Unlock your MX-5’s potential with an aftermarket upgrade that really goes all-out

Suppose you have a 2016 or 2017 Mazda MX-5, and for whatever reason, you’re not feeling that it’s given you your money’s worth. Do you stick with it and appreciate it for what it is? Do you try to sell it and be done with it? Or do you look for an aftermarket tuner that can give you the MX-5 of your dreams? Three doors. Three different options. One choice. No one’s going to begrudge you if you pick either of the first two options, but before you decide on those two doors, MX-5 tuner extraordinaire Long Road Racing has an offer that could help you change your mind.

The tuner calls it the “Ultimate MX-5,” and as the name obviously implies, it’s a program that features a wealth of upgrades on just about every corner of the roadster. It’s too early to say if this is the most comprehensive aftermarket kit for the Mazda sports car, but let’s just say the list of upgrades it’s offering runs long and complicated. Then again, “long and complicated” are small prices to pay if your MX-5 is going to end up as a car that can reach its full potential as a bonafide performance beast. Remember, there’s a lot more to the Mazda MX-5 than meets the eye. The key in this sense is to find the right people to help you unlock the car’s unbridled capabilities, and as far as its offerings are concerned, that might just very well be Long Road Racing.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Exterior

2017 Mazda MX-5 "Ultimate MX-5" by Long Road Racing Exterior
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About the only meaningful upgrade the tuner is offering in this regard is a choice of wheel and tire combinations, which LRR apparently has a lot of.

There doesn’t appear to be anything of real cosmetic value going on here as far as Long Road Racing is concerned. About the only meaningful upgrade the tuner is offering in this regard is a choice of wheel and tire combinations, which LRR apparently has a lot of. It does suggest one particular set: 17-inch Ray’s forged wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2 Ultra high performance tires.

Apart from offering these wheels, it does look like Long Road Racing’s extensive upgrade for the MX-5 doesn’t include too many vanity bits and pieces. Not that it matters for some prospective customers, but there will be those who will possibly look at other options knowing there’s little they can get from LRR in this section.

There are other options available; you just have to look long and hard for them

Speaking of these “other options,” the key to finding them is to look for them. Since most of today’s known tuners have yet to do anything in the vicinity of offering fancy exterior upgrades for the MX-5, owners of the roadster will have to be twice as diligent in finding one that does. There have been some examples in the past of what an MX-5 could look like with a fancy exterior upgrade here or there. One such example was even presented by Mazda itself back at the 2016 SEMA Auto Show. It was called the MX-5 Speedster Evolution and it featured, among other things, a White Ether body paint finish, a body-colorer windscreen, and a new set of eight-spoke wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber tires. Beyond that, the MX-5 Speedster Evolution also looked about as stock as it could look.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution High Resolution Exterior
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note: photo of the Mazda MX-5 Speedster Evolution

The truth of the matter here is that exterior upgrades for the MX-5 aren’t exactly top priorities among tuners these days. Part of that is likely due to the fact that the sports car already looks good to begin with, while another part of that is the MX-5’s status as an entry-level performance car and as such, it’s primary focus ought to be more about improving the roadster’s power and performance than simply making sure it looks more aggressive to please the people.

Interior

2016 Mazda MX-5
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Note: standard MX-5 interior shown here.

This is where it gets really interesting because Long Road Racing’s idea of an interior “upgrade” is probably different from what most of us are used to. It is worth noting that if a customer wants to get the Ultimate MX-5 program and use for the road, these “upgrades” are probably not for you. But if you want to turn your MX-5 into a legitimate track car, better sit down and pay attention carefully.

LRR’s work on the interior of the roadster is more about stripping it off its creature comforts and putting in place various race-spec needs, safety equipment, and all-around weight shedding.

In so many words, LRR’s work on the interior of the roadster is more about stripping it off its creature comforts and putting in place various race-spec needs, safety equipment, and all-around weight shedding. For instance, a roll cage has been designed for drivers up to six-foot, four-inches in height. This cage comes with NASCAR-style bars on both sides of the car and can be customized and colored as added options. Some customers may not like this part, but LRR is also offering to take away the car’s air-conditioning and installing a centralized drivers command center where buttons to engage power, fire bottle, and cooling pump overrides will be featured. Head constraint nets like the ones we see on NASCAR racers are also part of the tuner’s offering, as is a Lifeline Zero 2000 fire system, seat mounting plates for the driver and passenger, a foot well floor panel and a dead pedal for the driver a steering wheel with no air bags in it from Max Papis Industries.

Other notable features like a quick release steering hub, a transponder, a truck remote release, and a twin-kill switch activated power relay are all part of what LRR is offering. It’s not a fancy upgrade by any means, but all together, the interior upgrade program does serve a greater purpose for prospective customers beyond making the MX-5’s cabin more stylish. The whole menu of available upgrades actually does the opposite, but hey, it’s not for everyone to begin with.

Where do we go if we want more traditional interior upgrades for the MX-5?

Well, you can start with most other tuners for the MX-5, or you can go to Mazda directly to get this kind of work done. The Japanese automaker does have access to premium materials that can spice up the cabin of the roadster, be it fine leather, Alcantara, or carbon fiber. Some cosmetic and aerodynamic upgrades could also be had provided a customer knows where to look. My suggestion: give British tuner BBR a ring. It’s one of the most prominent MX-5 tuners in the business and if there’s a need for a more stylish upgrade than the one Long Road Racing is offering, BBR is a good tuner to start with.

