By on June 11, 2018

Affectionately known as the Miata, Mazda’s MX-5 roadster is a throwback to an era when fun cars were simple. While its evolution included obligatory tech and safety updates, that’s about all the manufacturer added. The recipe for the spry little convertible has always been to deliver a mechanically simple, lightweight, and sporting automobile that adheres to the regulatory mandates of its era.

The end result is a reasonably reliable and totally livable sports car that can be driven enthusiastically at moderate speeds, delivering a pleasurable experience for less than $26,000. It may lack the amenities and passenger occupancy of a larger automobile, but it’s better than a motorcycle — and serves a similar purpose in an infinitely more practical way. Like any sport bike, you purchase the Miata for the visceral and engaging experience it provides. You just have to pay a little more for the benefit of being able hide from mother nature while you’re flicking down the backroads.

If the MX-5 has a single shortcoming, it’s that it is debatably down on power. While many would argue that its sub-2,400 pound curb weight makes the 151-horsepower 2.0-liter more than adequate for delivering a good time, there are vehicles in Miata’s price range that are faster in a straight line. Mazda seems to have a solution to this problem. 

According to a recent test drive of the company’s MX-5 RF Prototype by Car Watch, which Road & Track was the first to spot, the automaker looks to be providing 26 extra ponies for the 2019 model. This confirms Bozi Tatarevic’s previous discovery of a VIN filing denoting the new Miata would make 181 horsepower next year.

The article goes into great detail as to how Mazda worked its magic on the SkyActiv-G motor to coax out the additional power. Valve timing and spring tension were recalibrated, pistons and connecting rods were lightened, and there’s now a larger throttle body. Mazda also modified the crankshaft, while chucking on a new low-inertia flywheel — and that’s just the big stuff.

There are loads of improvements on the updated 2.0-liter and the end result is faster rotation and more power. All told, the prototype RF made 181 horsepower and 151 foot-pounds with a 7,500-rpm redline. Considering Mazda obsessively talks about how it needs to save more weight on the 2019 MX-5, we expect the changes to be transformative. This will be a significantly faster roadster.

The prototype also included some new colors and the telescoping steering wheel we mentioned earlier this year. As is to be expected, Mazda can’t confirm anything at this time. But we reckon the details outlined above are correct and it’s just a matter of time before the automaker verifies the zoom-zoom in an official capacity.

[Images: Mazda]

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42 Comments on “Zoom-Zoom: Mazda MX-5 Gets More Power and a Higher Redline for 2019...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    More horsepower is always a good thing.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    From 125HP/ton to 150HP/ton. Not bad

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    181 horsepower from a 2 liter is outstanding, that’s 1.5 hp per cubic inch.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Come on. Honda was getting 240 hp from a NA 2-liter almost 20 years ago. My SVT Focus was making 170 hp 15 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        It’s impressive nonetheless, although cars like the Civic Si had to be driven around at 6,000 rpm to make up for the lack of torque.

        • 0 avatar
          jeanbaptiste

          It’s not impressive. It’s mediocre at best. This specific output is lame and Honda was at this torque level 20 years ago from a 2.0l. Mazda has no claim to anything special with this motor or config. Weak sauce at best.

          Just calling a spade a spade. All truth.

          • 0 avatar
            Sub-600

            I must be thinking in relative terms or something. 1.5 horsepower per cubic inch seems pretty good to me. I wish my 5.7L put out 520 hp instead of 370.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            90.5 hp/l – is middle of the pack. Ford’s gen III Coyote in the Mustang is making around that (slightly less for an official number unless you count the upcoming Bullitt which is producing around 90 or 91 hp/l).

            Exceptional these days for a good DOHC 4v engine in a car from a major manufacturer would be 100 hp/l or greater and for that matter a naturally aspirated OHV 2v engine making north of 75 hp/l would be pretty damn good (like 80 hp/l plus) in stock form (although I beleive Dodge holds the NA OHV 2v record at slightly less than 77 hp/l)

          • 0 avatar
            conundrum

            The K20 made 75 lb-ft per litre at a minimum of 6000 rpm, usually much higher. Used in S2000 and various JDM screamers.

