the perfect car even better
I make no secret of the fact that I like
the Mazda MX-5. I owned one for two years and it was a
pleasure to hop into it each day even for the mind numbing
drive to work, and when weekends came it was sheer hedonistic
joy. Other manufacturers should take heed.
Since my MX-5, which was a 1995 model,
there have been subtle changes to the cars, but all the
subsequent models have been identifiably Mazda MX-5.
The latest evolution of the Mazda MX-5 has
arrived with the Roadster Coupe - the first model available
with an integrated electronically controlled folding roof.
This was displayed at the Bangkok International Motor Show,
and was my car of the show.
Mazda denies that it has deviated from the
MX-5ís original philosophy of creating an inexpensive,
lightweight sports car with the Roadster Coupe. Instead, it
says it has developed a more secure and practical alternative
that will broaden the appeal of its cult car. Since mine had
the hard top, I have to admit that it spent 90 percent of its
time in that guise. And the main reason was the fact that it
was too difficult to take off. It was heavy, needed two people
to remove it, and then where did you stow it? A hassle.
Mercedes-Benz was the first car-maker to
blur the lines between a traditional convertible and a sports
coupe with its original SLK roadster in 1997. Since then, a
host of manufacturers have followed its lead, the likes of
which extend from cuties like the Peugeot CC through to
exclusive high-end exotics like the Mercedes-Benz SL.
Mazda claims the Roadster Coupe was
developed as an integral pillar of its third-generation
NC-series MX-5, although it required slightly more development
time than the soft-top to ensure it met the strict criteria
set out by program manager, Takeo Kajima - the father of the
Mazda believes the soft-top will still
appeal to enthusiastic owners who appreciate its lightweight
simplicity, while the Roadster Coupe will attract more
discerning owners who demand the greater flexibility and
security offered by the folding hardtop roof.
In fact, Mazda believes, particularly now
that the initial rush for the NC soft-top has been met, that
the Roadster Coupe will make up 60 percent of all MX-5 sales
in the future. I would have to agree. It is not an
unreasonable proposition considering the Roadster Coupe not
only has the convenience of the folding roof, but there is
hardly any performance loss as it weighs only 37 kg more than
the soft-top and it also comes standard with the luxury
leather trim and high-powered Bose sound system.
The Roadster Coupe costs 2.55 million baht
for the manual. This represents around about 150,000 baht
premium over the entry-level MX-5 soft-top.
The Roadster Coupe shares the same
mechanical package as the soft-top, powered by a 2 liter
Mazda-developed four-cylinder engine with dual sequential
valve timing that produces 118 kW at 6700 rpm and 188 Nm of
torque at 5000 rpm.
Located behind the front axle for 50:50
weight distribution, the engine drives the rear wheels via a
six-speed transmission. The drivetrain is cradled in a stiff
transmission tunnel that is derived from the RX-8 for greater
The suspension has been slightly tweaked to
cater for the weight increase, with a larger front stabilizer
bar and retuned rear springs and dampers.
But itís the roof that really sets this
car apart from its soft-top sibling. It only takes 12 seconds
for the car to morph from a roadster into a coupe - which
Mazda claims is the best in the business - and, having been
developed as part of the program from the outset, is the first
of the folding roof cars to not impede on the boot space when
the roof is down. Mazda claims the Roadster Coupe still
provides the full 150-litre boot capacity in either
configuration. The three-piece roof is constructed from a
fiber/plastic composite outer skin and high-strength
glassfiber-reinforced polypropylene inner panels and is just
20mm thick and weighs only 18kg more than the soft-top roof.
The extra weight is courtesy of the four electric motors,
steel, rather than aluminium, bootlid and structural
reinforcements required. It is controlled by buttons on the
top-center section of the dashboard, and can only be activated
while the car is stationary.
Visually, the Roadster Coupe only differs
in the rear section of the vehicle, where the decklid is 40mm
higher, resulting in redesigned rear guards and a tapered
bootlid to ensure the overall design remained fluid.
It comes fully-loaded with a long feature list that
includes air-conditioning, power windows, a six-CD Bose sound
system, cruise control, dual front and side airbags and
dynamic stability control and traction control. And I want
stowed in boot
we learn from the Bahrain GP?
Well we can see that that Lewis Hamiltonís
previous performances were not just luck. He drove
magnificently and definitely eclipsed his much vaunted team
mate, two times F1 champion Fernando Alonso. As you would
expect, the British media is going berserk with a contender to
the throne at last (as opposed to the Ďpretendersí they
have been boosting in the recent past). This young man is a
real talent. What is more, he is well spoken and quite humble.
