2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Enjoy driving to its fullest!
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The best test car of the year arrived the day an MX-5 Mazda appears in my driveway. The wish fulfillment department recently dropped off a Deep Crystal Blue Mica over White Leather retractable hardtop version called the MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring. With minor changes, the basic design of this diminutive two seat roadster has survived for more than 30 years. For the first two decades, a soft convertible top was the only way to go. Mazda recently devised a more secure roof for the MX-5 which folds and stores itself in a well behind the seats. It performs this feat of origami at the touch of a button on the dash. Surprisingly, the RF model weighs just over a hundred pounds more than the rag top. But you gain the added security of a glass back window surrounded by a fixed roll bar-like structure that remains erect even when the roof is stowed. If you have the misfortune of inverting your MX-5, do so in the better protected RF model.
Driving the RF is an escape to the automotive past, when analog steering, braking and throttle response were the order of the day. Your actual mechanical input determines how the MX-5 responds, so there's no digital conversion factor to spoil the fun. The most prominent clue to the Miata's unadulterated sports car identity is the lack of a phony "Sport" or "Sport+" dial to simulate sportiness. Instead of the digitally manipulated throttle and steering response manufacturers gin up today, the MX-5 eliminates such phoniness in favor of the real thing. Flick the steering wheel and the MX-5 moves instantly in response. Toe the throttle incrementally and watch the rpm rise in perfect accord with your instructions. The MX-5 offers a battery of sensory rewards that have all but disappeared today.
You can equip your Miata with several levels of trim, starting with the fabric roofed Club Model which starts at $33,045. This version includes a Bose 9-speaker audio system, 17 inch alloy wheels, and black front and rear spoilers. The Grand Touring RF model we tested starts at $34,525. In addition to the retractable roof, the GT adds an adaptive front lighting system, heated leather trimmed seats, and the Mazda Navigation System. The only additional charge was $300 for striking white Nappa leather seats. The GT kit also upgrades suspension with sport tuned spring and anti-roll bar rates controlled by Bilstein shock absorbers at each corner. The 17 inch alloy rims are fitted with track-worthy Bridgestone Potenza S001 radials (205/45R17) that get a ferocious grip on the pavement.
Over the decades, the power output of the Miata has progressively increased from 116hp and 100lb.-ft. of torque to 181hp and 151lb.-ft. of torque. Yet the 2,189lb. weight of the first generation 1992 Miata has only increased to 2,427lb. for the RF GT model. Do the math and you will discover that the power-to-weight ratio of the original Miata (18.87lb/hp) has vastly improved in the current version to 13.40lb/hp. This quantum jump in motivation results in a whole new level of performance achievement for the MX-5 RF GT. It runs the standing start quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 94mph, and sprints from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds. In anybody's book that's quick. Judged by the ancestral Miata log book, that's stupendous. The best part of the new found speed is how manageable it is, given this car's lightning quick steering, excellent progressive braking, and superb manual 6-speed transmission. Clutch take up is dreamy smooth, short gearbox throws mean you will never miss a shift, and high g-force directional changes mandate a neck brace for your passenger.
There's an episode of the Twilight Zone where a harried ad executive transports himself from Madison Avenue back to the turn of the century town of Willoughby, "where a man can enjoy life in full measure." The MX-5 RF is the kind of sports car that will allow you to enjoy driving in full measure. Seize the opportunity because it's rarely available anymore.
2021 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA RF GRAND TOURING
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16-valve, aluminum block and head, DFI
FUEL ECONOMY: 26MPG City/34MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $35,770
HYPES: Laser-Focused Steering, Handling, Gear Shift
GRIPES: RF pillars obscure view
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10