The new Mazda MX-5 is the car I always wanted. It s a small, sexy, sure-footed sports car that outwits all those huge, over-embellished, slow-witted American muscle machines. The only problem is, I wanted the MX-5 back in 75. Things have moved on. There s now a wide range of well-balanced sports cars vying for the enthusiast s attention. Some of them are even American. And none of them are as dangerous as Mazda s diminutive roadster.
Endless reviews praise the MX-5 s purity of form, clarity of purpose and banquet of sensations. None mention the pint-sized roadster s lack of compatibility. In other words, when the MX-5 hits something, the something s driver gets out, scratches his head and says Dang! whereas the MX-5 driver doesn t get out. No wonder the official website s safety section begins with Beyond the safety benefits of having a car that allows you to react quickly to avoid hazardous situations and touts systems that help make it easier to avoid accidents in the first place.
Of course, Mazda s right: The best way to survive an accident is not to have one. There s no question that [what my two-year-old called] the baby car is supernaturally maneuverable — as you d expect from a two seater that weighs less than half a Lincoln Navigator. And although there was nothing wrong with the way the last MX-5 tripped the light fandango, the new iteration offers sharpened everything: chassis, brakes, engine, steering, gearbox, the lot. You can nip, dart, cut, thrust, hang a Louie and generally thrash the car like a stunt driving god.
If you can t drive this puppy fast, you can t drive. But I challenge any enthusiast worth his Sparco shoes to drive it slow. For one thing, the MX-5 s four-pot is a buzzy little thing from the basement to the penthouse, with real shove at the top of the rev range. So why wouldn t you cane it? For another, the electro-hydraulic steering is ponderous at the straight ahead. But when you fling the MX-5 into a corner, the helm springs to life. So why wouldn t you dice? The brakes are good for a laugh: strong, fade, free and progressive. So why wouldn t you slip into grin mode at every opportunity?
Why indeed? Mazda has wandered into borderline OCD in their attempt to eliminate any reason not to buy an MX-5. With a flared arch here, a power dome bulge there, the car has morphed from a suppository into an intoxicating objet d auto. The cabin s upgraded plastics and ergonomics harmonize perfectly. If it weren t for the faux metal steering wheel surrounds, tinny radio and coffee can exhaust note; the MX5 would challenge the 911 has the world s most highly evolved automobile.
Unlike potential Porsche ownership, it s best to approach MX5 possession by asking yourself the same question Henry V asked his troops prior to battle: Do you want to live forever? The truth is, if someone had handed me the keys to an MX-5 when I was a teenager, I wouldn t be writing this review. [by Robert Farago]