It's official: the fourth-generation Miata does not suck. But good has always been fertile ground for better, and the crew at Flyin' Miata is already licking its chops at the thought of squeezing a little more time out of Mazda's newest roadster. We spoke with MX-5 guru and technician Keith Tanner about his thoughts on the ND and where smart buyers will put their modification dollars in the first month.
"I think it looks great, I love the direction they're going with it being smaller and lighter," Tanner said. "The original Miata was an MG you could own without the pain. The new one is a Lotus you can own without the hassle. It's that light-weight, razor-sharp Elan all over again."
AsJack Baruth pointed out in his first drive, that weight savings came from everywhere. Mazda focused the full brunt of its engineering efforts on using light-weight materials in every system on the car, right down to the transmission and rear differential. Does that mean the driveline may not stand up to additional power from a turbocharger or supercharger?
"If the ring and pinion is smaller, that's certainly going to bring up some issues. We learned that with the early 1.6 Miatas. As far as transmission strength? That's a tough one evaluate unless you go out and break one."
There's a good chance Flyin' Miata will be the first guys to pull pieces out of the differential.
"As soon as we can get our hands on [an ND], well get one, if not two. The thought is to have one as a driver and one one that can be torn down for more fundamental development."
That development will start with putting miles on the car to shake it down to see what can be improved. Tanner says that when it came to the NC, no one expected Mazda to err on the side of comfort when it came to shocks, springs, and roll bars, so it took the industry some time to develop a suitable aftermarket solution. That won't be the case with the ND."The first thing we'll do is drive it and find out where its weak point is. Suspension is always a compromise, and guys will always want something more towards their preferences. We can send shocks off to people like Fox and keep developing the car in the mean time."
And after that?
"Then we can find out how well an LS [V8] fits under that sexy bonnet."
Music to my ears.
In many ways, the ND shares more DNA with the first and second-generation Miata than its immediate predecessor, but the lessons FM learned installing roll bars in NC-generation cars will pay dividends with the new model.
"Putting a roll bar in the car is going to be a priority and a challenge. It's got a Z top like the NC does, so it has a big flat panel that makes it very difficult to put rear braces in."
Mazda spent plenty of development dollars ensuring that the ND would ace it's requisite safety ratings, thanks in part to the new aluminum roll hoops. Unless you're planning to spend time on the track with your new Miata, the hoops likely won't be an issue.
Meanwhile, Mazda has made it clear that the company isn't getting away from it's convertible roots any time soon. For Tanner, the Miata's development looks more than a little like the automaker's other sports car effort.
"The development of the Miata looks a lot like the RX-7." he said. "You've got the classic, you've got the frumpy middle child, and then you've got the supermodel. It's like the second-coming of the FD RX-7. I think it's got huge promise."