now, he‘s the one with the hipper-than-thou record company and super-precious Nashville building chock-full of limited-press vinyl records, this guy is as dead as Elvis, just doesn’t know it yet, and it appears Mr. Page is plugging in now, and might manage to give it a strum or something OH MY GOD HE’S PLAYING WHOLE LOTTA LOVE.

At that precise moment, anything and everything associated with the movie disappears and it becomes plainly obvious to everyone that, despite their millions of record sales and undisputed merits, Jack White and the Edge aren’t fit to carry Page’s dragon jockstrap.

The same thing happens as I, fresh from ten laps each in the FR-S and Genesis, hop in the Miata, loaf down the front straight courtesy of the never-impressive normally-aspirated MZR/Duratec/whatevs, and tap the brakes briefly before bending in for Turn One. Well, this car is cramped, and it’s slow, and OH MY GOD IT ISNT EVEN CLOSE. This is a sports car. Pay attention, Toyota. Once upon a time, you guys made a sports car. You made a few of them — the star-crossed turbo second-gen MR2 and the miniature-Boxster MR Spyder — that equaled or surpassed the greatness of this particular Miata. You know how to do it.

More importantly, Mazda’s made it easy for you. The Touring-spec power-retractable-hard-top Miata is the least charming MX-5 in history. To begin with, it’s too big, it sits too high, and it has neither the Elan-through-a-copy-machine charm of the first-gen car or the sleek sports appeal of the second-gen. It weighs too much and it sure as hell costs too much; no matter which country you call home, this is probably the most expensive car of our trio and it delivers the least content by some large margin.

It’s possible to whip the “NC” Miata into shape as a race car, as I know from experience. Our test car, however, hasn’t received that sort of fettling. Instead, it has a folding metal hardtop. Why? The Miata has always been a convertible. It makes sense that way. For more than twenty years, however, people have been demanding a Miata Coupe. Other than a very brief Japanese-market production run of 200 NB Coupes, Mazda’s never felt like responding to that request. Instead, we have the PRHT. I can’t see weekend warriors spending the extra money for it over the soft-top, and the people who want a Coupe want one for reasons of weight and stiffness which the PRHT explicitly fails to address. Call it the “Miata New York”; it only makes sense if you live in an area where people cut soft-tops open to steal whatever’s been left in the glove compartment. We didn’t ask for a PRHT, but we aren’t a color rag and we don’t get free Honda S2000s with signed-over titles sitting in the glove compartment so we can go play SCCA racer on someone else’s dime. Instead, we got what happened to be in the press fleet, and that was the retiree-spec PRHT. Ugh.

Going into our test, I was reasonably certain that the hardcore, touge-tofu-dorifto FR-S was going to humiliate the Miata. It made sense: a newer, faster, stiffer car should win against this thoroughly-compromised end-of-run special. I could not have been more wrong. The FR-S and Genesis are both far too large and clumsy to compete. You don’t realize how big the Scion is until you sit in the Mazda. Yes, the current car is pretty monstrous by Miata or Elan standards. No, it’s not a 1.6-liter NA. It’s not that good. (Full disclosure: your author owned an ex-SCCA National Solo Winner Miata “C” package ’94, purchased as a surprise gift for his wife, who drove it twice and pronounced it “weak” before returning to her Stage 3 SRT-4.) It’s still good enough, however.

Against an MR2 Turbo, the Miata would seem slow, weak, prone to pushing. Against an MR Spyder, the Miata would seem like a bit of a Bayliner, truthfully, particularly in tight sections. Against the FR-S, the Miata comes off like a freakin’ Caterham. It’s only a couple of inches narrower by the tape, but in practice it feels like the FR-S is a foot wider, a Testarossa to the Miata’s 308GTS. This is not something that anybody on the Internet wants to admit, but if you have to group our trio by driving characteristics, the Genesis and FR-S are in one basket and the Miata is in another.

It’s such a joy to steer around Toronto Motorsports Park; the Miata always communicates exactly what’s happening. Even at the more-present-in-magazine-articles-than-reality 10/10ths, I can’t imagine that anybody short of a ham-handed idiot could crash this car. Anything the Scion can do, the Mazda can do better. At a place like VIR, the lack of power and undesirable aero profile would cost the little convertible money, but on the Alan Wilson-style tracks with their short straights and compound corners the Mazda can deliver the tofu just as well as the FR-S. Naturally, the Genesis has so much more power that it just disappears into the distance regardless of track layout. You’d need an SCCA rulebook autocross course, complete with 45mph max corners, to equalize the two.

