:7 Angus Mackenzie: International Bureau Chief Always tends to punch above its weight. Such a joy to drive—playful, entertaining, fun. More power amps the fun factor.”
We’ve shown a lot of BDC love for the Miata, lapping six of them over the years. Only the Viper, Corvette, and 911 have garnered more invitations. The world’s best-selling roadster has reached the podium twice, finishing third in 2009 and 2015. Every time this wee David takes on a field of Goliaths, we gush about its light, nimble chassis, excuse its lack of headlinegrabbing horsepower, and crab about its excessive body roll. When we heard the lightweight Club model was getting the RF targa’s stiffened rear suspension plus an engine retune with 26 more horses, we eagerly invited it and raised our hopes that this might be the Miata’s year.
“It’s that close to Best Driver’s Car,” Randy Pobst declared. “Two things: It rolls too much, and it oversteers all the time. I have fun with that, but it’s a better driver’s car if it’s balanced.” The oversteer issue is new, and it’s not power oversteer, so maybe those revised rear suspenders need fine-tuning. The engine is transformed, pulling hard to its higher 7,500-rpm redline instead of petering out before 6,000 rpm. It’s only a tenth quicker through the quarter mile, but it feels lustier and requires less shifting. Pobst used that modest power bump and slidey rear to shave 2.21 seconds off the 2016 Club model’s lap time, though at that pace he faded the brakes in four laps—another new issue.
Editorial opinions were mixed on Route 198. Scott Evans was in love. “The stiffer rear suspension still moves and leans with you but doesn’t bang down on its bump stops,” he said. “It makes you feel like you’re going so much faster.” Jethro Bovingdon disagreed: “It feels terrific when settled under some cornering force but seems all at sea during the transitional phases.” He and Mark Rechtin found the steering a bit vague. Ed Loh took issue with aggressive stability controls that intervened officiously to rein in that inherent oversteer and made things a bit nervous. But a few more tweaks, and the MX-5 might have returned to the podium.
MONOMODE The cozy Miata cockpit requires no mode-knob twiddling. Sporty is its one mode. It’s also super easy to brace oneself into this seat and against the console and door so as to feel at one with the machine.