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May 12, 2012 (8:16pm)
The world's best-selling two-seat roadster celebrates its 20th anniversary
May 12, 2012
Think back to 1989... George HW Bush becomes President. "Rain Man" wins Best Picture. The junk bond market collapses. The Berlin Wall falls. And Mazda introduces the MX-5 Miata open-topped sports car at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show.
The automotive landscape looked very different in 1989, as manufacturers shunned sports cars because they didn't make good business sense and the public didn't want them...or so it was thought. Bucking the trend, Mazda launched a little two-seat roadster that was spirited, fun-to-drive and unlike anything else offered. Twenty years later, and with nearly 900,000 units sold around the globe, the now-iconic MX-5 Miata is the world's best-selling two-seat roadster, and has revolutionized the sports car market.
"The MX-5 Miata has been true to Mazda's Zoom-Zoom philosophy since rolling off the assembly line 20 years ago," said Tim Barnes, Director Product Strategies and Planning. "Long before Zoom-Zoom became one of the most recognizable slogans around, Mazda designed the Miata to epitomize the 'emotion of motion' concept on which Zoom-Zoom is based, and its worldwide sales are a real testament to the car's DNA and spirit."
For its 20th anniversary, the MX-5 receives refreshed exterior styling, interior enhancements, a stronger, higher revving engine, increased fuel mileage, two new exterior colors - Competition Yellow and Liquid Silver Metallic - two new interior colors - Dune Beige Leather and Havana Brown Leather, and numerous package changes. However the most exciting enhancements come to the MX-5's performance.
Throughout its history, the MX-5 Miata's focus has been on driver enjoyment over raw performance. Following that philosophy, changes to the 2009 MX-5 powertrain are laser-focused on making the car even more fun to drive.
At its heart, MX-5 continues to feature a highly-responsive MZR-series 2.0-liter powerplant. The light and compact engine, featuring chain-driven double overhead camshafts, a lightweight flywheel, variable intake valve timing, electronically controlled port fuel injection and coil-on-plug ignition, is positioned front-midship, well behind the front axle centerline for ideal handling balance and nimbleness. Slick-shifting 5- or 6-speed manual transmissions, or a 6-speed Sport A/T automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted shift paddles continue to deliver unparalleled driver involvement.
New for 2009 are the following changes:
On manual transmission models, the MZR 2.0-liter engine's redline has been bumped up 500 rpm, to 7200, giving drivers more flexibility as they dive from corner to corner on their favorite back road. Making this higher redline possible is a new forged steel crankshaft, forged steel connecting rods with floating wrist pins, revised pistons with stronger wrist pin bosses, stiffer valve springs, and an engine oil cooler.
Classic sports car engine sound has always been a hallmark of the MX-5 Miata. The original 1.6-liter 1990 model was tuned to mimic the sound of dual-carbureted sports cars of the '60s. Key to a fuel-injected engine making that sound is careful tuning of intake resonance, and pointing the engine's air intake at the driver so that sound is delivered with maximum effect. While the 1990 Miata did just that, it drew in hot underhood air from behind the radiator. Today's engine draws in cool air from the nose of the car for better efficiency, but getting that classic induction sound to the driver now requires new technologies.
Since the 2006 model, the lightweight plastic composite intake manifold itself has been designed to transmit certain frequencies that match the classic sports car sound profile, while suppressing less enjoyable sounds. For 2009, 6-speed manual models also get an Induction Sound Enhancer (ISE). Made up of a series of tuned pipes and a passive resonance membrane, the ISE delivers the engine's natural induction sound to the cowl, just ahead of the windshield, so pleasing engine sounds can be delivered at a comfortable volume without resorting to simply being loud.
Already considered one of the best in the world, for 2009, the MX-5 Miata's 6-speed delivers quicker, lighter, more direct shift feel thanks to a new carbon coating on the 1st through 4th gear synchros and larger diameter syncrhos on 3rd and 4th gear. 6th gear is also slightly taller (0.787:1 vs. 0.832:1) for improved fuel economy and more relaxed highway cruising.
Though the engine's output on paper increases only slightly (now making 167 hp at 7000 rpm, up from 166 hp at 6700 rpm), the combined effect on the driver's enjoyment is much greater.
LEGENDARY HANDLING GETS EVEN BETTER
With its ideal weight distribution, compact dimensions, superior steering and chassis systems, the MX-5 Miata has always offered agility, natural controllability and handling second to none. Mazda's chassis engineers never rest, though, so handling is improved even further for 2009.
