The day they dropped off the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring was my and the old lady's 5th anniversary. Took her out to a dinner that night. Did the movie thing. Dropped three bills for tickets to Wicked. Top down on the MX-5 the whole time, the way it should be. And then the skies opened. Five straight days of rain later and the MX-5's top had yet to do its origami thing since that first night. Not exactly ideal conditions in which to review a rear-wheel drive convertible, so we apologize up front for the parking garage pics and lack of any top down shots. The owner's manual tersely warns against folding the canvas roof when it's wet, and it hasn't been dry since the day they handed us the keys.

Still, we couldn't wait for the return of blue skies to begin this review. The all-new MX-5 is more than just a skylight on wheels, it's a serious sports car as we quickly found out.
One thing you won't read in this review of Mazda's MX-5 is the mention of another similar rear-wheel drive drop top produced by a company that purports to build excitement. We haven't driven that other car yet and we've been driven mad reading comparo after comparo between the two.



That said, our MX-5 is the Grand Touring model, the top dog of five trim levels that starts at a heady $24,995, a full four Gs above the base model. For that kind of cash you get leather-trimmed seats, a cloth top instead of vinyl and a seven-speaker Bose sound system. Regardless of the Grand Touring's pomp and circumstance, is Mazda still asking too much for a tiny two-seater with a 170-hp, 2.0L inline-four? It's a question we've been asking for years since the Miata's sticker began inching ever upward.



As always we'll begin on the outside and it's clear the MX-5 is a larger car than the Miata it replaces. It's anywhere from 1 to 1.5 inches larger in every major dimension which, in addition to increasing interior volume serves to give the MX-5 a more substantial presence than its forbearers.



The lines of the MX-5 are clearly inspired by the Ibuki concept that debuted at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show. Somehow Mazda's designers managed to retain the original Miata's soft, rounded shape while adding creases in all the right places. The extended fenders look good from every 3/4 angle and the power bulge on the hood hints at the extra ponies below.



Both the hood and the trunk are stamped from aluminum, two major sources of weight saving that contribute to the MX-5's curb weight of only 2,498 lbs., just over 100 lbs. heavier than the car it replaces. That's an impressive display of constraint on the part of Mazda's engineers considering this car is all new from the lug nuts up. 



Up top our MX-5 features a canvas top rather than the standard black vinyl one. Color combos are, of course, subjective, but we've been fans of the MX-5's Galaxy Gray paint and Saddle Tan leather interior and top. And pedestrians seem to like the looks of the MX-5 too, as the ragtop garnered envious glances from more than a few bipedal bound.



The original Miata's pleasant expression has returned on the face of the MX-5 after a generational absence. Many bemoaned the loss of the Miata's pop-up headlights on the second generation Miata, but this car's halogen projector beams give it a wide-eyed expression and inviting nature. There's also a pair of clear lens altezza-like taillamps out back that appear to be a nod to the sport compact crowd.



Wrapping up our talk of the MX-5 exterior, we have no problem giving Mazda props for penning a great design. The original Miata's shape was iconic. Although some considered its soft shape feminine, the first gen car was so fun to pilot that a real driving enthusiast could forgive its jelly bean form. The new car still lacks an aggressive face, but its greater girth and sharper image make the MX-5 the most mature Miata ever. You'll have to tune in later, however, to see if the MX-5 is still as much a joy to drive as its predecessors.

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