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Mazda hints at a lighter, edgier new MX-5

2015 Mazda MX-5 25th Anniversary Edition


Mazda has revealed the barest bones of the MX-5 sports car of the future at the New York Auto Show – a skeleton chassis with powertrain and suspension - but nary a hint of how it will look at its debut, possibly at next year's Chicago show in February as a 2016 model.

But conversation with Derek Jenkins, Mazda USA design director, indicates an edgier take on the original MX-5 Miata, possibly sculpted more aggressively at the front wheels, for example, but honouring the first car's established character with similar proportions,.

In 1989 the Miata targeted British and Italian sports car fanciers. This one can't. "We've had to take into consideration that icons have changed, cars on the road are nothing like those of 1990, so how would you make an affordable sports car appealing in a modern way?" Jenkins says, turning down all requests for detail.

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"How do you keep something pure, how do you keep something iconic, but make it bold enough that it holds its own on the road," he says.

Asked about musculature, he builds on that theme. "I can't really get into the specifics, but if you look at the proportional elements we've done on our standard passenger vehicles in terms of larger volumes over the front wheels, the musculature of the cars, the basic graphic language of the cars, all of that, it's natural that we are going to bring some of that tone into the next (MX-5) car. But don't expect a literal translation, I think that this car will stand as kind of its own thing."

Jenkins knows his sports cars. He's owned a Lotus Esprit and a Porsche 993, the last air-cooled 911. His present getaway ride is a Meyers Manx dune buggy he built from the ground up. MX-5 program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto knows his sports cars too, having worked on the development of rotary-powered RX-7 models (he has hinted of a possible RX-7 return in 2017).

One certainty: the new MX-5 will be lighter than today's. The goal is 100 kg lighter, for stronger performance from 1.5 and 2.0-litre SkyActiv engines. Examining the bare bones on exhibit at the New York show, the front of the new differential is aluminum, replacing steel, the power plant frame is both stronger and lighter, the wheel lug nuts have been reduced from five to four.

"We're introducing weight savings everywhere, utilizing Mazda's gram strategy," says Robert Davis, senior VP of U.S. operations."

Canada is getting the same allotment of 25 Anniversary Edition Mazda MX-5's as the United States, 100 each, from a total production run of 1,100. The $40,295 special stands out with one color, soul red mica, with black windshield pillars and retractable hardtop. The engine's rods and pistons are said to be weighed and matched to optimize balance, hence engine smoothness. It's expected at Canadian dealers in July. Americans can reserve theirs on the web May 17, but Mazda Canada has opted against on-line selling.

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