The first featured build – the first piece of content ever made for DriverMod, was a story about a beastly LS3 powered Miata owned by Dave Biagioni. This was a car that was never supposed to happen. When Mazda built the NC Miata, it was intended to be the best Miata thus far; a simple, low-power, lightweight, balanced, fun to drive sports car. That “low-power” asphaect is where it get’s most of it’s criticism from, but once you start adding power to a car, you increase the weight of everything; suspension components, the transmission, differential, wheel hubs, etc. Next thing you know you have a car that weighs as much, and costs as much as a BMW Z3.
Tuners like Dave however don’t care if bushings and wheel hubs get destroyed at record speed, and thanks to them, we end up with unicorns like this. I’ve always seen this car as being totally unhinged. It’s 400whp, in a short wheelbase car that weights little more than a Mitsubishi Mirage. I recall telling a journalist who was planning to take it for a test drive to “be careful – it’s hairy”. In retrospect I was full of shit. That became apparent when I got a change to drive it myself a few nights ago.
My initial impressions strapping in is that it’s totally comfortable and modern – my NB Miata is less hospitable. If you’re not intimately familiar with the NC Miata’s interior, nothing would feel astray. The steering wheel, built custom for this car, is small and features factory volume and cruise control buttons. It’s seat isn’t excessively a bolstered and they’re easy to get in and out of. All gauges are neatly packed into an factory-looking custom gauge cluster. The clutch isn’t much heavier than a VW Golf and its engagement is smooth and progressive. The shifter is perfect – smooth yet accurate, like a well oiled bolt action rifle. Hell, it has air conditioning. This is a track car that manages consistent podium wins at CSCS.
The façade of being a quiet and comfortable Miata immediately washes when you fire it up and the rumble of an LS3 erupts from beneath it’s inconspicuous hood. That’s not to say it’s loud – it’s barely louder than a stock Camaro. I cannot over emphasis how street-friendly this car is.
There is no build up of power like you’d expect in something like an S2000. You put your foot down at 2000 rpm and the car takes off like a dragster. You get the impression that if a traffic light turned yellow a mile down the road, you could still make it through without running a red. (mind you you’d be doing 200 kph+) This is one of those “it’s fun when you’re at risk of spending your life in jail” cars. All of this was to be expected though; it doesn’t take a genius to know that ‘400whp plus 2500lb Miata equals fast’. What was shocking, was how composed it was.
Under acceleration there was no chirping from the rear tires, the rear end doesn’t squirm or dance around; nothing about it feels unhinged. Really, it feels like a lightweight Corvette. That’s the running theme of this car – there are no squeaks or rattles that would suggest it was thrown together by tuners over an alcohol-fused weekend, it all feels remarkably OEM. A factory Miata, that happens to accelerate like a GTR. It would be unfair to call it scary. It’s fast, but the whole car feels so tight and connected that you can tell precisely what’s happening all the time. For that reason, it doesn’t really feel excessive. You get the impression that you could take it lapping, and be flat-out all the time without feeling the need to back off for fear of killing yourself. Why? It has the right tire; meaty Bridgestone Potenza RE-71Rs, quality Öhlins coilovers, beefy brakes: everything has been done, and it’s been done right.
Simply put, it’s incredible. It’s nimble like a Miata, launches like a supercar, and has all the amenities of any other modern car. There was a time when I thought that V8 Miatas were overpowered lumps of insanity, but no, I could drive one of these every single day. I want one. So badly.