Road-tripping the Mazda MX-5 Miata for the crown of sports car king
The words “affordable” and “sports car” seldom go together. Add “new” to the mix and we’re presented quite the anomaly. Many love the glorious notion of owning a thoroughbred sports car, but reality means rusty, stained, aged — albeit once beautiful — machines typically carrying over 150,000 miles. Most dreams of owning an affordable sportscar drift away within minutes of scouring the used car listings.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a few excellent new car options that won’t need fixing every five miles, and don’t require distant, untapped ties to the Royal Family. For years, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has claimed the king of this region. But with new protagonists from Scion and Subaru, does that title still remain? To find out, I took a 2013 MX-5 Miata Club on a road trip to one of the greatest uninhibited driving roads in the country.
Over beers one night, a fellow Indianapolis based journalist informed me of a gem he discovered while living in Nashville. It’s called the Natchez Trace Parkway, and it starts just southwest of Music City. There, he said, I would find paradise. Fast, swooping bends demanding unparalleled bravery, and tight, twisting curves intertwined like an Italian chef tossing spaghetti. It sounded ideal, and within two days I embarked in a Ferrari-colored MX-5, costing just $28,000.
While $28,000 isn’t necessarily cheap, the rear-wheel drive Miata starts at an affordable $23,720; well-conditioned used models can be found for less than a high-end bicycle. No matter your credit score, a tip-top Miata with relatively low mileage could grace almost every driveway.
A click of a button retracted the convertible hardtop in favor of the 70-degree Midwestern sun, and the 6-speed manual gearbox rocketed the MX-5 effortlessly onto the highway. At 167 hp and 140 lb. ft. of torque, rocketing isn’t a word you’d expect. But with just 2,400 lbs., the Miata swiftly eats up tarmac. While it’s not fast, it doesn’t feel slow. And under the wispy, cotton wool-like clouds, I briskly approached the Kentucky border.
Passing through Louisville, I’m reminded the Miata is no slugger. It’s light, agile, precise and diminutive, unlike the mighty vintage Mustangs and brute-force Corvettes that festooned the roads that Sunday afternoon. At this point, I’d barely turned a curve, and despite loving my surroundings, I began questioning the Miata’s pedigree.