Driven in isolation, the Miata’s 167-horsepower four seems energetic enough, and as has been the case since 1990, the shift quality is outstanding. The brakes are thoroughly unremarkable sliding-caliper affairs but they work fine. All the control efforts are light and well-matched. It’s possible to get better steering feel in a production car, but you’ll need to hurry, since the 987 Boxster has almost disappeared from showroom floors.

The current Miata has been roundly criticized for its suspension tuning, and that criticism is valid. There’s more roll than strictly necessary and the car can feel a bit tippy-toe at times. For about $1400 you can do Koni Yellows and aftermarket springs. I’d certainly make that change on my personal car, but descriptions of the stock settings as “scary” or “uncontrollable” are either hyperbolic or incompetent. You’re not going to roll the car. I tried, believe me, mostly to upset our News Editor Derek Kriendler who was in the passenger seat at the time.

Mazda’s perfectly aware that the Miata is a third car for most of its owners, and they build it that way. What I mean is this: the interior is high-quality and clearly built to last. The plastics are durable, the vehicle is easy to service, and save for the aforementioned PRHT there’s no stupid gimmickry. There’s no SYNC system or the like, because Mazda understands you’re going to keep your Miata for ten or twenty years and by the time you’re ready to sell, today’s most advanced system will be as embarrassing as the “Your Door Is A Jar” electronic-voice system from a 1982 Datsun Maxima would be today.

At the end of our testing day (which, again, we shared with AutoGuide) we were informed that we had about half an hour with which to drive a shortened variant of the track. The AutoGuide crew heard this news and immediately ran for the FR-S, which was sitting next to my Boxster in the grid. Derek and I were between them and the FR-S. We looked at eachother… what should we do? As one, we turned away from the Toyota and walked back to the Miata to put fifteen or so more laps in. This current MX-5 may be the worst Miata in history, but it’s still the best car in this test. Deal with it, kids.

Images courtesy of Julie Hyde, who thought she was just coming along for the Mike Stern gig in Toronto that night.

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The Unimportance of Speed Tue, 22 May 2012 12:09:30 +0000

I’d like to lend you a car for the weekend. It’s going to be sunny, and you can head off early before the crowds get out. Take a nice road-trip: maybe, as I just did, blast up the Sea-to-Sky and into the rolling foothills beyond the Pemberton Valley.

Your choice, take anything below.
Car A: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Car B: 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds
Car C: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Car D: 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds
Car E: 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds

So, what did you pick? Click the jump to find out.

Apologies for the heavy-handed and clunky approach, but A through E, the cars are: 2012 BMW X5 alphabet-soup-with-the-V8, 2012 Volkswagen Passat VR6, 1984 Ferrari Testarossa, 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, and a 2012 Ford V6 Mustang. Oh, I almost forgot: you could also take a sixth option, Car F, which will do 0-60 in 6.9 seconds.

Lucky for me, that’s the one I chose.

And here it is.

Jack has already given us a piece on the pandemic prevalence of speed and power. His take? A call for a higher-bracket measurement; the 0-80mph benchmark that we now need to separate the nose-candy Fezzas from the front-driver family-wagens.

I’d like to pick up the threads of an earlier bit, one of his usually thoughtful screeds from the Avoidable Contact series. As Jack points out there, the world certainly doesn’t need a Hyundai Sonata that could easily walk away from Crockett and Tubbs if they miss even one shift.

But we’ve got one. We’ve also got a WRX that could go toe-to-toe off the line with my beloved Porsche 959, and in the Shelby GT500 we’ve got a Mustang that’s capable of outrunning the F40 at the top-end. A Mustang!

When I was a small boy, car magazines always had a page at the end of the review that included the various measurable properties of the car in question: 0-60, quarter-mile, skid-pad and so on. It was Very Important to memorize all this information, such that one was properly prepared for playground debate. If the new V8 Camaro pipped the V8 ‘Stang through the quarter, then it was the better car. If an available handling package meant the ‘Stang redeemed itself on the skid-pad, then it was better.

These things could be empirically and scientifically sorted out through the application of careful testing. We nascent gearheads had all the information required to bench-race any of the top performance cars and crown a winner without shadow of a doubt.

Then along comes something like the GT-R. With the heart-heavy sigh that comes from knowing this statement will probably cause unrelated debate, the Nissan GT-R is the fastest car in the world. If it’s not, then the gap is so close as to be unimportant. Godzilla has made the supercar irrelevant.

