Last year’s barchetta-style Miata loses weight, gets new paint job

At the 2015 SEMA Show, Mazda wowed the MX-5 Miata fanbase with the Speedster Concept. Essentially a barchetta-style interpretation of the roadster, the Speedster Concept also showcased a more aggressive exterior and performance-enhancing chassis components on top of being significantly lighter than the standard MX-5. The vehicle was a hit with Miata enthusiasts, but the Speedster never made it into production, Mazda instead opting to launch the targa-roof RF model. A year has passed since the Speedster Concept made its official debut and it appears that Mazda didn’t quite abandon the idea, creating an improved version for the 2016 SEMA Show.

Dubbed MX-5 Speedster Evolution, the new concept is exactly what the name describes: a revised variant of the previous barchetta-style Miata. Following last year’s SEMA Show, the MX-5 Speedster went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and then returned to Mazda Design Americas, where the team that created it experimented to see just how much lighter they could make it.

Mazda shaved an additional 100 pounds from the first concept, which accounts for a total of 350 pounds — or 15 percent — from the original MX-5 soft-top model. The Speedster Evolution now tips the scales at 1,980 pounds, making it the lightest road-legal MX-5 based on the current generation model. The new concept was also inspired by the MX-5 Global Cup race car, receiving features otherwise not available for street use. Needless to say, this is a pretty package and an exciting prospect as far as future production models go.

“With MX-5 Speedster Evolution, our goal was to further deliver the essence of what MX-5 has represented for the past 27 years — lightweight engineering and pure driving joy,” said Design Manager Ken Saward, the man who headed the project. “In the future, we might see if there is anywhere else we could take out weight.

Updated 11/01/2016: Mazda unveiled the new MX-5 Speedster Evolution concept at the 2016 SEMA Show.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution.

Exterior

The exterior of the Speedster Evolution is almost identical to the original Speedster concept and includes nearly all the features that Mazda showcased at the 2015 SEMA Show. Highlights include the more muscular bumper with the missing grille mesh and revised splitter, the new diffuser with center-mounted exhaust, race-inspired side skirts, and more importantly, the barchetta-style windscreen and rollover hoops behind the seats.

Setting it apart from the original concept is the White Ether paint.

Setting it apart from the original concept is the White Ether paint instead of the Blue Ether color, the missing "05" decals on the front fenders, the body-colored windscreen, and new wheels. The latter feature an eight-spoke design instead of the previous multi-spoke layout and ditched the Kumho Ecsta tires in favor of BF Goodrich rubber. What’s special about these tires is that they are identical to the ones used by the race cars in the Mazda MX-5 Cup series.

Interior

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Concept High Resolution Interior
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Note: Mazda MX-5 Speedster Concept interior shown here.

Mazda didn’t have much to say about the interior aside from the fact that it features a digital display instead of the traditional gauges in the instrument cluster, but it’s safe to assume it is identical to the original Speedster concept. If so, the Speedster Evolution should feature bespoke carbon-fiber seats by Mu-Len Delta Seat, a bespoke "Mazda Design" emblem on the dashboard, and a "Speedster" badge behind the rollover hoops. Additionally, black Alcantara gives the interior a more race-inspired look. Other than that, the Speedster Evolution is pretty much a standard MX-5 without a roof. Getting back to the new digital display, it was added in order to ditch the heavier standard gauges and all the parts that come with it. This measure was taken in order to shave even more weight off the speedster.

Drivetrain

Much like the first Speedster, the Evolution comes with the same 2.0-liter SkyActiv-G engine that cranks out 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. I know some of you are disappointed that there are no updates in the output department, but bear in mind that the Evolution is 100 pounds lighter than the first Speedster concept and no fewer than 350 pounds lighter than the standard MX-5 Miata. As a result, it should be significantly quicker from 0 to 60 mph, a benchmark it is likely to achieve in around 6.2 seconds. For reference, the standard MX-5 needs 6.5 ticks to hit that speed.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
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The Evolution is 100 pounds lighter than the first Speedster and 350 pounds lighter than the standard MX-5.

