DRIVEN: MAZDA MX-5 GT CONCEPT
Over a million sold and finally we get an MX-5 with some proper zoom-zoom
GT86/BRZ debate quite how many folk seem unwilling to look past relatively modest stats and concentrate on, as Mr Harris so elegantly put it, enjoying performance "because of its nature and not just its quantity." If you don’t get out of bed for less than 500hp and a sub four-second 0-62 then, like the Toyobaru, this MX-5, 200hp and screaming throttle bodied induction howl or not, probably isn’t for you.
If, however, you’re prepared to put the effort in and have been holding out, like many, for Mazda to finally get its arse into gear and deliver on the promise in the basic MX-5 package then it could be time to rejoice. Frankly after over two decades, a million-plus sales and – until recently – almost single-handedly carrying the torch for affordable RWD it’s a wonder it’s taken this long for the MX-5 to really show some attitude. And while plenty in the aftermarket will throw superchargers, turbos or good old-fashioned engine tuning at your MX-5, Mazda itself has been curiously lacking the willing to unlock the potential we all know is there, probably because it hasn’t had to.
Thankfully Mazda UK has got its act together and, with the Jota team that prepares its GT and production race cars, created an MX-5 that nobody need make any excuses for, known as the GT Concept for now.
First things first – this isn’t a new, officially endorsed hot MX-5. Not yet. We’re still – STILL! - at the toe in the water stage as Mazda UK explores the possibilities for cashing in on the success of that GT4 car and demonstrating the MX-5 is more than just a cute little roadster.
But as the green, yellow, RED! shift lights cycle through and that low-rev monotone steadily builds and builds through an assertive, induction-led bark and finally a properly fierce and race-bred howl you just think how can they deny us this!
You’ll like me when I’m angry
It runs about 35mm lower than standard and, having tried 18-inch wheels and found the car tramlined too much, is back on the standard 17s. Lower it may be but it’s still beautifully compliant and very happy as a road set-up and lacks none of the standard car’s fluency over bumpy, twisty B-roads. It may lose the production race car’s fancy Sachs dampers but it shares that car’s lively, predictable feel and doesn’t tie it down too hard and lose the feedback and adjustability that makes the MX-5 so much fun. It just has a bit more poise and grip, a bit less pitch and roll and the capacity to handle that extra power.
It doesn’t dance around on its tyres quite as much as a BRZ/GT86 but it’s got bucketloads of flow and in no time at all you’re happy to lean on it pretty damned hard, flicking that stubby little gear lever this way and that to keep those shift lights ablaze and giggling like an idiot at the noise.
True, it does encourage you to drive like a bit of an tool. But it’s just so much fun and the base package so well sorted that you can’t help yourself and there’s just enough power to enhance the car without overwhelming the finer detail and turning it into a one-dimensional point and squirt device.
A Boxster is now, effectively, a £40K car but that’d get you in a basic Z4 or SLK with a turbo and aforementioned diesel-like power delivery. In spirit it’s more a rival for the Elise though, entry to the Lotus coming a couple of grand less for the base 1.6.
A lot of money for an MX-5, true. But a whole lot of fun too.
MAZDA MX-5 GT Concept
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): ‘over’ 200@6,000rpm (standard: 160@7,000)
Torque (lb ft):143@4,800rpm (standard: 139@5,000)
0-62mph: TBC (standard: 7.9 sec)
Top speed: TBC (standard: 136mph)
MPG: TBC (standard: 36.2 combined)
CO2: TBC (standard: 181g/km)
Price: c. £30,000
Note: final output and performance figures to be confirmed, comparison figures for standard car for a 2.0 Roadster Coupe Sport Tech