But there’s something missing about the car, a sense that perhaps instead of signing your name on the purchase order you should be handed an old-school NES controller: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Start. It’s not uninvolving – dear me, no – but it feels artificial somehow. It feels like cheating. Godzilla? More like God-Mode.

And another thing, it’s inconveniently fast for the road. I’m sure there are visceral thrills to be found on the racetrack – and if you own a GT-R, for God’s sake sign up for a trackday and get it out of your system – but I don’t live on or particularly near a racetrack. I live in a province with absurdly low speed-limits, an active police force, and a Motor Vehicle Act that allows the constabulary to take away your vehicle if you exceed 40km/h (25mph) over the posted limit.

There’s a place just before my freeway exit where the limit drops from 90km/h to 70km/h at the tail end of a long, straight hill. When I was driving a Hyundai Genesis with the V8, I had multiple moments where I’d enter the zone without thinking, having picked up a few extra klicks in the whisper-numb Korean without noticing it, and have to quickly correct my speed. I’m not normally in the habit of driving without an awareness of my velocity, but the effortless wafting of the Genesis was very deceptive, as with so many modern cars.

Power is no longer a luxury item. It is a universality of the modern motoring experience. What’s more, from an enthusiast’s perspective, it’s a real-world liability.

We are all suffering from a glut of horsepower. It’s a silly measurement anyway: bragging rights for Victorian steam-donkey owners. Real joy is not doled out in pound-feet or kilowatts and cannot be measured at the drag-strip or on the skid-pad. True driving pleasure is entirely an ethereal thing, which is why it’s so hard to get right.

“Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow,”; it’s a tired old saw, but not without merit. I’d change it to, “driving a fun car fast is more fun than driving a fast car fast.” Whether or not a car is enjoyable to drive is almost entirely divorced from its performance prowess.

We wait to welcome the FR-S and BR-Z with open arms, surely, but we also hail the CX-5 and the Sonic Turbo, the Kia Rio and the Volkswagen GLI. I hope that somewhere in a lab in Honda, engineers are studying the Fit in hopes of finding that last gleam of Soichiro’s original spirit.

The Miata (fine, MX-5) takes a lot of stick for being a “girly” car. It projects none of the be-louvered aggression of other sports-cars, and certainly doesn’t produce anywhere near the numbers.

But it’s not a car that’s about bragging rights, not a car for peacock strutting or posturing. It is, in short, not a car you drive for other people. It’s a car you drive for yourself. And that’s what makes for a truly great machine, no matter what the numbers might say.

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New Mazda MX-5 BLACK TUNED: Available In White, Red, And Green Tue, 04 Oct 2011 16:26:20 +0000

In Europe, black cars are all the rage. According to Dupont’s 2010 Automotive Color Popularity report, the most popular car color in Europe is black, followed by grey. Usually a very dark grey. In Japan, the most popular car color is white. Followed by silver. Usually a bright silver. However, black is coming on strong in Japan. It already is in third place. Always on the lookout for the latest craze, the Japanese car industry is eager to get into black.

Mazda releases its roadster (known stateside as the Mazda MX-5 as a BLACK TUNED special edition for the Japanese market. According to what Mazda sent me, “the special edition BLACK TUNED Roadster is based on the premium ‘RS RHT’ and ‘VS RHT’ model grades that feature Mazda’s groundbreaking power retractable hard top (RHT). The BLACK TUNED theme is reflected in stylish special features including a Brilliant Black roof and door mirrors, and Gun Metallic 17-inch alloy wheels. Interior quality is also enhanced, with the seats and steering wheel covered in black leather with sand-colored stitching.”

Ok, ok, we get it. But what about the outside?

“Three external body colors are available, including two exclusive colors – Spirited Green Metallic and Velocity Red Mica – and the popular Crystal White Pearl Mica.”

Darn. The “Mazda BLACK TUNED Roadster” comes in all kinds of colors (including a Baruth favorite). As long as it isn’t black.

The car lists in Japan for 3,050,000 yen ($39,759, with tax). White costs $410 more.

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Mazda To Show CX-5 At Frankfurt Auto Show – Pictures Here Tue, 02 Aug 2011 14:01:24 +0000


Mazda will show its all-new Mazda CX-5 compact crossover SUV at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, which is from September 13 through 25, 2011. According to Mazda’s press release, “the CX-5 is the first of a new generation of Mazda products that will adopt the full range of Mazda’s breakthrough SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY and new design theme, ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’. Pictures after the jump …

The Mazda CX-5 “will be progressively introduced to global markets from early 2012.”

