I love driving in the winter. I love tactically navigating my car through knee-high snow, and doing battle with the elements. As a Canadian, I pride myself on my winter car control. It’s easy to reach a car’s limits when the fastest you can go around a corner is 14km/h. I find it hilarious and fun. Before the seasons let us all pretend we are rally drivers, there is a horrible transition period. The time when there is no snow yet, but the days start getting cooler, and we all start to put our summer toys away.
I recently was lucky enough to get to drive the DoubleClutch.ca long term tester, a 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF for its final week in our hands. We have had the pleasure of spending more than six months collectively enjoying what is, in my opinion, easily the best looking two-seat roadster that has been manufactured in a long time. Not everyone agrees, but with the powered retractable fastback in the closed position, the RF shows off some excellent proportions. There is an elegance to its shapes and curves that turn heads and spark questions from onlookers.
Myself and the rest of the DoubleClutch.ca team have had the pleasure not only of cruising long distances in the RF, but have also experienced its true capabilities on the autocross course. This is every bit the MX-5 you want it to be. Sharp, fast steering will let you dart the nose into a tight corner, and then a jab of the throttle will break the rear tires loose. The weight distribution lets you easily maintain a small slide through the next cone gate, then the excellent engine response and limited slip differential makes it easy to balance the car in a smooth controlled slide with the throttle. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but you will be doing all of this with a big dumb grin on your face.
While the electric power steering steering isn’t quite as good as older generations, it’s not a dealbreaker. Mazda has kept the quick steering ratio, and this coupled with the location of the mass in the car means that it’s very easy to get the car turned into a corner. The grip levels of each of the front tires are communicated through to your hands, and driving this car at the limit is simple and joyous. The thing is; spending time with an MX-5 isn’t just about the lively driving dynamics. It’s about cruising with the top down; enjoying the roadster life.
The RF delivers here too. All of us grew attached to the MX-5 over the summer. Driving it was a sort of escape for all of us, and there was more than one occasion when we argued with each other about who would get it for the weekend. In the end, the reality is that you never really feel like you have enough of it. In fact, I own an older MX-5, and I still was excited to take it for the week and cruise around.
Our tester had the Sport Package, so while it had the performance goodies (Brembo brakes and Blistein dampers) it also had the alcantara Recaro seats, which made for some comfortable and stylish cruising. The interior is well designed and attractive, and the headrest has speakers in it, so you can have phone conversations with the top down. If I had one complaint it would be that there is an unacceptable amount of wind noise. With the top down there is a large amount of buffeting on the fastback pillars right by your ear. Also, the steering wheel needs to telescope, because at 5’10 I couldn’t find an optimal driving position.
The RF exhibits a “character.” It actually feels like it has a personality. I know that might sound like a terrible cliché to some people, and they might think that owning a car that is actually fun is “unnecessary”. But I surmise that those are also the types of people that might struggle to find a reason to have that slice of chocolate cheesecake after dinner: “Tepid water is just fine thank you..”
Those that are on the fence about pulling the trigger on an MX-5 just need to take a solo test drive in one. Spend a bit of time with it. Sure it isn’t as practical as a crossover, but it does that thing that all Miatas in the past have done: it makes driving anywhere, at any speed, fun. Very few cars can actually claim that. And you know what? I was able to easily fit a week’s worth of groceries for two people in the trunk. What more do you really need? If you need to haul something big, borrow that pickup truck from the poor sod next door that thought he needed a full-cab super-duty pickup for his monthly trip to Home Depot.
With a few minor gripes aside, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF offers that classic roadster driving experience that we all love, now in a very handsome package. I promise you, none of us will look back on our time with the MX-5 RF with any sour thoughts at all.