Mazda MX-5 RF L.E.

All the best bits, but they come at a price

by LOUIS CORDONY

BEFORE BIGGIE Smalls went to the great rap battle arena in the sky, he preached “mo money, mo problems”. It didn’t have anything to do with cars, but the same belief has underpinned the remarkable success of the Mazda MX-5 since the NA arrived in 1989. If you invert your pants pockets to find only lint and lollypop sticks, you can still get a car that gives you the top-down thrill on a windy road.

So it’s an interesting experiment, that brings back unpleasant memories from the NC days, for Mazda to release a $55,670 MX-5. In fairness, the folding hard-top RF Limited Edition is the ultimate MX-5 by way of equipment and specification – and luxuriousness, if you can say that about an MX-5.

For $7K more than a regular RF GT manual, you get BBS wheels, Brembo brakes, adjustable Recaro seats and Bilstein shocks. Oh, and a bit of bling by way of a Seiko watch. Random.

Mazda Australia will build just 110 examples and they’re available only in 2.0-litre guise (118kW/200Nm) with a six-speed manual – no auto.

It’s possibly the best looking MX-5 ever with its Kuroi bodykit helping the 17-inch BBSs give the RF’s taut surfaces more presence and flair.

The adjustable Recaros don’t disappoint, either. While larger humans might feel like they’re sitting in an egg cup, they’re plentifully comfortable and supportive.

Working the side bolsters harder? Err, not really. Despite uniquely tuned Bilstein dampers, and a custom strut brace in the bay, the RF LE doesn’t extract much more grip than the standard car from carried over 205mm-wide Bridgestone Potenzas.

There’s a fraction more of everything – turn in and response, for example – to help the RF handle more like its lighter, lower centre-of-gravity soft-top sibling. Brake-pedal feel is also nicer with the Brembos.

However, push on and the LE still bodyrolls like it’s 1989 while the added brake power pitches the little MX-5 comically forward. Try hustle the LE ham-fistedly and like all other ND MX-5s, its soft setup will amplify your mistakes, while a stern ESP tune slaps you over the wrist.

It’s better to steady the whip and go smooth and slow with your inputs at which point there is an enormous amount of enjoyment to be had with the RF Limited Edition – even if it’s not going to turn you white with its acceleration or lateral grip.

The manual shifts slickly and the engine offers a zingy powerband to the 6000rpm climax. There’s plenty of torque, for what it is, and hills are a cinch, even at low revs in fourth gear.

The RF GT Limited Edition is for those who want everything on their MX-5, no compromise. But it does more for the looks and comfort than performance. If the latter is all you’re really interested in, bank $7K and get the non-LE variant. Or wait for this pack on a soft-top.

STAR RATING 4.0 Like Sexy looks, zingy engine, seats Dislike Drives like a 2.0-litre soft-top; it costs what?