            In civilian form like in the Integra, it made 70 at 4000 rpm. Just like everyone else with port injection did.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_K_engine#K20A

            Now any old engine makes 75 lb-ft per litre because of Direct Injection. Yes even Mr Milquetoast Subaru Impreza.

            The king of atmo port-injected engines was the Ferrari F360 V8. 275 lb-ft from 3.6 litres, or 76.5 lb-ft per litre, and at only 4750 rpm. Max power 395 hp at 8500 rpm and not a VTEC in sight. The difference in making maximum torque so low in the rev band of such a high revver is not a trivial matter that can be fobbed off by repeating Honda 300 times in a low chant of reverence.

            The etheteal wondrousness of Honda fans knows no bounds. And that’s the truth

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            The K20 was a street engine. Developed for “civilian” use. “Specsheet Racing” engines; designed to spend their lives in climate controlled warehouses in Nevada while soaking up a Wall Street bailout’s worth of annual maintenance doing so, will always be somewhat different beasts.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    How about the 2.5 turbo and you send brochures to everyone who bought a BR-Z or a FR-S?

    o_O

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      If I was running Mazda, that is what I would do, yes.

      But…Mazda doesn’t have a manual (or automatic) transmission in-house that could handle that increased torque…the turbo plumbing probably wouldn’t fit under the hood…and…and…and…

      It’s a tough business…..Mazda is just too small to make those kind of development investments in niche products I am afriad…

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        As it is, Miata transmissions are exploding with the current 155 HP.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The turbo plumbing would fit. In the NC model there was enough room to shove a V8 motor in there. The whole engine sits behind the front axle.

        I’d love a turbo Miata shooting brake.

      • 0 avatar
        pinkslip

        The NC transmission would be fine for the turbo engine, but wouldn’t have helped the ND save weight like the newly-designed unit does. The turbo engine also wouldn’t help with the curb weight (but would definitely help with power to weight ratio). I would absolutely replace my ND 2.0 with a 2.5T “Mazdaspeed” MX-5, but Mazda doesn’t seem to want to build that car- perhaps they just don’t want to complete with the cars in that performance segment.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          In order to make a 2.5T MX5, the suspension and brakes would need to be upgraded as well….while an owner can simply add power and leave everything else…and OEM cannot.

          • 0 avatar
            pinkslip

            Yeah, and this is done all the time- Focus SE to ST, Golf to GTI, Civic EX to SI, etc.

            Mazda just released the 2.5T in the Mazda6, which previously only offered a 185 HP motor, so I’m sure they did a similar analysis of the suspension and braking components.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Not going to work on me, unfortunately: not enough space inside no matter what. Which is all kinds of shame. My wife likes the ND in the abstract, but she’s not currently in the market. And she does not need excess power anyway.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Having owned multiple Miatas, and driven handfuls of other sports cars over the years, but having NOT driven the ND…

    I doubt whether this car really needs more power. They hit 60 in what, 6 seconds flat with the 155hp. That NOT slow.

    And I know I’m gonna sound like I’m toeing the line here, but IMHO the best thing about the Miata, and it only gets better as I get older, is that it is fun as hell to drive on a regular old street. You can wind it out and push it and while you might be breaking the speed limit, it won’t be by much.

    I am frankly sick of basically every car today being able to break the law seemingly instantaneously. Yeah, its fun to get pushed into the seat for 3 seconds….then what? It gets old, and fast. And I swear people drive slower than ever today on top of that. 300hp sedans with 45mph freeway merges and glacial-like acceleration up to the apparently way-too-fast 35mph speed limit.

    So, I’m sure it will be welcome for all those Miata shoppers who thing HP is the be-all-end-all and that the Miata should have 500hp or more, but I’m kinda meh on it. If anything I’d be more excited about what sounds like a more responsive, faster revving motor than the actual HP output.