The front suspension still consists of lightweight forged aluminium double wishbones, but the outer ball joints have been repositioned slightly to lower the front roll center about an inch. Damping has also been completely re-tuned on both the standard suspension and the Bilstein-equipped suspension package.
The optional traction control and stability control systems have also been thoroughly re-tuned to be less intrusive during sporty driving.
As a result, the 2009 MX-5 reacts even more precisely to driver commands, with more linear responses, perfectly balanced front and rear roll, and natural, nimble yaw response. Together, these modifications translate into an enhanced 'Jinba Ittai' feeling of control.
REJUVENATED STYLING BLENDS CLASSIC AND MODERN
The MX-5's fun and modern exterior design retains the iconic feel of the earlier generation MX-5 Miatas while simultaneously moving it into the future. The body is shaped to make the cockpit the widest portion of the car, delivering a roomier, safer design that still expresses the compact look of a lightweight sports car. Side surfacing is rounded, yet taut - like the skin over a muscled body. Head and tail lamps are mounted inboard to reinforce the sense of compactness that is so central to the car's design philosophy. Joining this modern shape are tail lamps and rearview mirrors that harken back to the elliptical shape of the first-generation MX-5 Miata and a silhouette that could be mistaken for nothing else.
For 2009, the MX-5 gets a more aggressive face with re-shaped headlamps, a larger, 5-point grille and highly-sculpted triangular front fog lamp bezels. The new design is functional as well. The bulge below the front fog lamps, the wider air deflectors ahead of the front tires, the redesigned side sills, the reshaped lower corners of the rear bumper and even the taillights all contribute to a measurably lower coefficient of drag.
Mazda virtually invented the easy-to-lower-and-raise soft-top in the original Miata, and the 2009 model continues to set the industry standard. Unlike competitors' models, the top can be lowered or raised with one hand, from inside the car, and requires no bulky or complicated snaps or external latches. The Z-fold design uses a simple, central latch handle and requires only a simple wrist movement to stow.
Introduced in 2007, a Power Retractable Hard Top model is still available. This addition to the lineup builds on the soft-top two-seater's zest for life by enhancing year-round comfort and security. Opening and closing cycles last only 12 seconds, making this the fastest power-operated retractable hard top in the U.S., and the only retractable hardtop on the market that doesn't compromise trunk space. Rather than consuming interior or trunk room, the folded roof descends into the same storage well behind the seats where the soft top would have stowed.
The interior design theme balances comfortable snugness below shoulder level with openness above. Changes for 2009 were focused on the areas the driver touches most. The seat shape has been refined for better lower-body comfort, while the backrest still delivers body-hugging lateral support for sporty driving. The center console has been redesigned for more flexible storage and, and better comfort, with a padded armrest now residing behind the shifter. Even the bottle holders in the doors were changed with driver comfort in mind.
Also new for 2009, the MX-5 adds standard features including an auxiliary-audio input jack and a CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability. Touring models now include an auto dimming rearview mirror with HomelinkTM, premium finish on the instrument panel and a trip computer (average MPG and ambient temperature displays). The top Grand Touring model adds automatic air conditioning, leather-wrapped hand brake and 5-way adjustable seat heaters.
The quality of craftsmanship in the MX-5 gives it a look and feel well beyond its price. From the details of bright-trimmed gauges to the "dark silver" finish on the dash, the MX-5 feels and looks far more expensive than it actually is.
RACE-READY FROM THE DEALERSHIP
Too much weight is bad for athletes, and it's just as bad for sports cars. Weight slows acceleration, lengthens braking distances, dulls handling and cripples fuel economy. Mazda engineers worked hard to make the MX-5 light-weight - all while building a roomy, safe car.
Weight-saving measures include the use of an aluminum hood and trunk lid, aluminum front control arms, aluminum rear uprights and rear calipers. The monococque unibody makes widespread use of high-strength and ultra high-strength steel, boosting body strength while simultaneously cutting weight. The 2.0-liter engine has an aluminum block and head, the exhaust manifold is lightweight tubular steel instead of cast iron, and the intake manifold and cam cover are made from lightweight composite plastic. In the end, MX-5 is very light, yet roomy enough for larger adults, and safe for everyone, thanks to its strong body and safety features (including anti-lock brakes on all trim levels, standard side airbags, and a passenger's airbag cutoff switch so you can carry young children in a child safety seat).
