2017 MAZDA MX5 RF VIDEO REVIEW
2017 MAZDA MX5 RF VIDEO REVIEW BY AUTO CRITIC STEVE HAMMES
Whether you’re a weekend racer or top down joyrider, the Miata has been the roadster of choice for more than a million drivers. But there’s never been one as sexy as this…the MX-5 RF is the new power retractable hardtop that’s turning heads.
With the roof up in this exceptionally unique Ceramic Metallic paint accented with dark wheels, red brake calipers and black aero kit, the new RF is the seductive fastback of posters and concept cars. Mazda has been offering a folding hardtop version of the Miata for many years but this time they’ve aimed to make it more distinct and premium. After toying with a number of approaches to creating this beautiful silhouette while largely preserving the 4 ½ cubic feet of cargo volume, engineers developed this ingenious folding top that isn’t pure convertible as much as it is targa. It takes 13 seconds to deploy and is fully automatic with nothing more to do than hold a switch, though the car basically needs to be stationary for it to work. How can you not love the look? Visually, it’s far more alluring than the soft top, adds only a little more than 100 pounds and divvies up the weight distribution to a perfect 50/50. There’s no base Sport model as with the soft top so this MX-5 Club is the entry trim with an MSRP of $32,430; a premium of $2,025.
This is my 3rd spin of this current Mazda chassis but my first ever of a club model. This one is setup for more than just weekend cruising. The ride is noticeably firmer in the name of advanced handling, likely too much so for the casual Miata customer. Otherwise, the RF experience is very much the same. Yes, there’s more wind noise but it barely invades the cabin so easy conversation is still possible. This model is the better looking weekend toy everyone wishes they had in their garage.
The sport tuned suspension replete with stouter Bilstein dampers and a shock tower brace for added stiffness give the Club model an extra edge to its everyday ride quality but feels wonderfully capable behind the wheel when the roads turn twisty. This one also includes a torque sensing limited slip differential to keep those rear summer-use Potenzas firmly in the game. Now, if you forgo the 6-speed manual and opt for the 6-speed automatic you don’t get these goodies nor can you opt for the Brembo/BBS package with the namesake calipers and rotors on the front and lightweight wheels all around. This $3,400 grouping also includes all of the appearance bits like the front air dam. Though it’s not as fuel efficient as the automatic, the joy of driving the Miata without this straightforward, easy to modulate, quick-shifting 6-speed is greatly reduced.
If you’ve never been in a Miata, it’s like actually driving a toy car. At 6’ 1” and no seat height adjustment you feel exposed to the elements but in a cool way. There’s no hiding in here. Frankly, the driver’s seat does no good for my lower back so driving this for great distances is not for me. But the pedals are close together for those who partake in heel-toe downshifts, the steering is electric assisted but feels old school hydraulic and its sheer size makes everyone feel like a racer. And unlike the high-powered, expensive roadsters, Shaq would nickname this one the Big Fundamental. Spirited driving is done safely because the Miata is gradual and predictable in its handling. You can really feel what’s happening at the rear wheels and react accordingly. It’s pure and organic driving unlike anything else currently available. And that’s why it’s beloved. Yes, I do wish for a little more than 155 horsepower from the 2.0-liter engine…a common complaint throughout the Mazda lineup these days. Even with special effects amplifying its sound, this isn’t the engine or exhaust note of your sports car dreams. But it’ll net about 30mpg, preferring premium. It’s not fast per se, but in 3rd gear on your favorite rural road, it’ll keep you entertained all day.
Never mind the non-navigation equipped Mazda Connect system – it’s fatally flawed. The only cool thing about it is the 9-speaker Bose sound system with headrest mounted speakers. For 2017, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are now standard. No backup cam, however.
Priced here at $36,255 the MX-5 RF – short for retractable fastback – is a gorgeous addition to the Miata lineup.