The European spec CX-5 will be available with a SKYACTIV-G 2.0 gasoline engine, as well as with a SKYACTIV-D 2.2 diesel engine in Standard Power and High Power versions.

Mazda CX-5 P1J04986s P1J04984s P1J04983s Mazda To Show CX-5 At Frankfurt Auto Show – Pictures Here Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 21
New or Used: Makeup Case Not Included Sat, 28 May 2011 20:39:25 +0000

TTAC Commentator Ronman writes:

Hi Sajeev and Steve, hope all is well. I have a query for a friend. He is a photographer in California, and has recently felt the urge to buy a convertible. His requirements are kind of eclectic with a sort of tight budget.

Here it goes: he wants a convertible so that he can enjoy the sun in his neck of the woods, he wants one that drives well with some decent power and with the top down he would like to be able to use the car for tracking shots and the like. He would prefer a hardtop for safety reasons (theft) as some of his gear might be in the car at times. Also since his budget spans from 12 to 16k, he would prefer the used car he is going to ultimately buy not be a pocket burner in terms of maintenance. So a model that can be acquired with extended warranties would be preferable.

He’s already tested a 2002 SLK280, but he’s wondering what would be nicer on the mid term, the SLK, a similar vintage Boxter, or Audi TT convertible. I had advised him about the presence of the Honda S2000, Mazda MX5 (he said it’s too girly), and the Pontiac Solstice or Saturn equivalent (not sure if those slot in the budget) however he did mention that if it’s worthwhile he would try to up his budget somewhat. a 2 seater convertible is not a strict thing but it is preferable. So what do you and the B&B think?

Sajeev Answers:

Ronman, with those needs and that budget, your buddy is looking at what I sometimes call “The Dark Ages” of German value engineering. Buying a used model from this era (especially with no service records) is beyond stupid. The Boxster’s IMS engine failures and (some) Audi’s engine sludging are well known, but it takes more forum digging to learn all the expensive problems on the other models. And he better, unless he doesn’t mind surprise repairs that can be in the thousands.

Not that the new stuff from Germany is simply outstanding in terms of long term value, so I’d recommend your friend buys a hardtop MX-5. The GM Kappas are a good alternative, but finding a hard top might be tough. Maybe a Thunderbird, if he needs more space/comfort and wouldn’t mind the occasional retro kick in his photography.

And honestly, is a MX-5 any more “girly” than a TT or SLK? But I suspect he’ll buy whatever he likes on the test drive. And if its an SLK, TT or Boxster without reassuring amount of service records, be totally okay with rubbing it in when he complains about the repair bills.

Steve Answers:

Let’s see. Your buddy thinks the MX-5 is girly? Based on what?

I have yet to see one of those come with a standard make-up case. Seriously. Everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to yours truly likes the MX-5. Even a guy I met who deals with some of the nastiest scum of the Earth as a public defender in Northwest Georgia drives one. Four kids and built like a marine, I’m sure he would have gone for an old Wrangler if he was concerned that folks would see him as ‘girly’ in a car that a lot of guys like.

This isn’t even a question given his criteria. He should buy the MX-5 and load it up with whatever he likes. It’s wonderful to drive. Reliable. Sporty, and damn simple to keep up and maintain. All the German models your son mentioned were built at a time when German quality was a painful oxymoron. Skip em’.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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In Spite of Texas Tornadoes, Miagra Miata Holds Lead In North Dallas Hooptie Sun, 24 Apr 2011 03:32:09 +0000
You get some crazy weather when your traveling race series holds events in April; last weekend, we had to throw the checkered flag early on Saturday’s race session because blowing Michigan snow knocked visibility down to zero. Today, we had to end the session an hour early because a wild lightning storm swooped in and threatened to zap the corner workers. Minutes later, the tornado alert sirens started blowing. The members of the Miagra Miata team, no doubt donning their helmets and cowering in the nearest bunker, could console themselves with the knowledge that their team will start tomorrow’s race session as the race leader. Well, that’s if a funnel cloud doesn’t deposit their Mazda in the next county.

Meanwhile, the members of the Blue Goose Golf team, who spent much of the day battling for (and occasionally grabbing) the lead with Los Miagras, are probably gritting their teeth and grumbling about weak-kneed race organizers who let a little weather put a halt to their chase of that damn Mazda. We’ve been seeing the Miagra guys at the Houston races for quite a while, and they’ve always been utterly terrible underdogs, breaking the car and racking up tremendous quantities of black flags. For this race, all of the team’s drivers prepared by taking every possible race-instruction class and (we assume) undergoing painful aversion-therapy treatments that applied electric shocks to sensitive body parts whenever a black flag appeared in the field of vision. This team has been very fast and utterly penalty-free so far, which I never would have predicted for these former repeat miscreants. Can the Blue Geese catch the blue-pill-adorned Miata tomorrow? Will one of the E30s nipping at their heels pass them both? We’ll find out tomorrow… if the track is still there.

