Could an all-electric MX-5 still offer an analog driving experience?
There are some formulas in the motoring world that just work and should never be tampered with. For instance, a Porsche 911's classic silhouette and rear-engined layout are hallmarks of the marque's iconic sports car. A Mercedes-AMG with a 63 badge on the back will always have an unruly V8 lump under the hood (well, maybe not anymore), and a Shelby Mustang typifies what high-powered, long-slung muscle cars are all about (ouch, that's changed too). Okay, so the long-held, traditional ideas we've all had about our favorite cars are being challenged by an industry under extreme pressure to balance performance with efficiency, and the Mazda MX-5 appears to be next in line.
Logic dictates that the MX-5 simply has to be a lightweight, easygoing sports car with a naturally-aspirated four-pot under the hood. Just enough power, but not so much that the MX-5 loses its delicacy. Now, according to a report from Autocar, we may have to get used to the idea of a hybrid or full-on electric MX-5 in the not too distant future.
Mazda's big guns are currently engaged in talks about how to enhance the MX-5 and electrification has been raised as a potential solution. Ichiro Hirose is in charge of research and development at Mazda, and said: "The lightweighting and compact size are essential elements of the MX-5, so even if we apply electrification, we have to make sure it really helps to achieve the lightweighting of the vehicle." Like Porsche with the 911, both brands have been able to modernize their staple sports cars without compromising the basic recipe that enthusiasts have found so irresistible for decades.
Mazda also acknowledged the changing ideals of sports car buyers. Brand and design chief Ikuo Maeda expanded on this by saying: "The preference of people who enjoy driving sports cars might be changing, so we need to think about what direction society is going."
As it stands now, a big part of the MX-5 Miata's appeal is in wringing the neck of its high-revving, 181-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-four. It's hard to imagine that an all-electric MX-5 could match that visceral experience, even if it'll likely be quicker. With the all-electric MX-30 on the way, the marque clearly has the expertise to get the job done, but perhaps a mild-hybrid setup would offer the best of both worlds: improving on the MX-5's efficiency, but retaining the raw appeal of a gas-fed engine.
Either way, our ideas of how things should be are increasingly at odds with reality. The motoring sphere will continue to transform in uncomfortable ways and an electric-only Mazda MX-5 would be just a small part of that.