2011 Mazda MX-5 Special Edition Power Hard Top

There is a difference between driving hard and driving fast.

There is a difference between driving hard and driving fast. Anyone can drive fast. Even your great Uncle Charlie, that guy with the cane and cataract glasses who has a tendency to fall asleep not only after the Sunday dinner, but before it, as well. Put him behind the wheel of a Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, or Dodge Charger and just watch that sumabitch go. That’s fast.

Driving hard means doing things like going into a corner quickly and coming out on the other side of the apex in one piece, going in the right direction without having made an excursion to the wilderness.

You drive the Mazda MX-5 hard. That’s what it is built for.

Driving.

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A few months back I was talking to some Mazda people. I brought up another Mazda, a Speed3, not an MX-5. But the point made is appropriate here.

The car was a part of a small fleet. Someone asked, “What color was it?”

To which I responded, pausing for a moment, “Beige, I think.”

And the looks were withering. Good thing they were friendly, otherwise I would have been a pile of dust on the floor.

“We don’t make beige cars.”

Exactly.

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The MX-5 has a cup holder in the center console. There are slots for two drinks.

But do you know what?

You don’t want to use those cup holders.

They seemed to be designed to handle, perhaps, a Jell-O Pudding Cup.

You don’t want containers of liquid in them.

Again, it is about the driving.

Shallow cup holders and inertial forces going through a curve. . . not a good combo.

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There are other features that make the Miata car-like for two. Tilt steering wheel. Power locks. Auto-dimming rearview mirror. Bose audio. Keyless entry. Leather trimmed seats and ancillaries. Automatic air conditioning. Keyless entry. Pushbutton start. Nice looking trim.

And so you lower yourself into the car, engage the clutch and the brake, and push the start button and hear the 2.0-liter engine. You hear it fairly clearly because it isn’t far from where you are sitting.

What’s more, because you’re in a car with a six-speed manual, there is the “Induction Sound Enhancer,” an assembly of piping and whatnot that deliberately funnel the sound to the cowl. After all, this is a car that is meant to be driven. Engine noise is part of the experience. And if you don’t like that, there are plenty of cars that are so quiet you may try to start them after they’re running.

You put it into gear and start driving, and if you’re driving in and around Detroit you feel the double wishbone suspension with aluminum arms in the front, the multilink suspension in the rear, and monotube dampers all around going to work.

And somewhere, a chiropractor smiles.

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One clever bit of engineering is the power retractable hard top. Undo some latches, press the button, and 12 seconds later, the top is stowed and the sky is overhead.

The clever part is that the folded top doesn’t take up the trunk space. That’s a good thing. The cargo volume is 5.3-cubic-feet. This isn’t the car to take to Costco. Get a CX-7 or CX-9 for that.

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Could this car be your daily driver? Yes.

Would a Mazda6 be a more comfortable daily driver? Yes.

But for zipping around and having a car that is truly designed, engineered and built for driving (while adding the amenities that have become de rigueur today), you’d be hard-pressed to top this car with its MSRP of $30,925.

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Selected Specs

Engine: 2.0-liter, DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder with variable valve timing

Material: Aluminum block w/cast iron liners; aluminum head

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Horsepower: 167 @ 7,000 rpm

Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Length: 157.3 in.

Wheelbase: 91.7 in.

Height: 49 in.

Width: 67.7 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.32

Curb weight: 2,593 lb.

Fuel economy: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway