2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Temptation, Trepidation and Precipitation
by Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor on March 18, 2016
On my return trip from Pahrump, Nevada, in our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, I decided to take the fun route rather than the quicker, more boring way. I got a bit more than expected, in both good and bad forms.
Weather was a major factor. An El Niño storm was bearing down on Southern California and the reports all said it would hit us hard by late afternoon. Since I would be traveling through flash flood-prone areas of Death Valley, I got an early start.
The photo above represents the temptation portion of the trip. Look at that straightaway. Isn't it glorious? It can be argued that I chose wisely by picking the Miata over the Viper since I did not win enough on the craps table to bail myself out of jail. Oh the possibilities.
As mentioned in the comfort-related post to this roadtrip, I had a great time in the winding mountain passes in the Eastern Sierras. I stopped briefly at the Father Crowley Vista point hoping that maybe I'd see a fighter jet running the Jedi Transition (Google it, it's rad), but was told that the jets are in maintenance from Friday through Sunday. The wind was also howling up there, which would definitely make me think twice about dipping into that canyon with a $20 million plane.
That wind reappeared on my route as I dropped into the other side of the mountains. The picture below doesn't do it justice, but that band of sand across the roadway was moving at a rather frightening pace. As low-profile as the Miata is, I blew past this constant gust and many more without any issue.
After an occasional direction change, I was also subject to one heckuva a headwind. It was strong enough that I had to downshift to fifth gear in order to maintain my speed. Another concern was what the blowing sand would do to the car's finish. A friend once got caught in a sandstorm and it stripped his Ferrari paint down to the metal. At my fuel stop 100 or so miles later, I found the nose dulled a bit, but nothing a little polishing compound couldn't fix.
Fast forward another 100 miles and the skies opened up as if on cue from our local meteorologist. It was an epic downpour and, again, the photo doesn't do it justice. On a stretch of freeway where drivers usually maintain about 10 mph over the posted 65 mph speed limit, everyone slowed to about 40 mph. It was difficult to see more than a few hundred feet and really not that pleasant.
The Miata was quite composed in the downpour, though. The skinny-ish 205-width tires cut through the standing water with ease and when splashing through a puddle on one side of the car, I didn't need to correct with any steering input.
Years earlier, while coming back from a track day on this same stretch of road, no fewer than three Corvettes from the track had crashed off to the side of the road. They probably still had track tires mounted and that wall of rubber doesn't exactly slice through puddles. So again, choosing the Miata over the Viper may have paid off.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 7,632 miles