Sunday 19 February 2017

MX-5 RF Dealer Preview

Mazda MX-5 RF Soul Red
Today I had another opportunity to get up close to the new MX-5 Retractable Fastback. Customer deliveries are due to begin in March and there are several RF models currently touring the UK offering potential buyers an early chance to experience the car. One of these preview events was being held fairly close by so off I went.

Inside the dealership there were three MX-5s. The new Arctic special edition was on display and although not the main attraction it was still nice to see. This particular car was number 168 of 500. The two RF models were parked together in their own corner of the room.
There was a Soul Red Sport Nav model and the upgraded Launch Edition in Machine Grey. Both cars looked great with their paintwork gleaming under the showroom lighting. This was actually the first time I'd seen Machine Grey in person on an MX-5. I thought it looked pretty smart and this colour is exclusive to the RF at the moment, you can't have it on the soft top models.
The Launch Edition has several gloss black extras such as the forged BBS wheels and Mazdaspeed rear lip spoiler. To be honest I thought these looked a little lost on a grey car, if I was buying the Launch Edition I would choose the red version to get the most from the contrast effect.

I'd previously sat in a red Launch Edition at the VIP event in Manchester, but here I had a bit more time with the car and sitting in the Recaro seats again, they were just as comfy as I remember. I also found that with them being half Alcantara they grip your clothes better than leather does so you're less likely to slide about.

The RF has just a single glovebox between the seats. It loses the two storage compartments behind the seats as the roof mechanism has to live somewhere. If you were desperate for storage space then there is a little bit of room behind the seats, but if you do put stuff there you can't use the roof.
Mazda had set up their virtual showroom using the Oculus Rift VR headset. I had a little play around with this while I was waiting to go out in the car. Wearing the headset you could view the car from various angles, zoom in and out, and also change the view with a little joystick.

The showroom software let you flick between paint colours and trim levels and was quite good for comparisons. The best camera view was the in-car perspective as moving your head around you could see all the car's interior and it was pretty accurately reproduced.
Like many of you reading this I had heard internet rumours/concerns about excessive wind noise due to the shape of the fastback so I was keen to find out for myself what was going on. Since I've already driven the ND on numerous occasions, this time I opted for a passenger ride so that I could better observe the NVH levels.

Mazda's rep was kind enough to take me out for a spin and talk me through the car's features at a variety of speeds with the roof open and closed. Cruising around at 30mph with the roof open was no problem at all, there is wind in your hair and it's all pretty good fun. At speeds up to around 60mph it's certainly louder but no more than you would expect. I was actually impressed how little buffeting there was within the cabin space, the wind seemed to be being kept out and above your head, if that makes sense? Wind in your hair rather than wind in your face I guess.

It was interesting to hear the driver's view on the 1.5 versus 2.0 question too. Martin, the rep, said it came down to the car's intended use. The 1.5 is the better weekend thrash car, but the 2.0 is the better daily driver. Having driven both I do see what he was saying, the 1.5 is the livelier engine, in stock form at least.

With the roof closed the car was significantly quieter and allows you to focus more on the engine and exhaust note. The model we went out in was a 2.0 Sport Nav so had the induction sound enhancer, the Bilstein dampers, LSD, and front tower brace. The suspension wasn't too hard and we were able to negotiate speed bumps without any harshness. Listening to the engine's growl and exhaust's bark I was reminded again what a nice place the ND's cabin is to be in.

Overall I went away very impressed with how the RF behaves out on the road. With the first orders to be delivered soon you can expect to start seeing them appear in the wild.