Exclusivity; excellent Recaro seats; strong brakes; track-day readiness Hefty premium; only geeks will know itís special; cabin noise
TWELVE months after it launched, the MX-5 Retractable Fastback (RF), with its folding metal lid, is now the best-selling version in Mazdaís ND MX-5 range. Thatís a bit of a shock. Within those sales itís the flagship GT version that takes the lionís share. Clearly Mazda is right when it says todayís customers want all the bells and whistles to go with their pure sports car experience.
Now thereís a more embellished RF to take their fancy. A run of 110 RF GT Limited Edition (LE) models sits atop the line-up, priced at a lofty $55,790 driveaway.
Thatís a circa $8K impost. Then again, the LE is the first upgrade this generation of MX-5 has had from a performance standpoint. Upgrades include lightweight 17-inch BBS alloy wheels, a Brembo braking package, Bilstein dampers and revised springs, a more aerodynamic body kit, a strut brace and Recaro seats.
Engine outputs remain at 118kW/200Nm from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder exclusively, and all 110 units get a six-speed manual.
The good news, depending on how you view it, is that the enhancements havenít made a night-and-day transformation to an already satisfying (and COTYwinning) driverís car. So why pay for them? If exclusivity or track days factor in your buying decision then thereís a case to be made.
Tweaking the dampers has eradicated some of the soft-top Roadsterís pitch and roll. Faster rebound and a shorter overall stroke mean body control is tauter, and the ride occasionally fidgety, but the more focused LE retains the MX-5ís steering precision and will be better suited to setting the odd lap time than the normal car, without completely erasing that playful MX-5 character.
Those Brembos, too, are set up with club-level track performance in mind. Mazda promises more control under heavy brake applications and better cooling to markedly improve fade resistance. The package is 2kg lighter than the factory stoppers, further reducing unsprung mass with the BBS wheels. That weight difference is hard to discern on-road. These are mods for those testing the limits.
Inside, the excellent leather and Alcantara-trimmed Recaro seats hug firmly and feature slimmer seat base cushioning that frees a small amount of headroom in the intimate cabin. Bugbears carry over from the regular RF, like wind noise and the lack of a standard reversing camera, but theyíre minor complaints in context.
For many, the pricey LE will be difficult to justify over a normal RF GT, but Mazda will have no problem finding 110 homes within the iconic MX-5s healthy following. Itís smartly sharpened and more desirable, and deserves to be driven for drivingís sake.
Buyers receive a Seiko chronograph and a signed letter from the program manager as mementos. But how will punters know what theyíre looking at? Black ĎKuroií lips at front, rear and side bulk up the NDís slender frame, and red brake calipers add a pop of colour. That said, Limited Edition badging would have been welcome to further differentiate the range-topper from gardenvariety MX-5s. Five colours are available, all with a black roof, and other than the upgrades mentioned, the LEís standard equipment is identical to the RF GT.