Since the original MX-5 Miata, Mazda engineers have made this light weight possible through their now legendary 'gram strategy'. One of the imperatives for Mazda engineers was making every gram count by assessing the weight of every single component, no matter how insignificant it may seem by itself. Even the rear-view mirror was simplified, trimming 84 grams, or 0.19 lbs. By applying this strategy throughout every nook and cranny of the MX-5's design, Mazda engineers were able to create a light, roomier, stronger and safer sports car like no other.
MODELS AND ACCESSORIES
The MX-5 Miata was conceived primarily for the U.S. market, and throughout its 20-year history, America has always been the biggest market for what has become the world's most popular two-seat convertible.
The SV model represents the least expensive way of getting into an MX-5. It comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, lightweight 16-inch aluminum wheels, power-adjusted door mirrors, dual exhausts, power windows, cloth upholstery, AM/FM/CD player with six speakers, dual front airbags and side airbags.
To this, the Sport model adds air conditioning and a leather-covered steering wheel.
The Touring model, in addition, gets fog lamps, cruise control, Remote Keyless Entry with retractable key, steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomelinkTM, a trip computer and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. The 5-speed is replaced with a six-speed manual gearbox with leather shift knob, and lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels are standard.
The Grand Touring model gets heated leather seats, automatic climate control, faux leather door trim, cloth soft top, and a BOSE® audio system with seven speakers.
When upgrading to the Grand Touring with Premium Package, the vehicle gets Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry & Start System, DSC with Traction Control, Anti-theft alarm and HID headlights. New features added to the Premium Package in 2009 are Bluetooth® hands-free phone and SIRIUS® satellite radio.
SPORTS CAR HERITAGE
Mazda has a distinguished history of producing great sports cars. The first Mazda sports car to win worldwide recognition and praise was the rotary-powered Cosmo Sport 110S launched in 1967.
The RX-7, which followed in 1978, won the hearts of sports car enthusiasts and was a dominant force on the racetrack. The original MX-5 Miata, launched in 1989 as a 1990 model, revolutionized the affordable two-seat roadster market. Mazda's introduction of the RX-8 redefined the boundaries of sports car design by offering spectacular performance and comfortable accommodation for four adults in one innovative sports car package.
All of Mazda's considerable expertise and passion for designing great sports cars was drawn on for the latest third-generation MX-5.
All 2009 Mazdas come with a roadside assistance program. With a call to a toll-free number, owners can access roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, a comprehensive three-year/36,000-mile warranty covers every part on the vehicle except those subject to normal wear. Also, all 2009 models receive a five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and a five-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information on Mazda vehicles, visit the online Mazda media center at www.mazdausamedia.com. Product B-roll may be ordered online by visiting The News Market at www.thenewsmarket.com/mazda.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES FOR 2009:
Engine (changes have been applied to manual transmission models only.)
- Engine output increases to 167 hp @ 7000 rpm (up from 166 hp @ 6700 rpm), torque remains 140 lb-ft at 4000 rpm with at least 90 percent of peak torque available from 2,500 rpm to redline.
- Redline increased 500 rpm to 7200 rpm
- Forged steel crankshaft
- Forged steel connecting rods
- Stronger pistons
- Stiffer valve springs
- Engine oil cooler
- New induction sound enhancer (ISE) (6MT models only)
Transmission (6MT only)
- Carbon coating on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear synchros.
- Larger diameter 3rd and 4th gear syncrhos
- 6th gear ratio increased from 0.832:1 to 0.787:1 for improved fuel economy and more relaxed highway cruising.
- Front roll center lowered 1 inch.
- Retuned dampers
- Recalibrated, less intrusive Dynamic Stability Control
- Exterior styling is both more dynamic looking and more aerodynamic
- New, more aggressive front fascia
- New five-point grille
- New headlamp design with white turn-signal lenses
- New highly-sculptured triangular front fog lamp bezels
- New side sills
- Revised rear bumper design
- New rear combination lamps with more aerodynamic shape
- New lightweight 16" and 17" wheels
- New colors (Competition Yellow and Liquid Silver Metallic)
- New color for beige soft top
- Improved seats provide better comfort while maintaining support in hard cornering.
- Redesigned center console with improved storage spaces and more comfortable, padded armrest.
- Decorative panel on the dashboard changed from piano black to dark silver
- New meter graphics for better readability
- New red-backlit LCD trip meter/odometer display
- New materials give a higher quality feel
- New interior colors (Dune Beige Leather, Havana Brown Leather)