This is someone that the British press can adore, with good
Of course, we should not overlook Massaís
performance. It was a winning drive right from the start.
Flawless and fast, again eclipsing his much vaunted (and
apparently very expensive) team mate Raikkonen. At no stage
during the afternoon did the Finn display any real hunger for
position, and his performance at the post race conference was
soporific. Mind you, if he was going to sleep, he did manage
to wake himself up by picking his nose, but his monosyllabic
mumbles were for the main part incomprehensible.
Alonso did not drive like a world champion,
and being passed by Heidfeld in the BMW must make Ron Dennis
wonder if he spent his money wisely. His words at the post
race conference said it all for me, "You always start the
race believing you can win but after six or seven laps I knew
that it would be tough. I couldnít keep up with the Ferraris
and Lewis (Hamilton) and in the end had to settle for
fifth." Champions do not "settle for" low
positions in my book. Champions keep trying till the end.
Heidfeld drove like a man determined to
make the right impression. His contract runs out at the end of
this year, and so far, BMW has not indicated whether they will
take up the option they have on his services for 2008. It is
well known that team boss Mario Thyssen leans towards Robert
(le nez) Kubica, but Kubica has not delivered the performance
he displayed last year.
I really donít know why the Spykers
continue to enter. Their driver Christijan Albers said it all,
"Even when I was running alone it was still quite tough
as we had no radio." I would have to agree. At the speed
of the Spykers you need something playing on the radio for
company and to stay awake!
Two drivers who did deserve something
better were Red Bullís Webber and Coulthard. Webber, with
true Aussie forthrightness saying, "The car had an open
fuel flap in the second stint, which was the same problem we
had in Australia. Itís bloody frustrating." Coulthard,
who drove like heís been on rejuvenation pills said,
"Weíre going through some growing pains at the moment,
but we will get through it and weíll be stronger on the
other side, everyoneís working very hard back in the
Two drivers who did do much better than
expected were Davidson and Sato in the Super Aguriís. A team
which has come from nothing to run as high as 6th at one
stage. However, the Honda engines proved a little too fragile.
Honda is not having a happy 2007 at this stage.
The next GP is in Spain on May 13. Will Hamilton eclipse
his Spanish team mate on his home soil? Will Honda be able to
beat Super Aguri? We shall see!
Last week I asked which member of the
British monarchy had a Jaguar Mk VII upgraded to Mk IX specs
by the factory? It was the late Queen Mother for all the
So to this week. And we are still in
Jaguar territory. In 1978, the XJ 3.4 could be purchased
ex-works for how much? To the nearest thousand pounds will
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be
the first correct answer to email email@example.com
about Jaguar here!
Having mentioned the late British Queen
Motherís Jaguar Mk VII, it was certainly coincidence when
our Malaysian resident automaniac John Weintnhal brought the
information on the Jaguar magazine to my attention.
Specialist publishing company Hughes
Graphics and Design has unveiled their new look Jaguar
Magazine and website as they embark upon concentrating
further on the American and European magazine market.
Jaguar Magazine editor, Les Hughes, said
the re-fresh has included the www.jaguarmagazine.com website
in the aim of bringing readers the very latest and best
information on the marque from around the world.
"The internet is such a vital
component of every business that we have tried to make the
Jaguar Magazine website an extension of the publication
rather than an advertisement pushing people to buy a
copy," Mr Hughes said.
"The decision to aim the magazine
into America is a very simple one - Jaguar sells around 50
percent of its new cars there, so it provides a great
opportunity for us to reach many more people who share the
same passion for the marque."
Adding to the style changes, Jaguar
Magazine has created a close relationship with Apex Racing
to feature their competition efforts with a team of new XKR
Jaguars in the growing FIA GT3 Championship throughout 2007.
Jaguar Magazine also has a very close association with the
factory and Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, and will bring
readers all of the latest models and details as they occur.
"I am very excited about working
with the team at Apex Racing, including team principal
Richard Lloyd, to cover its FIA GT3 racing, because Jaguar
had such a legendary history in sports car racing, and I
believe we will see it again," Mr Hughes said.
"On top of the coverage in each
edition, our website will feature exclusive insights into
the team operations, team members and drivers, and updates
on all of their races. We will also be provide profiles on
team members, and really give readers an understanding of
what goes on beyond the glitz and glamour of on-track
Mr Hughes said it was important to
emphasize to existing readers the quality and nature of
stories is not about to be altered with the design.
"We have always prided ourselves on
providing the very best stories and designs in our magazine,
and this new branding is simply the next phase in continuing
this," Mr Hughes said.
For more information on the website and the current
edition of Jaguar Magazine log on to www.jaguarmagazine.com