2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Miata Grand Touring Road Test
Does the RF (Retractable Fastback) improve the iconic sports car?
- Price: $32,620, as tested $34,310
- Mpg: 26 city / 33 Highway (manual transmission)
- 0 to 60 mph: 6.4 seconds
I drove the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring in crowded city traffic, on the Washington DC Beltway and on open country roads. Enjoy the two videos and MX-5 Miata images contained in this article.
The car is a blast to drive in the city. Its nimbleness and size allows you to sprint through traffic and park anywhere. The sporty ride is never harsh over road surface irregularities.
Accelerating to merge on to the Beltway is a pure joy. You literally look for opportunities to sprint through the six-speed gearbox at full throttle, listening as the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine eagerly revs toward red line. All Miatas share the same 2.0L,155 hp engine that generates 148 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to accelerate 2,400 pounds of Miata from 0-60 mph in about 6.4 seconds.
I really put the MX-5 through its paces on open country roads in southern Maryland. It’s easy to carve a line through twisty turns and use engine braking to reduce speed and maintain revs as I entered turns and then accelerated out of them given the MX-5’s precise steering and superb six speed manual gearbox. The MX-5 exhibits enough body lean to communicate to the driver that the suspension is working as engineered. However, at no time did I feel like I was wrestling with extra weight to muscle the Miata through a turn. Every ounce of the Miata is there to support the driving experience and safety. My loaded Grand Touring model was also fairly luxurious with heated leather seats, Bose 9 speaker HD audio, SiriusXM satellite radio, Mazda Navigation, and Automatic Climate Control. Safety features on the Grand Touring includeAdaptive Front Lighting, High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning System, Rain Sensing Windshield Wipers, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The power operated retractable fastback mechanism folds the center roof panel and rear window behind the seats and then replaces the rear buttress creating a “targa-like” cockpit. Mazda created the term “retractable fastback” perhaps because Porsche trademarked "targa." The RF looks more up market and exotic than the soft top Miatas.
The top down experience in the MX-5 RF is unique. Occupants enjoy that wind in your hair feeling while being shielded from direct wind buffeting and at times direct sunlight by the rear structure. I took full advantage of the automatic climate control while driving with the top down in extreme humidity in our Nation’s Capital in August to remain comfortable. It’s a safe bet that the climate control system, supplemented by the heated seats, would keep me warm on cooler days too. It is reasonably quiet inside the MX-5 cockpit with the roof open at highway speeds considering wind, road and drivetrain noise. I wouldn’t have any qualms about driving the MX-5 RF on a long trip with the top open.
I love the styling. Some in the automotive press are not so enthusiastic about the styling but I think they are looking for something the MX-5 RF is not. I received a lot of interest and comments while driving the car. One guy asked me to take pictures with it. My favorite conversation was with a truck driver while stopped at a traffic light. He clearly liked the looks of the car. I could have sold him a Miata if the light lasted a bit longer!
- Truck Driver: Does that have a V8 or V6 Turbo?
- Me: 2.0 Liter 4 cylinder
- Truck Driver (eyebrows raised): How fast does it go?
- Me: 0-60 in 6.4 seconds
- Truck Driver (eyebrows raised higher) : How much horse power?
- Me: 155 hp
The Verdict - Mazda introduced the Miata, its interpretation of the classic sports car, at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show as a 1990 model. Mazda has successfully refined its fun to drive, affordable, lightweight design for 28 years. Mazda sold its 1 millionth MX-5 Miata in April 2016. The RF models add a level of refinement and sexiness to the MX-5 Miata lineup. Mazda engineers added the power top and its 120 pounds of extra weight without sacrificing the MX-5 Miata’s speed, ride or handling. Well, if you had a track, data loggers and professional drivers you may be able to find a difference in driving dynamics between the soft top and new RF Miatas. My suggestions: Buy the Miata that you love and fits your budget. Use sunblock. Enjoy!
MX-5 Miata Club Soft Top
Which Miata do you like?