The top is down on our zippy convertible roadster, and we are zooming down a wide, open freeway on the outskirts of Melbourne (doing the legal amount of zoom, mind you). Being a typical summer’s day in Victoria, it’s pissing down. However we barely notice a drop, such is the aerodynamics of the sporty beast beneath us.
Ok sure, the windscreen wipers are whipping themselves into a frenzy and we may have turned the heating up a notch or two, but the fact you can have the roof down in a fair dinkum Aussie rainstorm and not get wet – that’s very novel. But the non-wet situation is also solely confined to doing speeds of over 80km/hour, as we immediately find out once we leave the cosy confines of the fast moving freeway. Luckily we’re in Mazda’s new limited edition MX-5 RF, of which there are only 110 in Australia. I say ‘luckily’ because the RF stands for Retractable Fastback – meaning at the touch of a button, the lid slides back on with impressive speed (as long as you’re crawling or stationary) keeping us within a whisker from being drenched in this sudden Victorian downpour.
Pure driving pleasure
We’re motoring down towards the Mornington Peninsula, having collected our brand new MX-5 from Tullamarine Airport that morning. Replete in shiny, Soul Red Crystal, it was love at first sight with this little Mazda minx, all smooth lines and curated curves. As two-seater sports cars go, the MX-5 is held in pretty lofty esteem. It’s affordable, it’s powerful and it’s gorgeous to look at – helping give it something of a cult status around the automotive world. It’s apparently also the world’s best-selling two-seater sports car, so it’s got that going for it too!
The additions for this MX-5 RF Limited Edition model make it even more mouth-watering. Mazda have taken their MX-5 RF GT (equipped with a 2.0L petrol engine and a six-speed manual transmission) and added elements from the Kuroi Sports Pack, which means 17-inch BBS alloy wheels, front/side/rear under spoilers, gas-filled Bilstein dampers, four-piston Brembo calipers up front, a strut brace and a custom-made Seiko sports watch for the lucky 100 or so buyers who snap up these little beauties. Oh, and they’ve added Recaro sports seats – made out of Alcantara and trimmed in leather for the “ultimate blend of sports and luxury”. But we will get to them in a moment.
It’s compact, but not restrictively so. At over six feet tall, I’m a bloke who usually prefers cars with a bit of height and space about them but when the opportunity arises to try something as stylish as this, you’d be mad to say no. And so it is that I lower myself into the body of this beast (roof on to start with) and drink in the splendidness of the quiet cabin. Then with a roar, engine purring and foot on the gas, we sweep off into…the all too familiar traffic chaos that is Melbourne. But that just gives me more time to check this new steed out a bit more.
I crank up the nine-speaker Bose sound system, and really dig the pair of headrest speakers – especially when you can have music blaring on one side and sat-nav directions delivered clearly into your ear on the other (they’re also pretty awesome for hands-free phone conversations too).
The suite of advanced safety technologies are pretty cool and include Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Departure Warning (which is turned off very quickly as the alerts get a little tiresome). I’d love the addition of a reversing rear camera – and the navigation system is a bit fiddly to start but we work it out pretty quickly and soon we’re leaving the Melbourne traffic in our wake.
And then there’s those Recaro sports seats… They’re great to look at and all, and if I was a jockey… or even maybe just a little bit fitter and in a bit better shape, then I probably wouldn’t have a problem with these classy new additions. In fact, some motoring journos reckon they’re one of the best features of the car. But it’s been a pretty good summer and for me, they’re just a little tight. They’re fine around the shoulders and the neck, even the lower back – it’s down by the hips where the body-hugging gets a bit too snug but that most likely says a lot more about the driver than it does the car – so I’m going to let Mazda go on this one (and probably should re-acquaint myself with the gym).
Topless is better
As I mentioned, this car is pretty compact and it’s really quite noticeable when the hardtop roof is closed. But that’s to be expected in a tiny two-seat speedster and we’re not in this for a roof-on sort of ride anyway. When the top is off, that is where the fun really starts and this limited edition MX-5 fully comes into its own. The Retractable Fastback means you can go totally convertible in just 13 seconds (you don’t have to do anything except push a button) and boy, is this a different animal when that roof goes down.
Immediately, you’re aware of much more space, much more noise (in this case – that’s a good thing) and just the whip and whirl of the wind in your hair. Somehow it feels like you’re going faster too, even if the speedometer is still only nudging that 80-90km/hr mark. Your foot suddenly feels a lot heavier on the accelerator and you’re doing everything you can do to resist breaking all the rules and burning off into the sunset. The car had been pretty amazing up until this point – and surprisingly so, but this is where the grin gets stapled across your face and you’re like a kid at Willy Wonka’s (postscript: Mazda, I apologise in advance for any speeding infringements that may have inadvertently happened when the top came off…). This is the pure driving pleasure they were talking about.
In an instant we’re in the Mornington Peninsula and experiencing all its wonderful delights. Lunch at Point Leo Estate (sumptuous – and those views…). An artistic workshop with the absurdly talented Kate Banazi. Quealy Wines at the ridiculously serene Tussie Mussie Retreat. The most relaxing sunny sail around Port Phillip Bay. A spy on some of Sorrento’s most sought after real estate. So, is it wrong that I all I want to do is dive back into the MX-5, rip the top off and hear the motor roar once more!?
Before we have to drop the little red beast off at the airport and very reluctantly return the keys, there’s one last bit of fun to be had. Between the peninsula and Melbourne city sits Arthurs Seat, a 304-metre high granite “hill” that has 360 degree, breathtaking views of this entire section of southern Victoria. The road to the top is one of hairpin bends, blind corners and switchbacks. It’s every bit as breathtaking as the vistas above. This tiny stretch of ascending bitumen is a motor enthusiasts wet-dream. We nestle at the bottom and crane our necks out the MX-5 RF’s open top. I set the six-shift gearbox in first, pump the pedal and zoom… Zoom! Let’s just say it’s not everyday you get to throw a very limited edition sports car (did I mention there’s only 110 of these bloody things in the country) around the Mornington’s equivalent of Mount Panorama… If you get the chance, drive this car. Put the roof down (even in the rain) and never look back. (No road rules were broken in the research of this article…we think).
Disclosure: Man of Many travelled to the Mornington Peninsula as a guest of Mazda.