Posted Dec 3rd 2012 2:58PM
The car you see above is the Mazda MX-5 Miata Super20, and as far as we know, it's the only one out on the road. Oh sure, people have been hotting-up Miatas since the little roadster's birth some two decades ago, but this Super20 is a hand-crafted Mazda original, first seen at the 2010 SEMA Show and the brought back out for the 2011 expo wearing the color scheme seen here.
It's very rare that we get to drive conceptual show cars outside of staged ride-and-drive events. Needless to say, when Mazda called and offered us a few days with its sweet little Super20 here in the Motor City, we immediately cleared our schedules.
Over the course of our week with the Super20, both Executive Editor Chris Paukert and I – Paukert being a second-generation (NB) Miata owner, for what it's worth – were able to flog the little yellow racer. Would this prove to be our favorite Miata yet?
- First, let's get one thing out of the way: It's unclear exactly how much power is being produced by the supercharged 2.0-litre MZR engine. Mazda's original press materials suggest somewhere around 250 horsepower for the Cosworth-supercharged mill – a full 83 hp more than the standard, naturally aspirated car. No torque specs were given, but it's easy to feel the extra thrust of power in the lower end of the powerband.
- "Despite having a lot more power, the engine is still working way too hard at highway speeds (a sensation amplified by the overly boomy aftermarket exhaust and lack of sound deadening). Time for a taller sixth gear," Paukert notes.
- Chris continues, "The ACT street clutch isn't as friendly in terms of modulation as the stock unit, but it's easy enough to get used to, and probably necessary considering the extra power the Cosworth supercharged MZR is kicking out."
- As for handling, having this extra grunt in the Super20 only proves how great the NC Miata's chassis is. The Super20 had no issues putting power to the ground with poise, still being immensely forgiving all the while. "It's enough to make one wish for an intermediate stability control setting with a broader degree of play," Paukert notes.
- This thing is a total attention-grabber, and not just because of the unique yellow-and-black color scheme. It's lower, wider, and looks downright mean because of it. Wherever we took it, the Super20 garnered all sorts of attention from people of all ages (and both sexes).
- We love the finger-pull door latches – paying a tribute to the ones used on the original NA Miata. A nice homage.
- Interior is your standard Miata fare, albeit with some suede inserts in the seats. That said, we'd love some more supportive chairs here, as the stock seats don't provide nearly enough lateral support, something we really noticed while flinging the supercharged Miata around.
- Weight has been saved throughout the car's interior, including the removal of the storage and roll bar compartment behind the front seats. A half-cage has been added, as well as a fixed hardtop. Notice how the fuel door release just sort of hangs outside of the center console.
- We won't fault the serious NVH issues of this car too much – it was designed to be a concept first and foremost, after all – but man, this thing is loud, and everything inside the car rattles. The fixed roof is no better for sound deadening than the normal soft top.
- All in, the Super20 makes us wish for a proper stripped-out track day special edition. An all-new Miata is still probably at least two years away, so a more hardcore version would certainly be enough to keep enthusiasts entertained until then.