2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT: Road music in a two-seat package
By Mike Blake, Carisle Events
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Mazda’s slogan is: “Mazda, always the soul of a sports car.” Its zoom-zoom approach resonates with today’s young buyer as well as with those of us who remember and drove true muscle cars and genuine old-school roadsters that blazed down the drag strips and sauntered confidently around town on cruise nights.
Mazda’s sports car soul is exemplified in its Miata, a car that appeals to the high school-college-young adult niche as well as with those of us who drove Corvettes when they were Stingrays, and Cobras before they were Mustangs or kit replicas.
Mazda insists on calling this third-generation Miata the MX-5, but to many of us who have followed the marque, and to borrow from Billy Joel’s lyrics: “She'll take what you give her … she’s still a Miata to me.”
The Mazda MX-5 might not be set to music, but it has achieved a place in literature. It is recorded in the 2000 Guinness Book of World Records as the No. 1-selling two-seat convertible in history. Redesigned in 2006 with more muscle and a more pleasing athletic architecture, the Miata has been called the MX-5 by its parents since the tweaking.
On the top of the two-seat roadster charts since its birth in 1989, the 2008 version employs a power hardtop to help create an exciting, head-turning, street- and track-worthy vehicle for the ages.
For 2008, Mazda has decreased the weight anchored on most power hardtops, increased cargo space and has made an already awesome-looking car even more vibrant and hip while not sacrificing autocross-worthy handling. Without any computerized traction or stability control, the MX-5 provides the driver with a pure sports car in the tradition of you and your car against the world.
A push button start would have completed the sports car fantasy, but in an MX-5, you keep a flat key in your pocket and turn the ignition switch. The interior is snug and noisy as one would expect in a two-seat roadster (even with the top in place), as both the engine growl, road noise and other automobiles’ engine and sound system decibels make their way noticeable into the cozy closed cabin.
My test MX-5 was striking with a Galaxy Gray Mica exterior accented by a Tan leather interior. Fitting like the proverbial racing glove, the cabin provides headroom of 37 inches with the top in place; shoulder room is a spacious 53.2 inches; leg room is 43.1 and hip room is 50.6 inches. Cargo volume is a surprising 5.3 cubic feet, but it looks like less.
Supplying the muscle is a 2.0-liter I-4 engine mated to a six speed manual transmission. The 16-valve DOHC VVT powerplant has electrical multi-port fuel injection and the system is EPA rated at 21 city mpg and 28 highway mpg on premium (91 octane) unleaded fuel. My weeklong test showed a real-world average of 23.3mpg.
The rear-wheel drive system sings out a throaty 166hp and 140 ft.-lbs. of torque, which is not genuine muscle in traditional automotive terms, but in this 2573-lb. vehicle, you get exceptional speed and pick-up.
On the track and on the highway, my MX-5 examination revealed no hesitation. Acceleration is aggressive, handling is nimble, balanced and controlled, steering is responsive and the ride is proud and confident.
During several test runs, I covered the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds, but it seemed much faster in this cozy, low-to-the-ground two-seater. I blasted from zero-to-60mph in 6.8 seconds and the time behind the wheel seemed faster than that as well, as the acceleration from dead stop seemed explosive.
2008 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT (power retractable hard-top) sits on a wheelbase of 91.7 inches with a length of 157.3 and width of 67.7, while its height is a low-profile 49.4 inches with ground clearance of 4.6 inches.
The power retractable hard-top is quick (just 12 seconds), easy-to-employ and entertaining. Behind the rear window is a compartment that opens, accepts the folding top and closes, hiding the roof until you desire to put it back up. The swift and well-orchestrated process gets heads nodding, faces smiling and mouths purring “oohs” and “aahs” as the top effortlessly leaves to turn the two-seat coupe into an open roadster
Safety-wise, the MX-5 has a rigid body with double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear and front and rear stabilizer bars. Inside, standard items include dual front airbags with passenger-side deactivation switch, side impact air bags and door beams, anti-lock brakes and antitheft engine immobilizer.
Aesthetically, the cockpit is imbued with a leather shift knob, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, heated leather-trimmed seats, remote keyless entry system, 3-spoke steering wheel, mounted cruise and audio controls, 7-speaker Bose sound system, and AM/FM/6-CD disc changer.
Base priced at an aggressive $26,070, the final sticker on my test vehicle was $30,050 with the additions of Sirius satellite radio ($430), special suspension package ($500); limited slip differential ($515); interior trim upgrades ($515); premium electronics package ($1250) and destination charges of $595.
Musically speaking, and borrowing again from Billy Joel: “… she’ll bring out the best you can be, ‘cause she’s still a Miata to me.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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