What is it?
The latest tweaked MX-5 you can buy in Japan, put together by the wizards at Mazda E&T. This is Mazda’s special ops division in Hiroshima that previously built some delicious MX-5 retro coupes, besides other creative projects.
This Mazdaspeed M’z Tune car is not in any shape or form the long-rumoured MPS version of the MX-5. Hell will freeze over before Hiroshima drops a turbo engine into the new-shape MX-5 (it tried it in limited fashion with the last series and it didn’t take off).
So this Mazdaspeed car is instead a careful and very tasty blend of performance tuning parts – body aero bits, engine, suspension, brakes, seats – based on the latest 2.0-litre, six-speed RS soft-top Roadster (as the MX-5 is badged in Japan).
Unlike other tuned MX-5s around, the M’z Tune comes as a complete, co-ordinated package with factory warranty and you order it via your local friendly Mazda dealer in Japan where prices start at the equivalent of just over £13K. Bargain.
What’s it like?
Brilliant, in a word. It’s hard to know which is better, the instant response and hard-edged power of this Mazda E&T 2.0-litre twin cam or the way the firmed up suspension introduces an extra level of sportiness and muscle to what’s already a great chassis.
The Mazda E&T team haven’t done anything too fancy with the engine. It gets a new power control module, lightened flywheel, new air duct and sports exhaust but it all works, big time.
There’s a new-found urgency to the way it revs and it’s strong all the way, with no let-up in the power curve or any hint of harshness. The tweaks are said to give a some five per cent improvement in power and torque, so nothing earth-shattering, but the M’z Tune still feels much faster than normal and the response and sound will have you hooked.
Then there’s the chassis, with stronger springs and adjustable Bilstein dampers to toughen up the handling (and the ride). The taut feel to suspension and body is definitely more businesslike, but not overly so. So you still get that infectious MX-5 dartiness and superbly weighted, intuitive steering, but now all the cornering limits are that much higher. On the downside, it’s not as easy to slide as the normal car and it rides over bumps instead of smothering them. But that’s about it.
Should I buy one?
Okay, some might be turned on by the looks. As these things go, the bodykit is quite tasteful and good quality. Oh yes, the chin spoiler, skirts and rear wing have also been methodically set up to improve aerodynamics. Which helps, of course.
The hard-backed Mazdaspeed seats are also right on the money; way firmer than normal but exactly in tune with what the car’s all about.
So it makes a statement, but it’s the dynamics that seal it. Yes, you should buy one because it’s easily one of the best-sorted new MX-5s around, with nary a chink in its armour. It feels all of a piece, sharpening up the MX-5 in a highly impressive way.
One tiny problem, of course, is that it’s Japanese domestic market only, so you’ll be looking at the grey marketeers to bring it into the UK. And the bill in the end will naturally be a lot more than the local £13k. Finally, you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s silver metallic.