2017 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
Mazda offers a power roof and makes the MX-5 even better looking in the process
Words by: Adam Allen
Uh… another MX-5 review? You’ll find any excuse to get behind the wheel.
Guilty as charged. In November of 2015 we drove one of the first current ND MX-5 because our excitement for the then-new generation had reached a fevered pitch. Later on in October 2016 we asked Mazda for a go in a Sport package-equipped example to determine if the hardware included made the MX-5 even better to drive (it does.) After Mazda announced they’d be bringing back a power retractable hardtop to the lineup, we began our campaign of phone calls and emails to secure one as quickly as possible. The folks at Mazda are good sports and understand our ravenous appetite for MX-5 seat time and were good enough to satiate us with the keys to a Machine Grey Metallic RF with the Sport Package.
What does ‘RF’ stand for?
Mazda could have called this model the MX-5 Targa, but we suspect Porsche’s legal department would not have been so enthused with that choice. Instead, RF stands for Retractable Fastback, a nod to the styling when the top is up. About that styling- an offshoot of the folding tin top is that the MX-5 and staggeringly beautiful can now easily coexist in the same sentence. To our eyes, the RF and its flying buttress C-pillars looks the business and is even better looking than the ragtop. When you opt for the RF, the only undesirable quality is extra weight, and that the weight mounted higher up rather than the ideal location of close to the centre of gravity. At least the already minuscule trunk space is pretty much preserved and with the roof up, it certainly is quieter than the cloth top models making for marginally more relaxing journeys. The top can be lowered in 12.5 seconds while on the move, provided you don’t exceed 10km/h.
What’s it like to drive?
There are few cars that can slap a permanent goofy grin on your face every time you drive them, but the MX-5 finds itself firmly in that category. Nowadays, people talk about adaptive dampers, drive modes and other electronic frippery which may turn you into a faster driver. For some, that’s fine. Others would rather let their driving skill speak for itself instead of a team of talented software engineers and their lines of carefully curated code keeping you away from an intimate introduction to a guardrail. The MX-5 does not get in the way of that purity whatsoever. It’s limited slip differential is the closest thing you get to adaptive driving technologies but all it does is allow you to get on the power earlier when hustling your MX-5 down a squiggley road. Should your speed ramp up too quickly, Brembo brakes at all four corners will reassuringly slow you down to the right pace while the 17” BBS wheels wrapped in sticky Bridgestone Potenza SO-1 tires hang on tenaciously. The gearbox has been made quieter for 2017 but it is still gloriously precise and a pleasure to use- this is one of those cars you find yourself shifting gears when it’s not necessary just to revel in the mechanical brilliance. Even the engine, which sees duty in other Mazda products, feels special. It’s quick to gather rpm and sounds great while doing so- and on top of all that its incredibly efficient. We saw 9.9L/100km over the course of our week with the RF and that figure was attained with many trips to the redline.
What might go wrong?
Most of the niggles disappear when you’re using the RF in the way it was meant to, like soaking up the sun’s rays on a gorgeous summer day or attacking some of your favorite corners. It’s when you find yourself doing the things that most drivers do on a daily basis that some of the foibles start to become noticeable. If you’re tall, you might not find the MX-5’s cockpit particularly accommodating. Wind and road noise can become an issue, particularly if you drive on tarmac that is less than smooth. Those keen on taking their MX-5 on road trips will need to pack extremely light- and don’t try to stuff a few shirts into any interior storage or glovebox, because there isn’t any. We were unfortunate to have picked up a nail in one of the rear tires and so had to employ the services of the on-board tire sealant kit and compressor. We spent a good amount of time cussing in an effort to find the 12-volt plugin needed to power everything; for the record, it’s located tucked away in the passenger footwell.
Should I buy an MX-5 RF?
The only demographic who might not be a good fit would be those who intend to use their MX-5 for racing or autocrossing- basically, the kind of enthusiast types who would shun the added weight and increased centre of gravity that come with opting for the power roof (the soft top can be raised and lowered right from the driver’s seat even faster than the power mechanism, but we digress.) Those who will find space for an RF in their driveways will be folks who desire the refinement boost that comes with the metal roof, as well as those who will use the car throughout all four seasons- it will no doubt be a warmer and more comfortable environment on days when the thermometer dips well below zero. Whether you decide on the soft top or opt for the RF and it’s added versatility and spectacular styling, you really can’t go wrong with whatever MX-5 you ultimately choose.
2017 Mazda MX-5 RF GT- Specifications
- Price as tested: $44,895
- Body Type: 2-door, 2 passenger roadster
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 155 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 148 @ 4,600 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,114 kg (2,456 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 9.3L/100km (25 mpg)