I first drove an MX-5, a mk2 model back in 2006, an N/A UK spec 1.8 5-speed manual. I had a Clio 182 at the time. As much as I wanted to like the MX-5, I came away feeling somewhat disappointed by it, with its somewhat flat performance. Hardly surprising I guess - the same weight as the Clio but with a whole 40 bhp less power. Also the brakes felt quite poor, but then my Clio had uprated brakes, and of course, the Mazda doesn't have any extra braking assistance, I suspect unlike the Clio. I was impressed with the handling, but was aware that it really didn't have enough power to trouble the chassis. I have to say that the gulf between the two cars in a straight line felt like more than the suggested 40 bhp. It did feel slow to me.
However, it did seemingly get under my skin, and I longed to try a forced induction model.
However, I didn't really do anything about it until now, and in the meantime, I ended up buying my previous car, which was a very hard act to follow: a Honda Integra Type-R DC2. What an absolutely superb car that was; imagine the most raw, uncompromising hot hatch there is dressed in a coupe body. It had great handling, a wonderful engine, was practical, fast and reliable.
At the end of the day though, I wanted to try a proper sports car. I'd class the ITR as more of a hot hatch come sports coupe. Still FWD even though it does have a Torsen LSD and double wishbones all round. I still believe that it is the finest FWD car ever made. Maybe not as fast as the latest stuff, but not far off, and usually more entertaining.
I was still quite happy with the teg, but then one day, I saw advertised for sale locally my current car. A Eunos Roadster RS-Ltd, a limited edition of only 500. Crucially though, supercharged! It was even quite cheap, but that just indicated the car needed work doing to it to bring it up to scratch.
Anyway, a quick test drive indicated that fundamentally, I liked the way it drove, and that was that.
I have had some work to have done on it though. A full service including new plugs and leads for starters. This has given it a new lease of life, smoother acceleration and more power. I had the cambelt done - it was over 5 years old and even though it had only covered 20,000 miles and the engine is a none interference engine, I still decided to have it done rather than risk it. I also had the waterpump done at the same time. I have replaced the clutch slave cylinder as it was leaking. This has made the gearchange much more positive. I fixed an oil leak from the rear of the engine. The handbrake has been adjusted so it now actually works!
The worst part of it though was the poor installation by the previous owner of the supercharger. It appears a bolt sheared off in the back, which had to be drilled out. The previous owner ignored it and mounted it to the brackets using too few bolts and as such, it moved around a lot. This caused the bracket to crack. This had to be welded. The belt had to be replaced as it was slipping and badly worn (after covering just 10,000 miles) because it was badly aligned.
The air filter is not the standard one that comes with the Jackson Racing kit and is really a little too big for it. As such, it was wedged against the supercharger bypass valve, which was stuck open, resulting in quite serious lag.
Finally the tyres were all heavily worn, and the wheels out of balance and alignment. All sorted.
All of these issues have now been sorted, and the car is currently driving beautifully.
I still have a few issues to sort out. It needs a new roof as I suspect the roof is the same one its had for the last 15 years. The side bolster of the drivers seat is badly worn and needs to be re-furbed. The car needs undersealing before the winter before any rust gets a chance to take hold (the car is currently largely rust free). I intend to sort out the air intake system properly too at some stage, and I will likely replace the O2 sensor.
Enough on the maintenance side of things, what about the car itself.
Well for starters, the Mk1 RS Ltd is a different kettle of fish to the Mk2 1.8 I drove originally, even without taking into consideration the forced induction! It weighs 150 kg less for a start, has Bilstein dampers and a Torsen LSD. It has carbon fiber Recaro buckets. This makes it a lot more raw and focused, and handles far better.
At first, I had slight reservations about owning a '5. I always told myself that if I owned a '5 that I would make it look a bit meaner to compensate for its "effeminate" looks. This particular model didn't quite look as "butch" as I hoped, however, it's an intriguing looking car with its BBS alloys and dark blue colour - it looks very much like a classic car. It has grown on me quite a lot, it's a very characterful looking car, and its attracted positive comments from petrol heads in the know. It has attracted some abuse from your local knuckle draggers, but who cares what they think? After all, their idea of a manly car is a 1.2 80 bhp Vauxhall Corsa with 17" alloys and a bean-can cherry bomb exhaust, which only serve to highlight how wimpy their FWD underpowered shopping trolley really is. It only makes it even funnier to blow them into the weeds once the road opens up.
Let me talk about the supercharger, and the effect it has on the car. I can't recommend it enough. It keeps the fundamental character of the car, but simply makes it feel more powerful, all of the time. It's turned it from a car which needs driving very hard to get the most out of it, to one that can be driven like that if desired, but one that can be driven quickly without ever venturing near the redline. The midrange can now give many turbo diesel engined cars a run for their money, the way the car picks up speed in the mid range is very impressive; rarely ever do you need to drop gears to tackle hills or accelerate quickly on the motorway.
