Exterior Design: ****
She's a beaut. First of all, massive kudos to Mazda's design team for having the balls to let a Japanese car look like a Japanese car. No one is aping Germany here. The front end is the best Schnoz to spring from the land of Tentacle-Rape Anime since Commander Bond was driving Toyota's 2000GT in grease paint. Equal parts cichlid and pissed off samurai, the front of the new MX-5 is one of the very best in the business. The Solstice and the Quattroporte are its only competition head on. The side's good, too, what with the coiled arches, long, gorgeous fenders and appropriately sporty wheels. The brake calipers, however, look cheap and I would love a crease or two across the trunk. The rear is a reverse mullet — all business out back. Mine was even covered in Mazda Mille and faux-Ferrari stickers. Shame about the embarrassing "Zoom Zoom" ones. The roof rocks in the up position, too.
Interior Design: ****
The interior has been nice-i-fied for the Power Hardtop's inflated price. Most nice is the dark strip of heavily lacquered stuff that holds the vents in place. Second most nice is the push-button manner in which the vents close. The leather seats are sharp and firm, though a bit too narrow for the average American lard-ass. The wheel, shifter and pedals should all be placed in the Smithsonian, for no better can be done. Even the cruise control buttons are positioned exactly right. Why not five stars then? I dare you to find the gas tank release.
Straight-line or lateral? Straight-line is not very good, as 2,500 lbs. trumps 140 lbs.-ft. every time. When it arrives, the MazdaSpeed version will set hearts, and Michelin Pilots, on fire. As it is now, not so much. Don't get me wrong, the MX-5 is by no means a slow car. And it isn't a fast car, either.
Good to the point where I didn't notice the brakes, despite considerable sideways-getting hoonantics. Fifth star because the calipers are too chincy and ugly to be that good.
If you like sports cars, the MX-5 is a five. However, sports cars are driven on tracks with good gravel, not on the pot-hole infested shitfields that pass for roads around my not-quite-yet gentrified LA neighborhood. The MX-5 doesn't like these streets either, as it bucks and kicks over uneven pavement. Ironically, the steering is so responsive that the wheel likes to jerk away from your grasp when the going gets rough. Which leads us to...
Off the top of my head, the Mitsubishi Evo, Lotus Elise and Porsche Boxster are the only cars on earth that handle better. And they all cost more. Visions of "I'm a stunt driver" will dance through your head. I took this puppy up on Angeles Crest Highway, one of the absolute most challenging roads found anywhere in the world, and easily kept up with motorcycles (until that one damned straightaway). The DSC-off, snap-on oversteer is something all serious pistonheads must experience before life crushes them, and they become minvan owners. (Spin, you sure we can't do six stars?)
I don't care how many nanoseconds the F1 paddle system in a zillion-dollar Ferrari takes to shift. The under-$25,000 Miata's six-speed manual is more satisfying. Best. Shifter. Ever.
Sirius means Howard Stern and strippers riding the Sybian. A convertible means you've got to turn the volume way up to hear, which barely works. And when you are lowering or raising the top, the moving deck-lid momentarily blocks the satellite antenna.
Toys: (no stars)
I suppose the buttons to open and close the vents could count... nah.
Props to the boffins for keeping the trunk the same size rain or shine. However, five cubic feet is just that. Beer kegs ride shotgun and wreck the leather.
As this is a pre-production model, pricing is yet to be set. However, word on the street is $23,995 and that would be the bargain of the decade. $30,000 would seem reasonable.
The rare five-star vehicle. Yes, yes, imperfections abound (4,000 rpm at 80mph on 91 octane equals suckage), but factor in the low-low estimated price and suck it up.
[by Jonny Lieberman]