When: August 2012
Where: Donington Park, England
What: 2012 Mazda MX-5 GT 'concept'
Occasion: Road and track prototype drive
Overall rating: 4/5
The venerable MX-5 has been the subject of so many aftermarket tuning upgrades that we always wondered why Mazda itself didn't do one. Finally it looks like it will, as previewed by the MX-5 GT Concept. We got behind the wheel of one of the development cars on road and track.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door coupé-cabriolet
Rivals: BMW Z4, Lotus Elise, Mercedes-Benz SLK
Power: 205hp (approximately - not finalised)
In the Metal:
First up, Mazda confirmed that IF the MX-5 GT goes into production then it will be available in other colours to that of the concept. The orange and black colour scheme (created from a simple wrap in parts) won't be to everyone's tastes so that's a good thing. However, look a little closer and you'll see that the front splitter, rear diffuser and boot spoiler are carbon fibre. And apparently they're entirely functional items.
Seemingly Jota Sport (responsible for the development work on this car) tried 18-inch alloys at first, but found them to compromise the car's on-road behaviour so reverted to the black 17-inch items pictured instead.
Not a lot has been changed inside. Recaro seats are fitted and there are a few new carbon fibre trim panels, along with body-coloured roll hoops behind the seats.
The most talked about aspect of the MX-5 GT's driving experience at the launch was the sound it made. The centrally mounted sports exhaust had a lot to do with that, but so did the exposed throttle body inlets in the engine bay. It wasn't running an air filter. That won't be the case if the car reaches the showroom, which is a shame in one way, but in reality it needs to be toned down a little for use on the public road.
Speaking of which, though we had ample opportunity to test the GT concept to its limits on Donington Park race circuit, we also nipped out for a drive on the surrounding roads to see if Jota Sport had managed to retain the standard car's suppleness. Indeed, the chassis hasn't been altered as much as you might expect. It sits 35mm lower though, which drastically reduces the centre of gravity, making the car feel even wieldier. Despite that, the temptation to go for a really stiff set-up was resisted and though firm, the GT concept is not uncomfortable. It flows down the road as fluidly as ever.
On track the changes are appreciated, especially with that extra power to hand. We drove the same circuit earlier in the latest MX-5 Kuro and the increased speed in the GT was tangible. So it should be: the standard 2.0-litre engine produces only 160hp to the concept's 205hp. Much of the power increase is thanks to new exhaust cam profiles, though Mazda is keen to point out that the prototypes we drove were not the finished product.
What you get for your Money:
Even allowing for the fact that the MX-5 GT has not yet been confirmed for sale, and hence its specification could be enhanced further, it's predicted that it could cost nearly €10,000 more than the most expensive Roadster Coupé currently on sale. That'll be too much for most. Then again, if the numbers are limited and Jota Sport has a hand in building each example, enthusiasts are buying a lot more than just a little more power.
You'll have seen a few mentions of Jota in this article. Jota Sport is part of the Jota Group and in its own words 'specialises in the preparation, management and running of professional motorsport teams in major championships and series.' Its relationship with Mazda began in 2010 when it was commissioned to create race-ready versions of the MX-5 production car. Following endurance racing success Mazda paid Jota to design and develop a fully homologated MX-5 GT4 racer, which is now offered as a customer car. The GT road car is an off-shoot of this project.
Should Mazda make the MX-5 GT? Hell yeah! A power output of about 200hp is perfect for the chassis, which has been sympathetically tweaked without losing its inherent balance and fluidity. The concept version sounds fabulous and though it may end up a little expensive, it'll appeal to real driving enthusiasts.