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Driving impressions from the MAMA Spring Rally
Track testing a car is one of the true joys of the job, but winding out 10 cars in one morning makes for a special day indeed.
And that’s just what we had the chance to do this week at one of America’s premiere regional events for auto journalists. Each year the Midwest Automotive Media Association holds its Spring Rally at one of the most impressive tracks in the country: Road America.
With over 90 different cars available to test, at least two dozen were available to be evaluated on the impressive and intimidating 4.048 mile track. Here are a few initial impressions from 10 different cars we were able to test, ranging from a Mazda3 to a Mercedes E63 AMG.
This year’s New York Auto Show is going to play host to a birthday party for one of the most iconic two-seat roadsters in the business.
Zoom-Zoom for Years
Mazda-mania just happened over the weekend, with a record setting 683 Miatas parading in Lelystad, Netherlands. The sight of so many Mazda enthusiasts jogged our foggy memories, and helped us to remember our own personal connections with the brand, as well as some of the greatest Mazda’s of all time.
Perhaps best known for the MX-5 Miata, Mazda has done a lot more than make small roadsters. In an era when many said the small Japanese automaker would have to partner with a bigger industry player, Mazda (as usual) took the road less traveled, engineering new chassis, new engines and an attractive new design language. Combined, it has surprised with an excellent new lineup of vehicles, like the 2014 Mazda6 and CX-5.
Much of that same philosophy and attitude has led Mazda to offer up some impressive models over the years, making the world stand up and take notice. Take a look at this top 10 of the greatest Mazdas over the years, and be sure to pipe in with your own favorites.
You Know You Want One
Your grip on the steering wheel tightens. Your eyes fixate on the yellow line. Your brain screams about the trees just beyond the shoulder. Wait for it… wait for it… ok, NOW! You pounce on the clutch as your right foot stabs the accelerator. A wrist-flick completes the downshift. Feather the brake, turn into the corner and scrub off some speed; the radius decreases slightly. You nail the apex, tires howling like a bloodhound on the trail. You roll back on the throttle for a speedy exit and dive into the next corner.
Rumors have been brewing on the 2014 Mazda MX-5 for some time now. What we do know from last year, is that the Japanese automaker plans on going back to the basics, lightening the weight, and throwing in a more potent powerplant.
It appears that Mazda still hasn’t settled on which engine will make its way into the next-generation MX-5. Apparently a naturally aspirated 1.5L four-cylinder with Skyactiv technology didn’t cut it, and neither did a version of their current 2.0L four-cylinder. The 1.5L didn’t meet Mazda’s performance requirements while the 2.0L didn’t have the fuel efficiency they wanted in the new MX-5.
So a compromise could come in the form of a 1.8L Skyactiv four-cylinder, or either a 1.3L or 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder. Back in December of last year, we reported that the front-runner for the MX-5 would be a 1.3L turbo, but it appears a final decision still hasn’t been made.
Regardless, the automaker plans on having around 150-hp and a 10-percent increase in fuel economy compared to the current MX-5 which has 22/28 city/highway mpg. Combine that with the fact that their weight goal is 2,200 lbs and the next-generation MX-5 should be loads of fun.
Mazda hopes to keep the 2014 Mazda MX-5 priced under $25,000.
[Source: Road & Track]
Mazda will debut its 2012 MX-5 Miata Special Edition at the upcoming 2012 Chicago Auto Show, a limited-production model of just 450 units. The special edition MX-5 will feature a black-only power retractable hard top.
Other features exclusive to the special edition model includes two new exterior colors, 17-inch gunmetal wheels, black exterior accents, heated black leather seats and piano black interior finishes. The debut of this Special Edition MX-5 at the Chicago Auto Show also pays tribute to the Miata’s global debut at the same show back in 1989. It’s since gone on to become the world’s best-selling roadster with more than 900,000 produced.
The limited edition model will be available with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed sport automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The special edition model is based on the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring model. Both the Premium and Suspension packages will be standard on the Special Edition which includes Bluetooth, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, Bilstein shocks and a sport-tuned suspension.
Mazda will also have their Turbo2, Dempsey Racing No. 40 GRAND-AM Road Racing Race Car, a 1990 Miata and the Star Mazda Championship Open-Wheel Race Car at their booth for the Chicago Auto Show.
