Shooting from the hip
Last year one of our favourite EVO scribes (and devout 911 fanatic) Chris Harris blogged this rather infamous post on why he thinks Mazda’s Roadster is basically overrated.
Chris applauds the new Toyota 86 for exhibiting the type of traits that are the Mazda Roadster’s calling card. For many of the Roadster faithful, we simply wrote it off as grandstanding.
Now a (seemingly) successful /DRIVE correspondent, Chris has decided to revisit the topic. And, to his credit, he does a little back pedalling. This time around, he decides to bring price (and age) into the equation, and offers his alternative, the Lotus Elise. It should be said that, in most other countries, finding and maintaining a Series 1 Elise is not nearly the same proposition that NA8 ownership represents.
I think though, that an important caveat here is this - perhaps, when you spend so much of your time behind the wheel of focused, 6 figure machinery, a humble 20 year old Roadster would not represent the last word in performance or precision. Chris may be surprised to learn that we don’t all exit freeways oversteering all the way through 3rd gear. As much as we’d like to.
However, for most of us the Roadster is a real world proposition as a sports car, with more sports car pretension than anything else at the asking price. It’s also a car that is very enjoyable to drive slowly. With or without a roof. And that makes it more enjoyable, more of the time.
It’s also no more (or less) masculine to drive (if that matters to you) than a Sprite, Sprint, MG, or any other classic open top sports car from which Mazda drew inspiration. The difference of course between these cars, is that the Mazda is still running.
Still - kudos to Chris for pointedly bucking the trend, and for not joining the chorus of his motoring journo peers, who almost unanimously admire Mazda’s efforts. Perhaps this is merely reverse psychology, and Mr Harris is hoping he can encourage Mazda to return to basics with the ND…
Here is a great account, and one many of us will relate to. Roadster Life often means enjoyable drives come upon you when you least expect it.
Random images added for illustrative purposes!
One of the best experiences I have ever had in my MX-5 was a day when a club run I was looking forward to was washed out because of unseasonally bad weather.
A few of us went instead to a popular breakfast place in a small town in the foothills of the Yarra ranges. On the way home I took what is one of the nicest roads to drive on in Victoria. This particular road winds its way along through forested hills. It is extra special because of the number of nicely cambered curves but also because it is lined, for the most part, on both sides by dense ferns that hang over the road and make it seem even narrower than it is. This enhances the sensation of speed.
I was looking forward to this stretch of road as a consolation prize as I set off from the cafe with roof down and heater blasting away. When I got to the start of the road I found that it was completely covered in dense fog to the extent that it was difficult to see the ferns on the side of the road let alone the curves in the road. As a consequence I slowed down to around 10km/h.
Instead of being disappointed it turned out to be one of the finest experiences I have had in a car. There I was alone on the road driving through that temperate rainforest. The blanket of fog seemed to dampen any other sounds except for the burble of the engine and the call of birds and everything around me seemed to be quiet and at peace. This was accompanied by a heady aroma of gum leaves and moist earth. It took around 25 minutes before that special bit of road ended and the fog cleared enough for me to be able to speed up.
It was another 20 minutes before I saw another person who happened to be an emergency services person pulling cars over to ask them to slow down because of a traffic hazard ahead. He was wrapped in a coat and looked cold and miserable and I could just tell that he could not understand why I was driving with the roof down and looking so happy.
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