Mazda MX- 5 gets more power

Alpine Observer - - Northeast Motor Guide - By EWAN KENNEDY

MAZDA con­tin­ues its re­lent­less way in the sales race in Aus­tralia, this time with the in­tro­duc­tion of more pow­er­ful ver­sions of its halo sportscar the bril­liant lit­tle MX-5.

The MX-5 has been famed since its in­tro­duc­tion way back in 1989 for hav­ing ex­cel­lent bal­ance and han­dling, but some­what down on power. Now the engi­neers have made ma­jor changes to the 2.0- litre ver­sions of both the MX-5 road­ster and the RF (Re­tractable Fast­back).

These changes cover the full gamut of the de­sign and see its out­put sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased from 118 kilo­watts to 135 kW. And the lift­ing of max­i­mum revs from 7000 to 7500.

Ev­ery­thing from the air in­take, through the com­bus­tion cham­ber, to the ex­haust sys­tem has been ex­ten­sively re­vised. There are lighter re­cip­ro­cat­ing com­po­nents, re­duced in­ter­nal fric­tion and faster gas flow.

Though ex­tra torque is harder to achieve than straight out power it has been raised from 200 Nm to 205 Nm and is over a wider band of the rev range.

Just as im­por­tantly, in­deed prob­a­bly even more im­por­tantly, the sound and over­all feel of the en­gine have been im­proved. It now has a sporty growl and is beau­ti­fully re­spon­sive to throt­tle in­puts.

But an even louder growl, per­haps with some ag­gres­sion added, would suit us even more. Greedy, aren’t we?

We were very im­pressed with the en­gine and sus­pen­sion im­prove­ments on a scenic drive route put on by Mazda Aus­tralia to launch its heav­ily re­vised ma­chine to the mo­tor­ing me­dia. This took us from Coolan­gatta air­port in Queens­land into By­ron Bay in NSW and back again over some de­mand­ing twisty roads through hilly ar­eas that are still green thanks to good rain­fall in re­cent weeks.

The first thing we did on get­ting down into the lit­tle road­ster was ad­just the steer­ing wheel for not only height, but also for reach. Mazda’s guys and gals have fi­nally lis­tened to com­plaints of the lack of in-and-out move­ment of the wheel. Be­ing able to fine tune my po­si­tion within the MX-5 made it feel even more as though I was part of the car.

How­ever, it has to be said that there’s still not quite enough room for my lanky 181cm frame. The seat has to be all the way to the rear, and the back­rest was touch­ing the body be­hind it. And - no fault of the car this - my age­ing knees weren’t keen at get­ting my back­side down into the car, and even less oblig­ing at get­ting back out again. Try be­fore you buy if you’re not as young as you used to be…

The sports Mazda is even sharper in its han­dling feel than ever be­fore - and that’s say­ing some­thing - with sharper de­liv­ery of the torque. There have been no changes to the sus­pen­sion, but keep in mind that there were sig­ni­fi­cat al­ter­ations to the sus­pen­sion tune that we re­ported on in Fe­bru­ary this year. The styling of the gen-four Mazda MX5, the ND se­ries, is ba­si­cally un­changed, but new-de­sign 16-inch black wheels are an ob­vi­ous fea­ture. Keep in mind that, as men­tioned ear­lier, Mazda Oz in­tro­duced a restyle only a few months back. Note that the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge learned while work­ing re­lent­lessly on the 2.0- litre Mazda MX-5 pow­er­plant have been car­ried across to some ex­tent to the smaller 1.5-litre unit. How­ever, its power is only up from 95 to 97 kW, and torque in­creased by 152 Nm, up by just 2 Nm. The free revving na­ture of the smaller en­gine has long en­deared it dis­cern­ing driv­ers but we have not had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the up­graded 1.5 at this time. We look for­ward to get­ting into one some­time soon. Note that the smaller en­gine is now only of­fered in the stan­dard ver­sion of the MX-5 road­ster, not in the slightly more up­mar­ket GT or in the re­tractable fast­back.

Mazda’s re­lent­less pur­suit of per­fec­tion in all its mod­els is nowhere more ev­i­dent than in the en­gi­neer­ing ad­vance­ments in this lat­est edi­tion of its halo car, the built for fun MX-5.

ZOOM ZOOM: Styling of the gen-four Mazda MX-5 is ba­si­cally un­changed, but new-de­sign black wheels are a fea­ture.

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