Drivetrain

2017 Mazda MX-5 "Ultimate MX-5" by Long Road Racing Drivetrain
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This section is where Long Road Racing starts earning its money. The tuner doesn’t say how much extra power it was able to coax out of the Mazda MX-5’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but it did announce that the engine will be on the receiving end of a host of upgrades, presumably done to make it produce more power than the roadster’s admittedly bland 155-horsepower output. Part of piece this proverbial puzzle together is the addition of a Setrab engine oil cooler, which itself will come with racing oil lines and fittings. An oversized, race-proven water radiator is another notable addition into the mix, as are the gold heat reflection materials and the motor-mounted positive location limiters.

Throw in a new limited-slip differential from either Mazda or Cusco and differential and transmission oil coolers and pumps for upgrades of the off-road and track variety and you’re looking at the extent of LRR’s engine upgrade program for the MX-5. It may not amount to much on the surface and the absence of details as far as results go make this kit slightly less interesting. But this kind of program isn’t entirely new to the Mazda roadster to begin with. Another company, one that actually uses the “Miata” name as part of its own name, has had a history of developing insane MX-5 programs.

Hey there, Flyin’ Miata

By now, you’ve probably heard of these guys. If you haven’t, well, it’s time to get to know them. The people from Flyin’ Miata are responsible for some of the most unique aftermarket creations for the venerable Mazda sports car. Most recently, it pulled in some serious work on the current-generation MX-5, turning it into a lunatic machine with more than 500 horsepower at its disposal.

How did Flyin’ Miata do it? It’s simple, really. It took out the roadster’s standard four-banger engine and replaced it with a General Motors’ 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 engine. Not only that, but the company’s complete “re-engineering” of the MX-5’s engine also includes a new aluminum driveshaft that meets the requirements of the bigger V-8 engine, as well as a GM-built wiring harness and management system.

The end result, as we’ve come to admire since Flyin’ Miata’s debut of the current-generation MX-5 late last year, is a Miata that can push out in excess of 525 horsepower and 489 pound-feet of torque. It’s unclear how fast an LS3-powered Miata can go, but most definitely, it should have no issues smacking the car’s standard output of 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of twist. Add to that Flyin’ Miata’s long-standing reputation and history with the MX-5.

1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior
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note: photo of the Mazda MX-5 by Flyin’ Miata

Chassis and Suspension

In order to accommodate the rash of modifications made to the MX-5’s interior and engine, Long Road Racing is also making sure that the roadster’s enhancements all on the chassis and suspension of the sports car. So steps were made to install a sturdier strut tower brace on the front of the car to go with a suspension kit made up of a three-position adjustable front stabilizer bar and single-position rear stabilizer bars with engineered sway bar end links. On a far simpler scale is the addition of a ride-height adjustable coil over from Bilstein.

The choice of making the MX-5’s chassis stronger is brought about by the intention of turning the roadster into a fully-functional sports car that can do some serious damage on the race track. It’s no secret that these upgrades, while not flashy in the traditional sense, help get the job done in giving the MX-5 more pronounced racing and performance characteristics.

Pricing

2017 Mazda MX-5 "Ultimate MX-5" by Long Road Racing Exterior
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Long Road Racing didn’t pin down a specific price tag attached to the MX-5 program. A big part of that is because the final price is going to be up to what a specific customer wants done on his or her car. All the tuner is saying at this point is that customers can "customize (their) desired enhancements" for the roadster from the list of options, or contact the tuner directly to get a "free consultation" pertaining to those needs and objectives.

I do know that a 2.0-liter Mazda MX-5 costs around $25,000 so another $25,000 to $30,000 on top of the actual price of the roadster could be a good estimate on how much this program is going to cost. I do expect this kit to be a little on the cheaper side compared to the aftermarket program that Flyin’ Miata is offering. The total cost of that build, donor car included, adds up to around $75,000.

Competition

Mazda MX-5 by Flyin’ Miata

1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior
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1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior
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Since there are a still a few things we don’t know about Long Road Racing’s aftermarket build for the Mazda MX-5, it would be unfair to really line it up against something like the 525-horsepower beast of an MX-5 from Flyin’ Miata.

On the other hand, intriguing “would-be” races have been built up from less convincing circumstances so we’re going to do it anyway. I don’t know how much power LRR is promising from its MX-5 program, but the extensive nature of its upgrade is largely similar to that of what Flyin’ Miata is offering so I’m guessing that when these two MX-5s line up to take on one another in whatever kind of race we can think of, sparks are going to fly. Either way, I’ll be excited to see which of these two race-prepped Mazda MX-5s will handle its business against the other.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

2017 Mazda MX-5 "Ultimate MX-5" by Long Road Racing Exterior
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There are still a lot of questions I want answered here, but I have to say, Long Road Racing did its homework with this MX-5 program. Outside of maybe the exterior upgrades (it might be smart to leave that section alone anyway), all the changes being offered by the tuner are meant to do one thing: make the Mazda roadster a better performance machine. Everything else can be put on the side. I respect that kind of results-based initiative, and I might even like it even more if I know exactly what kind of tuned-up MX-5 we’re dealing with here. Hopefully, details in the form of actual figures arrive soon because those details are what ultimately will define this very promising program.

  • Leave it
    • * How much is it going to cost?
    • * How much power will it have?
    • * Did I mention that there are still plenty of unanswered questions?
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