MAZDA dropped the covers on a lightweight fourth-generation MX-5 roadster in Monterey, California today, hinting at a likely $10,000 price cut, but also a lengthy wait for Aussie buyers.
It will be late 2015 before the "feline design" two-seater arrives in Australia, with pricing expected to start at around $37,000 – a full $10K below the current model.
In what amounts to a hard reboot of the MX-5 concept, the million-selling sports car goes back to its roots, with more than 100 kilograms cut from the current third-gen model, launched in 2005.
Safety regulations and added equipment produced a successively expanding waistline that bloated the original 1989 from a humble 940kg to 1130kg over the course of 25 years.
The new model is the automotive equivalent of The Biggest Loser. And low weight is the key to performance, handling and braking.
Obsessive weight reduction, known in Mazda-speak as Gram Strategy, has trimmed the 100-plus kilos while meeting even tighter safety and emissions laws and adding much needed connectivity to the cabin for the first time.
Extensive use of lightweight alloys (bonnet, boot, front guards and both bumper reinforcements) and a reduction in wheel size and tyre footprint contributed to the slim down.
The signature 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, however, is maintained.
Every roadster gets a 7-inch tablet style screen – to be called Mazda Connect in most markets – with full sat-nav and a suite of on-board novelties, USB ports and a proximity key, all housed in a California-designed interior that ups the luxe ratio with soft-touch surfaces, detail stitching and no faux fibre.
The two-time Wheels Car of The Year winner (the 1989 and 2005 models) is radically re-proportioned, with the key dash-to-axle dimension lengthened. The driver has been moved back and down, the front wheels pushed forward and the rear overhang shortened. And the hip point, one of the most vital dimensions in a sports car, is lower as well.
The new model sits closer to the ground, with the likely direct-injection 2.0-litre atmo petrol powerplant also lower in the engine bay and mounted longitudinally.
It is matched to new six-speed manual and auto transmissions.
Mazda isn't quoting exact numbers, but the centre of gravity and yaw moment of the car are both said to be reduced. So is the cowl height, with slimmer A-pillars making for better forward vision.
Overall, the 2015 model is 105mm shorter but slightly wider and lower, yet feels bigger inside with the signature high transmission tunnel topped off with the short-throw manual (at least on the show model).
The longer dash-to-axle dimension and pushing the front wheels forward results in a slightly shorter wheelbase – 2315mm vs 2330mm for the current car.
In the metal, the new model looks planted, sucked to the ground with high front guards and a noticeably lower bonnet, tiny cat-eye LED headlights and tucked-in tight rear end.
There's a noticeable dip down to the doors from the side view and cat-like haunches.
The soft-top roof can be operated while remaining easily seated, Mazda claims.
A wind-blocker means the rushing breeze won't mess up the 'do, although that might be heresy to purist wind-in-the-hair drivers. The good news it folds away. Just like the cupholders.
Yes, cupholders in a sports car. These at least detach and can be stored in the boot if serious punting is afoot.
One more thing that speaks volumes (pardon the pun) is the addition of headrest speakers "to enhance driving enjoyment with the top down".