I admit it. I'm a Miata fanboy. Publicly, I won't admit that the car has any faults. It's perfect. But friends, in private, I think it has quite a few. I'm going to let you in on what needs fixing. And why the Super20 fixes all of them. And more.
(Full Disclosure: I wanted to drive the Super20 so bad that I pestered Mazda for months to let me do it. Months. Ask them, they'll tell you. [UPDATE: Mazda PR has informed me I started asking on April 3, 2013.] They told me I could if I was ever in LA, so I came to LA. Pro tip: If you want me to go somewhere, tell me there will be a modified Miata waiting for me when I get there.)
The Miata is more than the sum of its parts. It's kind of like every equation I solved in high school math, although that was more by mistake than design. Out of the factory, the Miata does have a few flaws. And the biggest flaw is the engine.
In one of the most character-filled cars on the road, the Miata has one of the most anemic and boring engines you can imagine. It sounds flat. It feels blah. It doesn't wow you with high power or high torque. The 2.0 gets the job done, but it doesn't do it thrillingly.
And that's a shame, because the brilliance of the Miata chassis means it can handle so much more power and do it easily. The aftermarket makes turbos, superchargers, and even drops in V8s to make the engine match the chassis. Mazda has even lightly turbocharged the Miata in the past.
That's what makes the Super20 so great: It's supercharged. By Cosworth and Flyin' Miata. Yes. That Cosworth. The car also has all these great other words like Stoptech, Toyo, Enkei, and Mazdaspeed. And what that equals is a balls out Miata with 250 horsepower (About. Maybe. Mazda hasn't said the power it makes, but other publications put it around there. I'm going to agree.). This was Mazda's concept at SEMA in 2010 and 2011, and for some reason they're now letting regular folks drive it. I'm not going to complain.
It has a short ratio trans. Like really short ratio. You're in third and getting ready for fourth when you hit 60. That means a lot of your time is spent exercising your right arm. The gearbox and ACT race clutch are also great to use. Throws are short and direct, like any other Miata. I know it's a cliche to say they feel like loading a rifle, but it feels like loading a rifle. Cliches come about because they're true.
So other than the engine, the Miata is perfect? Far from it. The chassis is great, but suspension tuning has always been a bit soft. It rolls a lot in corners. Sure, it's fun at slow speeds, but the limits are so much higher. That's why I have so much work done to my Miata.
The Super20 has a suspension like my car, if my car had some R&D behind it. Ride is still rough, but it's expertly tuned. Yeah, it's uncomfortable and it kinda sucks in on the highway, R Compound Toyos will do that, but that's a fair trade. This thing is unreal on backroads.
That's what a Miata has always been about: Being uncomfortable in the short term to have fun in the long term. Get off the highway, hop on a canyon road, and all the promises that Miata nuts like me make to you non-believers are fulfilled in the Super20. And more. It still only has 250 horsepower, which makes it faster than stock but not something that would give Chuck Yeager a stiffy.
The way I put it after running a canyon with friends this week is that it's slower than all of them in the straights, but faster than everything in the corners. The levels of grip are simply amazing. Turn in is fast and crisp, almost like it's controlled by your thoughts. "Oh, I want to turn left now." "Yes Travis. I know." This is a connection to the road unlike any other car in its class. You can make it misbehave, and when you do, it is eminently controllable.
I have never driven a car on backroads that I've enjoyed more than the Super20.
What I really enjoy is the character. This is a concept car, it isn't perfect. Tires rub. The suspension creaks under compression. Fourth gear is a little weak, probably from journos thrashing it for months.
And the best part of the Super20 is that pretty much every part on the car can be bought and you can make your own at home. Super20 is the dish that was in the oven during the cooking show while Giada put together all the ingredients. A premade meal to show just how great a Miata can be.
I get to drive a lot of cars. I get to drive a lot of cars that are built far better than this. Cars that don't have wood and screws (not a joke) holding parts of it together. Cars that don't creak in corners or rub tires on the wheel well. I don't give a shit. If I had to lay my money down for any car that I've tested this year, the Super20 would get the check. It's all about driving and none of the other bull that cars are these days. It's the most refreshing experience I've had in a long time.
I love this car more than I should. I love this car more than any human should rationally love a piece of machinery. If I owned an NC Miata, this is what I'd want my car to be. Every once in a while, I get emotionally attached to these cars I test. The Super20 is my Jennifer Aniston. My Bar Rafaeli. I had access to a pornographic F-Type V8S while I had the Super20, and I declined to drive it. Repeatedly.
The real shame is that this is the only Super20 Mazda will make. I want more of them. I want this to be the NC's send off Mazdaspeed version. Perhaps I'll kidnap the Super20.
Or more accurately, I'll marry it. That's legal in California, right?