FIRST WORDS

Total MX-5 - - FIRST WORDS -

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 brett@bret­tfraser.co.uk

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