Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Miata Ride Comfort?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the fallacy of miata ride comfort

photo courtesy: www.flyinmiata.com

TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes:

Hi Sajeev,

So I like my new 2010 Miata Touring (second car and half time daily driver), and picked it because it looked good on the side of the road by my house, low miles (19k), priced OK(mid 14’s), I had the dough saved up for a bike and I am happy with the current Vstrom, and last but not least it is an automatic. The OEM suspension seems firm to me but obviously not race ready. Roads in Northeast are usually not-so-new ranging down to horrible. Miata people say its mushy and floaty, those who want to autocross or race.

It’s body is stiffer than my 1999 was. The 1999 benefited from chassis stiffeners- new frame rails, X-brace underneath, frog arms under the front fenders, door bars. Still a small noisy uncomfortable car for more than an hour. The 2010 is a bit more comfortable. For the 2006-2014 there are also aftermarket body stiffeners and plenty of suspension upgrades all meant to improve track performance.

What I really want is a GT, not a race car. I am not interested in more power.

Question for the best and brightest, should I bother stiffening the body on an automatic Miata?

What suspension would make it more civilized without less comfort?

Am I better off buying a true GT? What GT for $14k.

Sajeev answers:

When someone complains about a stock one, the words “Miata Ride Comfort” make no sense together. Instead do an LSX-FTW swap so you’ll rarely have the time to focus on the punishing ride. And no, I’m only partially kidding.

To wit, a friend once asked if their Miata wouldn’t punish one’s lower back with the upgraded leather slip covers from a Grand Touring model: what a load of trash! Leather seats aren’t magically wrapped around Fleetwood Brougham thrones, or even CamCord thrones. Time to suck it up and buy a more comfortable car.

“What I really want is a GT, not a race car.”

Oh wait, you already admitted that. Why? Chassis stiffeners cannot cut the impact harshness from a pothole, they help the suspension/steering/braking systems work as intended in spirited driving on imperfect roads. Which totally isn’t the same thing.

And if there is a softer-than-stock suspension (not likely) it won’t help enough. Considering roadster levels of suspension travel, seat cushion padding, short wheelbase, light weight (to some extent), low-ish profile tires, a quite-modest sprinkling of NVH reducing materials…see where I’m going with this?

Go find a pre-engineered GT car! A Mazda 3 or 6 sedan is a logical and practical step backward, but perhaps there are too many doors. Maybe a Mazda 2? Maybe a somewhat used Mustang? Not refined enough. A fairly used 3-series? If you know a good indie-BMW mechanic and don’t mind paying them. A garage-queen C5 Corvette with Magnaride and conventional (not run-flat) tires? Entirely possible.

Or just suck it up and maraud your way to love…

(photo courtesy: www.empireautos11.com)

…Panther Love…


Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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5 of 52 comments
  • Dme123 Dme123 on Sep 03, 2014

    Am I alone in finding these "Piston Slap" pieces almost totally unreadable and incomprehensible??

  • Notapreppie Notapreppie on Sep 03, 2014

    You can get custom springs made extra stiff for race cars. Why not softer springs for GT cars? I'm sure the sales guy would look at you funny but a sale is a sale.

    • See 1 previous
    • SOneThreeCoupe SOneThreeCoupe on Sep 03, 2014

      JuniperBug beat me to it, but typically they don't make softer springs because more often than not it's the dampers and not the springs that have problems. I've never found a car with springs too stiff- my (much-lighter-than-an-NC-chassis) 240SX was running 450lbs/in front and 325lbs/in rear and with off-the-shelf double-adjustable Konis it was more comfortable on the street than my wife's stock Z4 3.0Si.

  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.
  • Dukeisduke If these were built in the US, they'd probably be plagued with recalls, like everything else Ford makes now. It's just as well they don't bring them here.I've owned one Ford, a '95 F-150 (drove it for 17 years and 214k miles) and it was fantastic. But you couldn't run fast enough to get me to buy another Ford. Quality used to be Job 1; now it's an afterthought.
  • Dukeisduke "side-to-side taillights""Across-the-border" is the phrase you're looking for - it's what Ford called the taillights on the '67-'68 and '70-'71 Thunderbirds.