Behind The Scenes At The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Lead Preview

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

To say that the global preview for the new MX-5 was “exclusive” would be like calling the Moon “rarely visited”. Only eight North American journalists had the chance to drive one of just four available cars over the course of two days. The good news is that we each got nearly two hours in the “ND”, all on mostly empty roads and without a drive partner.

The better news is that I got an additional two hours to interview key management and engineering personnel from Mazda after my drive. I didn’t get all the answers I wanted, but I got a few that you won’t get anywhere else — at least not yet.

You can see my review of the MX-5 in right-hand-drive, 1.5-liter, JDM (yo) form here. Due to space limitations, however, that article doesn’t include several interview tidbits and additional information. So, without further ado:

  • As part of the efforts to reduce weight and lower the polar moment of inertia, the roll hoops and their supporting structure are now made from aluminum. Since this makes welding a competition rollcage a tricky business, the MX-5s that are being used in the new Global MX-5 Cup will have a steel structure in place of the aluminum one — but what does this mean for future generations of Spec Miata and other road-car-into-race-car series?
  • Part of the new MX-5’s responsiveness comes from a lighter flywheel. This is an old trick to increase the perceived power of a car, but it always comes at the cost of low-speed driveability and NVH. To cut down on the resulting vibration, there are fifty-gram damping weights mounted on the differential. How light is the flywheel? Mazda wouldn’t say. They did show an engineering diagram that appears to suggest that the weight savings comes from machining the outer rim with oval depressions. The flywheel in the NC was 16.2 pounds; street/race flywheels from the aftermarket can be as low as half that. My guess: fourteen pounds.
  • However, Mazda did disclose that the flywheel is single-mass instead of dual-mass/rubber-damped.
  • In conversations with the drivetrain engineer, he specifically declined to state that the much lighter, aluminum case rear differential has the same power handling capacity as the old one. He was only willing to state that it was the same for both engines and that it had been engineered to handle the two-liter, which has slightly more torque (148 lb-ft vs. 141 lb-ft) than before.
  • The suspension is single-rate sprung and very soft, which I think is a good thing. This car rides pretty well for the size and weight.
  • There’s more legroom in this Miata than there was in its predecessor, and I never felt cramped during my two-hour drive. With that said, I have short legs for my height, and usually wear a thirty-two or thirty-three inch inseam. What about headroom? Although the driver sits twenty millimeters lower, the windshield’s lower as well. I had no trouble sitting in such a fashion as to align my eyes with the sunshades. Tall drivers beware. This might be particularly true with the top up; it’s lower profile than it was in the NC.

While the Internet is already foaming at the mouth about the 155-horsepower rating for the SKYACTIV two-liter, I continue to believe this is the best Miata in history and very much worth the money, assuming it costs at least one penny less than a Boxster 2.7. Not that the Boxster is as fun to drive, sad to say. Regardless of the power, if you want to be one of the early adopters, my recommendation would be to get in line now.

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  • Eventualhorizon Eventualhorizon on Feb 03, 2015

    This is awesome. I haven't really followed any of the pre-release buildup so I wasn't expecting it to be so light. 2200 lbs is amazing for a car with the everyday driveability of an mx-5. For comparison my 72 240z with no safety features, ac or power anything is 2450 lbs. It is a shame that they didn't get more power out of the 2.0 but that should be curable with aftermarket add ons. Perhaps they are leaving room for future model upgrades. edit:forgot to add... one thing that would be interesting on such a light car would be a manual steering option/epas delete.

  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Feb 04, 2015

    JB, I feel your pain about the MIata's low ceiling. I might have found some excuse to buy one, if only I wasn't stuck staring right at the sun visors. That seemed to defeat the purpose of an "open car." I had no such problem back in the late Sixties, in my Fiat 1500 Cabriolet! But then I'm built like a fireplug, sometimes seeming taller sitting down. Short arms don't favor the laid-back cruiser seat settings, so I sit upright, stuck under a low roof. In many cars, I feel like a nut in a cracker. Designers really don't like to size cars for us, and it shows. Yesterday I sat in the new Golf, which has had its height lowered by an inch. All of it came out of the roof, I'd say. The front cabin felt much smaller than before. It made my Mk V feel like a Checker cab, but I like that feeling. Not only do I see to drive, I like to drive to see. After owning four GTIs, this is the first time when I've felt that the new model was off the table for me.

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