First Drive: Mazda MX5 RF

by Michael Satterfield

I was invited up by Mazda to explore the Northern California coast in the new MX5 RF. While I have driven the MX5 Roadster before, I had been wanting to get behind the wheel of the slick-looking RF coupe since it I heard a Miata Coupe was going into production. Thankfully most people on this trip couldn't drive stick shift which meant I didn't have many people fighting for the few sick shifts that Mazda brought. We departed from the Heritage House Resort in Little River, California early in the morning, hoping to catch some good sunrise light to take pictures of the car.

For 2019 the MX5 gets a bump in power that many Miata fans have been asking for. Mazda was faced with the challenge of making the already brilliant MX5 more powerful without upsetting the brilliant naturally aspirated throttle response and weight balance that made the new ND such a pleasure to drive. To achieve more power without adding weight Mazda has a completely re-engineered engine taking the power from 155 hp to 181 hp and torque from 148 to 151 lb-ft. According to Mazda, nearly 80% of the engine has been completely redesigned. 

The car that I was driving was equipped with the Brembo/BBS/Leather package meaning improved cornering and stopping thanks to the Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires and Brembo Brakes. Driving the RF through the twisty roads in the mountains you really feel the Mazda philosophy of “a horse and rider as one,” you do feel connected to the road through the whole car. From the way the Recaro seats keep you firmly in place to the throw of the shifter as you downshift into a corner, you can feel the purpose in the design, this is truly a driver's car.

The RF in comparison to the Roadster is more pleasant to drive, with the roof up, it is quieter and more refined than the Roadster, the trunk space is adequate for a road trip for two, so long as you have soft luggage. The creature comforts are nice as well, heated seats, Bose premium sound system, and Mazda's excellent infotainment system, all make the RF's cockpit a nice place to be. After a spirited drive in the canyons, the RF settles down and becomes a comfortable cruiser as we drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, top open, music playing, it is a perfect car for summer in California. Turning inland on our way to the Hotel Healdsburg, we find another set of twisty roads, the MX5 sporting nature awakens again with a single downshift.

Enjoy more photos from our road trip with the RF below:

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and I was compensated for my time to produce content while on the trip, however, all opinions are my own.