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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Oct 9, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

MORE ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Mazda's performance arm, MazdaSpeed, has finally gotten around to putting more zoom, zoom, zoom into the MX-5 Miata, making the MazdaSpeed MX-5 Miata one of quickest and best-handling roadsters on pavement for just $26,720.00. One of the world's best-selling compact roadsters, the Miata MX-5 always exhibited good handling thanks to its double-wishbone independent suspension, but it lacked the power from its 1.8liter inline four-cylinder engine to back it up. If you option the new MazdaSpeed package, it is worth it. The MazdaSpeed package includes enhancements to the styling, the mechanicals and the interior of the car.

MazdaSpeed adds an IHI ball-bearing single-scroll turbocharger with a Denso air-to-air intercooler carrying 7.25 psi of boost. This brings horsepower up to 178 at 6,000 rpm, and torque to 166 lb.ft. at 4,500 rpm. This more powerful engine also comes with a set of Denso Iridium spark plugs. You'll notice the quicker acceleration right away. You'll also appreciate the passing power that was never felt before because the car is always in high revs, at 60 mph, in sixth gear, the tachometer is registering 3,800 rpm, right in the sweet spot for the turbo, giving immediate acceleration. The car will blast to 60 mph from a standstill in under seven seconds (typically 6.4-6.6 seconds). The more powerful engine transfers the torque to the rear wheels through a heavy-duty clutch and a stronger drive shaft. This hotter engine is kept cool with a larger radiator and larger oil cooler. A Bosch torque sensing, limited-slip differential really puts the power down. The 6-speed short throw manual transmission is perfectly placed and a joy to operate. The freer breathing modified exhaust gives out a more bass tone.

The car sits one-quarter inch lower than stock and the double-wishbone suspension is reworked with tuned Bilstein gas-charged shocks, higher-rate coil springs, and larger 23 mm front and 14 mm rear stabilizer bars. There is also a front strut tower brace to tie everything together. The power rack and pinion steering is quicker in response thanks to a higher ratio and there is no detectable oversteer or understeer. More power means more speed, and the need for stronger brakes. MazdaSpeed adds 10.6-inch front vented discs clamped with a dual-piston caliper, and 10.9-inch solid discs in the rear with a single piston caliper. ABS controlled brakes help keep you under control during severe braking. Wheels and tires fixed on the MazdaSpeed MX-5 Miata is top notch. They choose 17X7 Racing Hart five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels wrapped by sticky, Toyo 205/40R17 Proxes R28 high-performance tires. Wow, what a difference on the skidpad, now registering over 0.90 Gs. These numbers are better than the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster.

MazdaSpeed wasn't finished with just the mechanicals. They tweaked the exterior styling with unique front and rear fascias featuring front and rear under spoilers and a rear deck lid spoiler. The rear fascia also features MazdaSpeed and MX-5 badging, plus a two-inch polished stainless steel exhaust tip. Inside is more race-inspired with more comfortable and supportive high-backed bucket seats, MazdaSpeed stainless steel scuff plates, MazdaSpeed aluminum pedals, silver faced gauges with MazdaSpeed logo, leather wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, stick shift, hand-brake, and MazdaSpeed floor mats. The audio system is a 225-watt Bose system with AM-FM stereo radio, six-disc in-dash CD changer with six-speakers. A pull-down windblocker and anti-draft panel lessons some of the noise when the top is down. The fit and finish inside is also higher than factory specs.

Pull up the hood and gaze at the red wrinkle finish valve cover, piping and silver painted strut tower brace. Miata enthusiasts have been waiting for this tuned version since 1989 when the first Miata appeared and took the compact, rear-wheel-drive sports roadster by storm. It's been a long time but it is worth it after a test drive. The Miata has come of age. Good job MazdaSpeed. Now only if I were under 5ft.10in., not 6ft.3in. to really feel comfortable behind the wheel. Other complaints about the car is that there is no cruise control, boost gauge or roll protection. Well, I guess you can't have it all, all the time, and for a price of only $26,720 delivered, who can complain?

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Mazda products, go to www.mazda.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: MazdaSpeed MX-5 Miata Price of vehicle: $26,720.00 Engine type: Front longitudinal 1.8liter DOHC turbocharged I-4 Horsepower: 178 at 6,000 rpm Torque: 166 at 4,500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel-drive Transmission type: six-speed manual short-throw Front suspension: Double-wishbone with coil springs, gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar Rear suspension: Double-wishbone with coil springs, gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 17X7 Racing Hart aluminum alloy wheels/P205/40R17in. Toyo R28 Proxes Brakes: Front: 10.6-inch vented discs Rear: 10.9-inch solid discs, ABS Overall length: 155.7 inches Overall width: 66.1 inches Overall height: 48 inches Curb weight: 2,529 lbs. EPA mileage: 20 mpg/city, 26 mpg/highway 0-60 mph: 6.6 seconds

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