The oomph likely routes to the rear wheels through a six-seed manual transmission, but unlike the first concept, the Evolution features a new suspension and braking system. The previous K&W coilovers and H&R springs were replaced the adjustable suspension system from the MX-5 Global Cup racecar, while the Brembo front brakes were removed to make way for the lighter rotors and calipers from the MX-5 Sport and Grand Touring models. Mazda also replaced the stock 25.1-pound battery with a Braille GreenLite G20 Lithium unit that weighs just 4.5 pounds. This means that around 20 percent of the Evolution’s weight saving were obtained by installing a lighter battery. Impressive!

Conclusion

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
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I remember that I was pretty impressed with the MX-5 Speedster concept, simply because Mazda took an already cool roadster and gave it the race-inspired barchetta treatment, alongside a handful of sporty exterior features and an enhanced chassis. The Speedster Evolution is my new favorite, despite not being a fan of the new white paint job and the missing decals. What I like most about it the fact that Mazda managed to reduce curb weight with another 100 pounds, essentially making the first road-legal Miata that tips the scales at under 2,000 pounds. This concept could open the door to an impressive lightweight MX-5 in the future and my fingers are crossed that the Japanese brand chooses the Speedster as its next limited-edition version of the Miata.

  • Leave it
    • * Just a concept for now
    • * Standard MX-5 engine

Press Release

Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) is no stranger to the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, providing its designers the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild to create some truly stunning dream cars. This year proves no different with its two concepts: the lighter, more ruthlessly efficient MX-5 Miata Speedster Evolution and the stealth-like MX-5 RF Kuro, based on the 2017 MX-5 RF retractable fastback that will be going on sale early next year in the U.S.

MX-5 Speedster debuted at the 2015 SEMA Show as an ode to the lightweight, frills-free, pure driving experience of 1950s sports cars. Weighing just 2,080 lbs., MX-5 Speedster’s 150-lb. weight loss—an 11-percent reduction versus a stock MX-5 soft top—propelled its performance and elevated the open-air experience for which the roadster is known.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
- image 693828

Following last year’s SEMA Show, MX-5 Speedster spent the summer at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K., where it ran the 1.16-mile hill climb. MX-5 Speedster then returned to Mazda Design Americas, where the Irvine, California-based team that created it experimented to see just how much lighter they could make their project. Led by Design Manager Ken Saward, the team extracted what remained underneath its dashboard and replaced its gauges with a digital display. They swapped its Brembo front brakes with the lighter rotors and calipers from the MX-5 Sport and Grand Touring models to further the weight reduction. Its 25.1-lbs. stock battery was replaced with a Braille GreenLite G20 Lithium battery that weighs just 4.5 lbs.

Ultimately, the design team shaved an additional 100 lbs. from the MX-5 Speedster—a total of 350 lbs., or 15 percent from the original MX-5 soft top’s starting weight. Now, it weighs a scant 1,980 lbs.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
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Painted White Ether, MX-5 Evolution further hones Mazda’s performance heritage, complete with an adjustable suspension from the MX-5 Global Cup racecar and BFGoodrich g-Force Rival R1 grooved racing slick tires, sized 225/45R17—the same model of tire used as the race cars competing in the Battery Tender Mazda Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.

“With MX-5 Speedster Evolution, our goal was to further deliver the essence of what MX-5 has represented for the past 27 years—lightweight engineering and pure driving joy,” said Saward, who also owns and races a Spec Miata. “In the future, we might see if there is anywhere else we could take out weight.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
- image 693826

Joining MX-5 Speedster Evolution on the Mazda stand is a new concept based on the 2017 MX-5 RF that will be going on sale early next year. Called MX-5 RF Kuro, it is a car that also adopts much of the MX-5 Global Cup technology but in a much more street-focused package. MX-5 RF Kuro also shares its adjustable suspension with the MX-5 Global Cup racecar as well as its Brembo dual-piston front brake calipers. It is painted Satin Black Metallic, a semi-matte black metallic color.

“We wanted to give MX-5 RF Kuro a stealth look to complement its sleek profile, providing subtlety and purpose,” said Saward. “As we move our brand in a direction we call ‘Mazda Premium,’ we want to embrace our longstanding motorsports heritage and reach forward with breathtaking designs like the MX-5 RF.”

Both vehicles were built using parts that Mazda autocross and racecar drivers can purchase via MazdaMotorsports.com for their MX-5s.

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