    Aside: I believe Mazda has corrected the early ND transmission issues. If you wanna learn more you’ll find a million threads on the Miata forum. A stronger transmission is no reason to buy the horribly ugly and soft Fiat 124!

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I’ll back you up here. While I’m rarely going to look down upon adding power (unless it’s going to start fragging equipment) the MX-5 is already a hoot to chuck around. We need cars that can be a blast below the speed limit.

      Although I do kind of like the homely 124.

    • 0 avatar
      pinkslip

      I don’t expect the ND2 to be more “responsive” than the ND1, because the updated motor with lighter internals comes with a heavier flywheel. But I do expect it to hit 60 MPH slightly faster since it can rev to 7500 rpm, requiring less shifting.

      I predict the new motor to perform almost identically to the current one for anything under 6800rpm, so most street-only drivers will not feel a ton of the improvements Mazda made. For those who fully wring out their engines, however, the new motor sounds like a nice improvement.

      And, as the owner of an ND, I actually prefer the styling of the 124. I was planning on buying the 124, until I drove it. The 1.4T in stock form was very disappointing in terms of feedback, top end, and fun factor. I still wonder if I should have gone the 124 direction, though, as it comes with all the stuff I couldn’t get (Recaros, back up camera, nicer interior details), and the aftermarket can do quite a bit to tune the 1.4T.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        The current Miata can be had with Recaros and a back up camera.

        • 0 avatar
          pinkslip

          True, the 2019 MX-5 has a backup camera and the 2018 model started offering Recaro seats. But this was not the case when I bought my 2016. So I wonder if I should have gone the 124 route at that time, to get those things, plus nicer (to me) interior, thicker steering wheel, more stout 6-speed, and factory LSD.

          As it is, I’m adding the LSD ($1500), would like the Recaros (another $1500+), could add the camera ($350), could buy a nicer steering wheel (Abarth for $100, or nicer aftermarket for $500-650), and on, and on. I’ve enjoyed modding and tuning my car, and much prefer the responsiveness of the 2.0 Skyactiv over the 1.4T Multiair. But I would probably be pretty darn happy with a big turbo modded 1.4T and all the stuff that comes with a loaded Abarth.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I share some of your sentiments here.

      I drive a 2015 Mazda6 with manual gearbox. The car handles well, and I enjoy shifting gears and working the clutch. While many reviews bemoan the miserly 184 bhp, I don’t find the car underpowered. I cruise effortlessly all day at 80 mph on the freeway. The car will climb almost any hill on any Interstate without downshifting. For a family sedan, 185 bhp is perfectly acceptable, and my car consistently returns 33mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        pinkslip

        I just got out of a CX-5 rental after 5 days and found the 2.5 under-powered for that vehicle. Part of this is due to needing to downshift several gears for adequate acceleration, and part of it is how much the engine sounds like it’s struggling.

        I haven’t driven a Mazda6 for comparison, but they are not that different in weight, so I suspect I would feel the same way about the sedan.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          You need a strong engine to make an automatic powertrain enjoyable. But I was surprised at how much I enjoy driving my buddy’s FWD 2.0L MT CX-5. It doesn’t rev nearly as pleasurably as the MZR in my Mazda3, but it’s still enjoyable to wind it out, shift gears, and tear through the on/off ramps; all without any concern that I’m going to destroy a wheel on a pothole like I do when driving a car.

          It doesn’t matter to me if a vehicle is slow. It’s far more important that the machine obeys my every command.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I’ll second R Henry. I’ve had a Focus ST, current gen, with the 252 hp on premium unleaded and a current gen 300S with 301 hp on regular. Irresponsible hooligans wanted to race as often as not while I drove the Focus ST and the 300 felt like a big comfy barge with no real performance pretensions. I felt the performance capabilities in the Focus were wasted on me as I don’t have interesting backroads in my area not to mention it was too tempting to be an irresponsible hooligan; feeding the barge got old fast.

