More power. The need for it seems to be ingrained within us all. Well, most of us, anyway. Since the first man – or woman – threw their leg over a nag’s back and galloped off into the distance, the horsepower that we’ve got has lagged behind the horsepower that we believe it is more desirable to have. Years ago I owned a Lotus Elise S1. It had 118bhp, but because it was very light I initially thought its performance was all I’d ever need. Then I drove a model with 135bhp. And then another with 160bhp. Ultimately I lucked into a drive of the version with 190bhp in which, very early one Sunday morning, I blasted the 45 miles from my house to the Suffolk coast and didn’t see another living soul. Suddenly my Elise seemed woefully underpowered. How on earth could I expect to get by with anything less than 190 rampaging ponies beneath the engine cover? You’re right, ridiculous thinking, as was confirmed shortly afterwards when I road tested an Elise S2 with the same meagre 118bhp as my car, and it was utterly wonderful. I bring up the subject of power because the revised mk4 MX-5 is reviewed in this issue and its main claim to fame is that its power output has risen from 158bhp to 181bhp. Elsewhere I have already seen the inevitable ‘the mk4 has been crying out for more power since launch’ and ‘the power output the mk4 should always have had’ type headlines. As if the outgoing car – the 2.0-litre version at least, as the power of the revised 1.5 is unchanged – was in some way deficient and nobody had previously dared mention it. Nonsense. The joy of the mk4 has never been about storming acceleration and explosive throttle response; the thrill of driving it is in its deft agility, the intimate connection between driver and steering and suspension, and how its lightweight construction allows you to do great things with just modest power. Yes, it’s nice to have a little more oomph, yet it’s not essential. Owners of original mk4s needn’t feel obliged to nip out and buy a new one.
Brett Fraser, editor firstname.lastname@example.org