GALLERY: 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition
To go with the supposed 1.3L turbocharged powerplant the next-generation MX-5 will be getting, Mazda‘s MX-5 development boss Hirotaka Kanazawa also revealed that the 2014 MX-5 will go to a back-to-basics approach towards being a fun sportscar, just like the 1989 original model.
“We will return to the original. It will be lightweight and the cost will be lightweight too. It will be easy to handle and fun to drive,” he said in an interview with What Car?
The next-generation convertible will also utilize Mazda’s new Skyactiv technologies and as we reported before, it’ll shed some weight – though now it’s a more believable figure of 2,200-lbs. Originally Mazda hoped to get it around 1,780-lbs but now it appears that the next-generation MX5 will be more in line of the original which weight 2,178-lbs.
Mazda is also exploring the idea of multiple models in order to appease all the MX-5 enthusiasts out there. Whether they want power or comfort, they’ll be able to make a choice rather than being alienated. Design boss Ikuo Maeda also hinted that the company’s new Kodo design language could find its way onto the MX-5′s design.
[Source: What Car?]
A while back, we reported that the next-generation Mazda MX-5 would be going on a major diet and could be powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged powerplant rather than the 1.8L or 2.0L naturally aspirated motor used today. Now reports are coming in that the new MX-5 will likely sport a 1.3L turbocharged four-cylinder, with Mazda’s SkyActive technology.
Scheduled to be released sometime in 2014, the 1.3L turbocharged motor will feature variable cam phasing, lighter, low-friction reciprocating parts and possibly a new exhaust manifold to achieve better exhaust gas evacuation. Mazda is also looking to lighten the load in the transmission as well as reducing the friction in order to make each shift short and snappy on the manual. For the automatic fanatics, Mazda will probably offer a paddle-shift, torque-converter auto with a lock-up clutch.
The next generation MX-5 has been confirmed to be built on a new rear-wheel-drive SkyActive platform called the S-platform, and Mazda engineers continue to work towards their goal of making the sports car weigh in at a scant 1,765-lbs or so.
During a press conference at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda‘s global chief, Takashi Yamanouchi said that a rotary powered MX-5 is a possibility down the road; he also went onto say that the company might consider merging its two separate sports car lines [MX-5 and RX-8], into one.
“I have been saying everywhere that we will continue research on the rotary engine,” he declared. “We will not extinguish the flame of the rotary engine. That kind of product is iconic for our brand. So the current MX-5 or RX-8 we have decided in the future to maintain that type of [sports car] product.” Yet he went on to state that “I can’t say, however, that they will be separate … they may be merged into one.”
However many questions remain. If a single rotary powered sports car were to materialize (there’s speculation it could be a hardtop coupe/convertible in the idom of the Mercedes-Benz SLK, or possibly offered in both piston and rotary powered forms), it would be a ways off. Mazda has already said the next generation MX-5, slated to debut in 2013, will feature a conventional in-line ICE engine, incorporating Mazda’s SkyActiv technology.
As for the RX-8, when production ends next year, there’s currently no definite plans for a replacement, though from Yamanounchi- san’s comments it’s clear development on the rotary engine will continue. The question is, whether it will remain solely as an internal combustion unit or be used as a range extending hydrogen fueled generator (Mazda already has such a prototype engine being evaluated by government agencies). Stay tuned for further developments.
Reports are coming in that Mazda is planning to overhaul four of its existing models by 2014. The four models up for redesigns are the Mazda3, Mazda6, MX-5 and CX-9. We’ve already seen the new patent drawings for the upcoming MX-5 refresh, which will hopefully come in 2013 along with a new Mazda3 and CX-9.
The big news, however, is an all-new Mazda6 that is expected to be introduced before the end of next year. There’s a strong possibility that the new Mazda6 will resemble the Takeri Concept. All of the upcoming new Mazdas will sport Skyactiv technologies and ride on lightweight platforms that are being developed in-house at Mazda.
Mazda also stated that they have plans to add stop-start, regenerative braking and hybrid technologies to their models by 2016.
GALLERY: Mazda Takeri Concept