        The Mazda6 is, to me, “right-powered,” returns respectable mileage (33-35 combined), feels fairly light on its feet and doesn’t make me feel like a poseur. My commute is 20 miles through the most congested part of my state, not as bad as some places but bad enough, and my peer drivers couldn’t find the speed limit ina reasonable distance if you tried; it’s not as frustrating being in a reasonably powerful car if you’re going nowhere fast than it is being in a pseudo-sporty car such as the Focus ST (also going nowhere fast). As compared to the similarly powerful 2.5 Jetta, this one is much better in that I can find the power, whereas the Jetta hid it.

        I’ve gotten to the point where I recognize what I’m interested in as it relates to a car and where absolute non-necessities sit (ie always needing more power).

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      One of these is on my short list for next car. I’m waiting to see what they do with the visual refresh – Mazda’s designs just after this came out have been, to my eye, really really good.

      I agree that I’d worry if it got “too fast” to enjoy at moderate speeds. One of my favorite things about my current car is running foot to the floor through three gears without worrying about a jail sentence, and through the first four gears if I’m willing to court a big ticket.

      As someone else said, my big enthusiasm about the apparent change is the higher redline, which sounds more exciting.

    • 0 avatar
      jeanbaptiste

      I’ll counter your point. I’ve had multiple miatas and various other sporty cars. While 6.0 0-60 May sound fast, the reality of driving that most people do, the torque of something bigger/powerful is appreciated 100fold more times compared to a torqueless motor. That was the problem with the s2000. No torque.

      Also, where do real people ever get a chance to exploit the ha fling of a Miata? On the commute? Hardly. All you get is a motor that barely begs to be ringed out and no where to go. Hardly worth the penalty of cramped space, mediocre mpg and lack of torque. Give me the torque all day long.

    • 0 avatar
      bking12762

      It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “…horribly ugly and soft Fiat 124!”

      Just goes to show you, styling is very subjective. I find the 124 handsome and the MX-5’s squinty mug quite ugly. The Mazda6 isn’t bad looking, in fact, I find it to be one of the best looking (new) cars on the road today. I only wish the MX-5 looked as good. Not that they should graft the 6’s front clip onto the roadster, not at all, my only point in mentioning it is to show that Mazda has it in them to make a beautiful car.

      • 0 avatar
        TDIandThen....

        I’m pro-124 as well, though it did take me a little while to warm to the looks. As for soft suspension, I prefer the quiter-softer for the reality of all the potholes in my city and highway driving; the Abarth trim is a little more aggressive, stays flat in corners, and I like 10 more litres of trunk space. Add to that a savings of thousands and actual torque…I like the MX-5 but I’m scheduled to buy the 124.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I would like to see a higher powered version of the mx-5 as well. But I think the power on tap is perfect for what the car is. I’d probably hurt myself with much more.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    While my NB would get old in a hurry if I had to commute in it, just today I enjoyed it once again taking it into the country (where my girlfriend and I are buying a house). If you’re in the mood, working the throttle and shifter to keep up and slightly overtake other traffic is good fun. It feels more rewarding – and less illegal – than when I had high powered sport bikes and hitting 100 MPH felt like nothing. At one point I had to make a tight U-turn; full throttle and a clutch dump made short work of that.

    A Miata will never measure up if you’re comparing it to practical things or, for the most part, spec sheets. It isn’t impressively fast (although 6 seconds is nothing to sneeze at) unless you’re on a tight winding road. What it is is great fun as a driver’s car, and even my 8 second 0-60 version is fun. By comparison, the current ND is serious business.

    If you judge the Miata before driving one, you don’t really have a way of understanding what makes it great.

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    I wonder if my local Mazda dealer will sell me one at a reasonable price (e.g., halfway between invoice and MSRP) or jack up the price since the 2019 is the new “powerful” model. Maybe it is time to re-learn how to drive a manual!

    • 0 avatar
      TDIandThen....

      If you don’t want an “old” model late this calendar year, wait until the end of next is my thinking. I haven’t found a Mazda dealer willing to budge much, when I was looking last winter.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      124s seem to be going for thousands under sticker, Miatas not so much. And at least the Fiat version has a color palette that isn’t just greyscale and red.

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