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Review: 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Mon, 23 Mar 2009 16:30:06 +0000

I'll come right out and say it: It's my parents' fault. You see, my mom's just a couple of inches over five feet tall and my dad's only a bit taller than she is. But for some reason they passed genes to me resulting in me growing to 6'3". It makes for interesting family portraits but when it comes to cars, it sucks. I grew up riding with my knees shoved in the dashboard of whatever bench-seat-equipped sedan they happened to own at the time. And now I'm given a Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring to review. Genetics is a bitch.


I’ll come right out and say it: It’s my parents’ fault. You see, my mom’s just a couple of inches over five feet tall and my dad’s only a bit taller than she is. But for some reason they passed genes to me resulting in me growing to 6′3″. It makes for interesting family portraits but when it comes to cars, it sucks. I grew up riding with my knees shoved in the dashboard of whatever bench-seat-equipped sedan they happened to own at the time. And now I’m given a Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring to review. Genetics is a bitch.

Mazda deserves credit for not messing with the genetics of their diminutive roadster. From its inception it’s been true to its original design. While it’s gotten slightly larger over the years—mainly to accommodate safety regulations—it remains the modern-day incarnation of the classic two-seat roadster.

One thing they have messed with, though, is the name. While it’s always been sold as the MX-5 elsewhere, it was introduced in the US as the Miata and that’s the name most people know it by. When I told friends I was driving an “MX-5″ they had no clue what I was talking about. When I added “Miata” the light went on immediately. Miata has great brand recognition and why Mazda doesn’t leave it alone is beyond me.

A makeover for 2009 freshened the looks while still leaving it one of the most recognizable cars on the road. However the most questionable part of the facelift is the face. Mazda made the grill bigger and it now looks like one of the talking cars from the Chevron commercials. With a smiley grill and dimpled driving lights, “cute” is the only adjective that can be used to describe its countenance. And it does nothing to dispel the misconception that it’s a “chick car.”

Inside, as you’d expect in a car with a 91.7 inch wheelbase, things are kind of tight. The controls on the well-laid-out instrument panel are all within easy reach. Hell, everything in there is within easy reach. The Grand Touring trim level adds lots of toys like heated seats, cruise control and automatic air conditioning that are nice to have but don’t add anything to the fun factor.

Even though it’s . . . um . . . cozy for someone my size, the seats are quite comfortable (once they’re adjusted to their lowest and rearmost positions). The only real problem: trying to get my size 14EEE feet working the pedals correctly. Once I finally figured the proper two-step to keep my right foot off the gas and brake at the same time I was good to go.

I spent most of my time in Miata with the top down. Thankfully the weather cooperated because the one time I drove it with the top up I had severe MG-B flashbacks. I had to slouch to see through the windshield (as opposed to looking over it when the top was down). At least dropping the top was no problem—the Miata’s soft top has to be the best ever designed. It goes down with a flick of the wrist and can be erected without leaving the driver’s seat.

And top down driving is what this car is all about.  Twist the key (even with the “smart key” there’s a key-like protuberance to twist) and the 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata is more eager to play than a Lab puppy with a new tennis ball. There’s no need to turn on the radio; the 167hp, 2.0L DOHC four provides the best soundtrack you could ever want.

Grab the shifter and you discover one reason to spring for the Touring or Grand Touring trim levels: they’re the only ones with a six-speed transmission. The shifter snicks through the gears with Germanic precision. You find yourself taking the long way around even for the short trip to the local Stop ’n Rob, just for the aural delights of the exhaust note and the haptic satisfaction from rowing the shifter.

And then, when the road gets curvy, you’ll find the $500 you dropped on the suspension package was money well spent. The Bilstein shocks and sport suspension tuning give you the sensation you’re in the world’s largest slot car without beating you to death in the process. It may not be the fastest car on the highway but that doesn’t matter. It’s one of those rare cars that’s fun to drive, regardless of how fast you’re going.

The MX-5 Miata was the first car I’ve driven in a long time that had me grinning every time I drove it (although the grin faded a bit as I extricated myself from it). If you’re looking for an antidote for automotive ennui, look no further. That is, if you have the genes for the job.

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