Dripping But Driven - 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Dripping But Driven

December 21, 2010

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Dripping But Driven  

Yeah, the trunk gets damp, but that just proves that Project Miata, our longterm 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata, is being driven despite the deluge we've been experiencing here in LA for the past week or so.

First, that leak. Then the driving with the supercharger.

My esteemed colleague Ms Pardilla mentioned earlier that the Miata thinks it's a Cruze. For those readers that for some reason don't read every word we write here at the gilded IL halls, the trunk of the Cruze leaked early on and apparently passed this bad habit down to our lowly Miata.

Some experimentation with a pot (that's A pot, you fiends) of water showed that the leak is centered right above where the spare tire lives (see lead pic). Pouring water down the softtop triggers the drip, so either the softtop's rain rail is cracked or misinstalled, or the car's drain channels are plugged. 

Regardless, the top's got to come out to resolve it. If you've read my previous diatribes regarding Miata softtops, you know I'm no fan, and this is yet another reason softtops suck. This will be my excuse for perma-installing the hardtop when I'm finally in town long enough to remove the soft and install the hard.

Much more exciting than that, though, is the Kraftwerks supercharger kit. It's given the Miata's rather trucky 1.8-liter BP engine a more urgent character and a much-needed heaping of beans. It's definitely not a bottom-end grunter like you'd expect from a Roots blower, though there is a bit more low-end sauce than before.

Nor is it some high-strung, peaky thing. Lay into the throttle and the shove builds linearly as the revs pile on. Unlike a stock Miata, acceleration is now more than adequate for passing maneuvers, and we've taken a few people by surprise on LA's ever-present onramp drag races.

Finally, thanks to the supercharger, the engine is not totally overshadowed by the capabilities of the chassis around it. A degree of balance has been brought to Project Miata's equation. Speaking of balance, the linear response from the go pedal makes the car a cinch to balance using the throttle, provided you've got the revs dialed up. You can meter out or reign in the power in a predictable fashion. It's now a sharper tool for driving.

It's actually worth revving it to redline now, the way a sports car should be.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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