In terms of outright pace, it's now enough to worry hot hatches and turbo scoobys, at least between 0-80 mph anyway. It tails off a little after that, but who cares? 80 mph in one of these cars feels plenty, trust me. I haven't even mentioned what it does for the soundtrack of the car - the supercharger "whine". Love it or hate it, it's certainly different. All this from a BASIC Jackson Racing M45 kit. This is an entry level kit, but it still makes a HUGE difference to the car. Of course, you can do better, but the laws of diminishing returns kick in quickly from this point on.
I'd estimate I am getting around 175 bhp, which in a 950 kg Roadster, gives a none too shabby power to weight ratio of 187 bhp per tonne. I've not timed the acceleration, however, I'd estimate the 0-60 time to be sub 7 seconds, and the 0-100 time probably somewhere between 17 and 18 seconds. What these figures don't convey is just how strong the performance actually feels in such a visceral car, with its powerful midrange. Most of the time, the car feels quicker than the figures suggest. It just drives really nicely, and there's no other way to say it really.
As for the handling, it's sublime, it really is. This is my first RWD car, albeit, not the first I've driven or been passenger in. I have already owned what many people regard as the finest handling FWD car ever made, so RWD or not, it had a tough act to follow. I needn't have worried. The RS-Ltd also has a torsen LSD, double wishbone suspension all round. It weighs less than a ton (950 kg) and has almost perfect weight distribution (52/48). It has Bilstein dampers and lightweight BBS alloy wheels.
Its small size and light weight make it a really nimble, darty car. The steering is well weighted and has plenty of feel. The throttle response is instant, and the car is finely adjustable using the throttle. The small wheels and relatively narrow tyres give it a decent amount of grip, but not too much grip, so the car is also quite playful. For a RWD car, it's also very forgiving. That said, I am nowhere near mastering its potential. With a FWD car (or 4WD) there is often a feeling that almost anyone who can drive to a reasonable standard can extract a fair portion of its potential, but with a RWD car, it takes a bit more skill. This can make it more rewarding, and I look forward to honing my skills a bit more. Overall though, it's a truly involving car, and very, very capable. It can corner much quicker than many people might expect.
Going back to the brakes, I have upgraded pads on mine, but even so, I'd say that if anything, this still appears to be the "weak" link. That said, they really aren't bad - I think it's just the lack of assistance that makes them feel a little lacking. In reality I have had no problems with them at all on the road, but I have to say my previous cars have all had much more confident feeling brakes. This is a perception that is increased by the lack of ABS on this particular model.
Roof down motoring is a revelation and brings you even closer to the action. If you have not tried this yet, you need to. Its just wonderful, and so liberating to feel like you're not trapped in a big tin box.
Inside, the car is a little bland in the dashboard department, and it's not the most comfortable place to be. In my particular car, the seats lack any adjustment whatsoever besides back / forward. The steering does not adjust at all. Not the most comfy car I've ever had, but it's not too bad. However, the driving position is one of the best I've experienced. I've never driven a car that feels so natural. Its almost like the car becomes like something you wear. A much different sensation to that of a hot hatch where you often feel like you are perched; in this you're low to the ground, and everything is perfectly placed. Add to that, the car rattles and creaks incessantly. Also, my car equipped with its supercharger, induction cone, sports exhaust and decat pipe, noisy is quite simply an understatement. And you know what, it adds to the fun!
After all this, the cherry on top is the running costs. It's not perfect, because these being relatively old engines that tend to run rich, are relatively thirsty. You'll do well to get more than 35 MPG under almost any circumstances in the real world, and 25 is a more realistic expectation. However, it's really reliable, and parts are very cheap, which makes up for it.
This car is so good I may never get rid of it. It's fast, handles wonderfully, is so involving, yet is reliable and cheap to run. It's hard to know where you go from a car like this without spending a LOT more money. For me, the main drawback is possibly the fact it's a 4-pot engine, a nice V6 or V8 engine would have been perfect, but probably would have upset the handling balance, however, the 4-pot with its exhaust, decat, induction cone and supercharger is certainly interesting sounding in its own right, and gives many of the characteristics you might expect from a bigger engine.
For me, there are few cars that can actually make the grade as an upgrade on this one for any price, and certainly nothing else for the money. Perhaps a supercharged Elise / Exige would be one such upgrade for sheer speed. Or a Caterham variant for handling. Or a TVR V8 for the demonic noise and sense of occasion. However, these are all a lot more expensive, and I still think a well kitted out FI MX-5 can hold its head high in such esteemed company. Indeed, Evo magazine recently voted it 9th best drivers car in its magazine, and that was just an NA version. Who knows where a supercharged one may have come.
Wonderful car, which I can't recommend enough.