After a string of American muscle, including a 1967 Mustang Fastback, Lance moved to California in 2001 and bought a new Honda S2000. The 51-year old still has it, and his passion for the roadster has not waned. But times have changed, and with Honda abandoning the S2000 nearly a decade ago, there’s only one affordable roadster keeping the flame alive.
He climbs from the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata and pauses for a second to gather his thoughts. “You know, I’ve never been a Miata guy,” he says with a smile. “When I was younger I thought they were only good for one thing: a V-8 swap. But not this one. This one is quick. Much quicker than my Honda.”
Our friend’s derriere dyno ain’t lyin’. This 2019 Miata would smoke his Honda in a drag race. With 26 more horsepower than last year, it’s the most powerful Miata ever, and it’s the quickest, sprinting to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. That’s over a full second quicker than Lance’s S2000. With a quarter-mile time around 14.5 seconds, the Mazda could even put some stock classic American muscle cars on the trailer.
The fourth-generation of the two-seat roadster has been piling up praise since it arrived in 2016. But even the faithful have asked for more power. Despite an industry packed with turbo 2.0-liters making over 200 hp, Mazda isn’t on the boost bandwagon. Instead, its engineers reduced engine friction, lightened the 2.0-liter’s pistons and connecting rods, added a more aggressive exhaust cam profile, enlarged the exhaust valves, honed out the exhaust ports, and freed the flow of the exhaust system.
Remember, however, that the Miata is not about raw speed. Since it rejuvenated the convertible market in the early 1990s, Mazda’s master stroke with this fun-loving roadster has always been about the handling dynamics. So while the extra grunt from this new Skyactiv 2.0-liter is more than welcome, the Miata is not intended to keep up an Ecoboost Ford Mustang, or even the elderly Nissan 370Z.
Now the naturally aspirated four-cylinder revs more quickly, thanks to a lighter dual-mass flywheel, and power is up to 181 hp at 7000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, which is 3 lb-ft of torque over the 2018 model. In the age of 707+ hp Hellcats that doesn’t sound like much, but remember that the spritely rear-wheel drive roadster weighs only 2339 pounds. The engine is torquey around town and it pulls smoothly to a 7500 rpm redline, up from 6800. A standard six-speed manual with short tightly-spaced ratios makes it easy to keep the revs up, but there is a six-speed automatic available as well.
Prices start around $26,000 and our Miata Club tester with options cost about 35 grand. Bilstein dampers, a limited-slip differential, and a strut tower brace are standard on the Club, and our tester was equipped with the new Brembo/BBS/Recaro package that includes front Brembo brakes, 17-inch BBS wheels, and heated Recaro buckets. It’s the hottest possible combination.
The targa-topped Miata RF is also once again on offer, for those who prefer a roof and a sleek look to the standard car’s ultra-simple ragtop.
With its new-found horsepower, perfect balance, and a tossability that has made cars like this so fun since the British invented the genre back in the late 1940s, you can now buy what’s undoubtedly the best Miata ever. So while Flyin’ Miata will still sell you that V-8 swap, there’s never been a better time to drive the pants off the Mazda just the way it is.