Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan / Stephen Spyropoulos
Published: March 27, 2017
MUSKOKA, Ontario - Who knew such roads even existed? Muskoka is a vast, expansive, and beautiful region in Northern Ontario littered with lakes, ponds, and above all else, roads worth driving, but Torontonians rarely ever venture up here. The roads are near deserted in the winter, with snow blanketing the fields and black ice forming on cold winter mornings. The cottages are empty and there’s but a whiff of civilization encased around the outskirts of Algonquin Park.
Truth is, in all my years living in Toronto I’ve never ventured up here either, but Stephen and I are too busy blasting down these empty stretches of unpaved tarmac to even pay attention to the scenery, or the textbook of challenges we were given in the morning.
We’re here for Mazda’s fourth annual Adventure Rally, a three-day charity event where ten teams of two automotive journalists compete in driving challenges. The ultimate podium winners get a chance to donate their proceeds to the charity of their choice: 1st place receives $10,000, 2nd place gets $2,000, and 3rd place gets $1,000.
In previous years, Mazda Canada has held their rally south of the border, and even on the west coast of Vancouver but in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, they found it fitting to explore the alluring land of Muskoka. Mazda says it’s an opportunity to remind us journalists just what their vehicles are all about: the driving experience.
And you wouldn’t have guessed what vehicle they brought. They kept it under wraps right until the morning of the rally, and even teased us with a cut-out shot of the vehicle’s body panels. To be honest, we were expecting the new CX-5 but our sweat glands and cardiac nodes went into overdrive when they announced to us that the vehicle we’d be driving would be the new 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Excitement was an understatement.
The RF is a car that I’ve been looking forward to driving for quite some time now. While mechnically the RF is the same as the standard MX-5 softtop roadster, that targa hardtop roof makes all the difference. The RF, which stands for retractable fastback, is one of the few cars that look exceptionally handsome whether it’s with the roof up or down. There’s not a bad angle in sight.
The extra metal does make the RF a little heavier, 52 kg to be exact, but most of that heft lies near the rear axle, and they’ve further compensated with stiffer springs, new bushings, and revised dampers. The result is a heavier but stiffer Miata.
Propulsion comes from the same 2.0-litre inline-four engine that produces 155 hp and 148 lb-ft, and because the MX-5 RF weighs just 1,114 kg, its power-to-weight ratio is off the charts. And after spending three days punching the RF around a variety of low-speed hairpins and high-speed straights, I can tell you that it’s got more than enough power and just the right balance of handling and suspension tuning.
The RF was the perfect dance partner on our three-day rally. Stephen Spyropoulos and I partnered up and took turns swapping between the roles of driver and navigator. We were handed a booklet to jot down answers to challenges, which consisted of spotting certain road signs, buildings, and mural paintings, all while trying to correctly follow the GPS. The hardest challenge of all? Staying within the speed limit on those trafficless and seductive pieces of sand and asphalt.
Mazda was aware of this, and on the second day of rallying decided to scale us back a bit with a fuel economy challenge. We had to get from A to B (around 200 km) while trying to achieve the lowest fuel consumption score and the most accurate distance. The journey was slow and uneventful, but we achieved a staggering 5.2 L/100km. That’s better than most electrical hybrid vehicles on the road today. Mind you, we did have the top down, heaters blowing and heated seats on, so we could’ve done even better. One team went over and above and achieved a headdesk 4.8 L/100km.
We had the roof down for most of the rally, even during the day when the weatherman posted a -13-degree Celsius temperature report. With the heaters on, the targa-like roof helped to create a heat bubble around our heads. It also gave us infinite headroom so we could wiggle around and rubberneck every sign on the road. Though the RF is noticeably stiffer (and warmer) with the roof up, it felt like a waste to block the view and sunshine from above.
Challenges were aplenty, laughs and frustration couldn’t be helped, but the smile never faded, even when we did ever so briefly beach the car on a snowy side bank in search of the perfect landscape photograph. Luckily two fellow rally teams stopped by and were able to push us out (with ease I must say). I guess that just attests to how light the MX-5 really is. No, my fellow colleagues won’t stop laughing at me and yes, my pride flew out the window and drowned in said snow, but within five minutes we were back on our feet and zoom-zooming into the horizon in search of the next challenge.
Nevertheless, despite our “best” efforts, we came in a measly 8th place. I’m not even upset, though I am a little disappointed we couldn’t contribute to our charity, Victim Services Toronto. I blame you, Muskoka. Get rid of those damn good roads.
型号 Model: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
顏色 Paint Type: Blue Reflex Mica
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $38,800
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,309
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,914 / 1,918 (mirror to mirror) / 1,245
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,114
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 8.9 / 7.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli Sottozero