Sunday, October 19, 2008

2007 Mazda MX-5 Power Retractable Hardtop

2007 Mazda MX-5 Power Retractable Hardtop

While others have added two or more cylinders, more leather and a myriad of electronic eccentricities, the new MX-5 has only 200 additional cubic centimeters of displacement to make it faster, and rather than adding a smorgasbord of three-letter acronyms abbreviating unpronounceable electronic driving aids, has simply engineered everything that was there to work better.

So you could say that I was more than amazed to see the simple little MX-5 get a new electric add-on that at first seemed like heresy to the cars core philosophy. A retractable hardtop roof!? Not only is it a hardtop, but it also folds into the same pocket that the soft top fits into. OK, pretty impressive.Even more impressive is that the entire package only weighs 79 pounds more than the soft top, keeping to the featherweight characteristics of the car intact.

The Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) package is available on all MX-5 models except the base SV, at a cost of $2,915, and also includes subtle chrome accents on the grille, headlamps and door handles. Built from composites, the hardtop not only keeps weight to a minimum but provides an interior comfort level equaling that of a sports coupe, as wind and road noise are reduced to subconscious background noises. Operation is simple thanks to a single latch, same as the soft top except that the single latch is where the physical exertion ends in the PRHT. With the simple push of a button the rear tonneau cover raises, the roof folds in two and then flips behind the seats before the rear cover lowers. The whole operation is over in only 12 seconds!

Everything retractable hardtop convertible, from a Cadillac XLR to a Pontiac G6 sacrifices up to 90 percent of the trunk space in order to house a folding roof. However, the engineers at Mazda have magically found a way to fold a two piece hardtop behind the seats without diminishing the modest 5.3 cu-ft trunks storage area. All this while being a vastly smaller car then the aforementioned beasts.

The engineers must have found that the new hardtop package weakened the chassis, as extra strengthening has been used around the rear bulkhead. While minimal, the car handles every bit as good as the soft top. The added bulk in the back has done more than just strengthen though, as it helps create a near perfect weight distribution 52/48. While having a slightly duller feel of the road than that of the earlier generation Miata, the new MX-5 still retains the fun to drive attributes that made its predecessor so popular to begin with.

The beauty of the MX-5 is its useful exhilaration. With a high-powered sports car like an M-Roadster or Porsche, revving past 4th gear turns into a gamble with the authorities. Such capabilities only make them a pleasure to drive on a track, were as the MX-5 is geared towards low-speed, high-performance fun. I tossed the car around, blitzed through the gearbox and had a great time blasting down a number of good roads while still staying legal, or close enough not to lose my license.

The extremely close-ratio 6-speed gearbox and finely tuned suspension make the car perform brilliantly under 70 mph, ideally were you want to have fun on public roads. However, once I began to push past this mark 6th gear started to run out of steam and the suspension geometry didnt allow for stable high-speed cornering. Soft anti-roll bars are the main culprit here, although when the car is pushed to its limits they give the car a predictable feel in the curves, acting as early warning devices when lateral traction is about to go wayward.

Now that were on the subject of oversteer, you might not realize that the worlds best selling roadster isnt only popular amongst back road wannabe F1 pilots and budget oriented sun worshippers, but rather the Miata has long been a favourite with competitive auto crossers and road racers. Tight twisty circuits are the Miatas domain, as most weekend warriors will attest; very few challengers can compete. The good news is that with only a few simple modifications MX-fivery will continue on to be a thorn in the side of much larger, more powerful racers.

After a complete overhaul last year the exterior is more or less unchanged moving into 2007 model, with few modifications made even for the new hardtop version, except for the front of the rear deck being 1.6 inches higher to accommodate the roof. With the older generations often referred to as chick cars, Mazda has toughened up the new models edges a bit, injecting some much needed testosterone into the renamed Miata; or at least the name now includes the alpha-designation that was previously only used outside of North America. But the popularity of the car is so great that well over a year after the redesign and name change; everyone still calls the new one a Miata, no doubt much to the chagrin of Mazda. The result of the changes means that now those who arent in touch with their feminine side can enjoy a good sports car without the embarrassment of being seen in a chick car.

Source: automobile

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