||2-door convertible, concept car
|Miles Per Gallon:
||124 bhp @ 6500 rpm
||123 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
||f: --.- / r: --.- in
||--.- sec @ --- mph
|Braking, 60-0 mph:
|Nürburgring Lap Time:
The world of automobiles and individual mobility is changing towards energyefficiency, environmental compatibility and uncompromised safety – along withdynamic attributes and driving fun. In its efforts to offer pure driving enjoyment, whilemeeting its ecological and social responsibilities, Mazda has been focusing on weightreduction as a core base technology. Reducing weight has always been a traditionwith the MX-5 since 20 years and it provided the inspiration for Mazda’s latest showcar providing a radical expression of the cult roadster.
This year Mazda celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first MX-5 roadster, whichlaid the cornerstone for its Zoom-Zoom brand philosophy – reason enough for ourdesigners to create a fully-drivable show car, the MX-5 Superlight version. There areno plans to build this car, but it demonstrates how individual mobility can bemaintained in a way that uses fewer natural resources.
Mazda’s European R+D centre in Oberursel has created a show car that representsthe essence of Mazda’s fun-to-drive aspect. Based on the brand icon Mazda MX-5Roadster, the MX-5 Superlight version is a pure, uncompromising two-seat sports carmeant to be affordable to just about anyone. The main challenge for the design teamin creating this study was “to evolve the MX-5, developed to perfection during the last20 years, to a higher and extreme level,” says Project Lead Designer Hasip Girgin.The result of their efforts is a roadster show car with an exciting design that isespecially lightweight and distilled down to the very basics of sporty driving, that stillmanages to provide modern safety technologies. In an increasingly digitalized world,it creates a linear, direct bond between man and machine. Its conceptual puritymeans even better driving dynamics and fuel efficiency. It accomplishes this bykeeping the vehicle below the 1000 kg threshold, a weight that was felt to be almostunattainable for a modern sports car until now. As a study for lightweight constructionand driving enjoyment, the MX-5 Superlight version is the ideal ambassador forMazda’s brand values.
“I’ve dreamed of building a Mazda MX-5 with this kind of radical form for a long time,”says Peter Birtwhistle, Mazda Motor Europe’s Chief Designer, referring to the project.“Now that weight reduction has become a dominant factor in automotivedevelopment, the time is ripe for it. We show how lightweight a car today can be.”
His design team reduced the MX-5 down to its core attributes to create a pureroadster. Development of the production model MX-5 focussed on the bond betweendriver and co-pilot to the roadster, the car’s driving dynamics and its open-topexperience. The goal of the MX-5 Superlight version concept was to strengthen thesebonds even further. By doing this without a windshield, the retractable top and itsframe, designers achieved an important step in this direction. As the concept MX-5Superlight version, the all-weather production roadster has mutated into a drivingmachine that lets sports car enthusiasts enjoy the natural surroundings unfiltered andtangible. Not only does the wind blow unimpeded during driving, pilot and co-pilot canalso experience the sounds, smells and temperature changes of their immediatesurroundings. And finally, the show car’s intense bond between the driver and thetechnology of the vehicle gives it a unique closeness that can only be found instronger form in the cockpit of a race car.
Mazda designers created special roll-over bars, not only because they are verysporty-looking, but also to contribute to aerodynamic efficiency. These also make itclear that roll-over protection is important in this concept. And they prevent windturbulence around the heads of the passengers, from whom the law would requirethe wearing of helmets while driving.
By removing equipment not vital to driving, and by replacing vital things withcomponents that support the unique concept of the vehicle, designers sharpened thecharacter of the MX-5 Superlight version.
Because there is no windshield, for instance, there is obviously no need for wipers.The roadster show car’s completely open design makes the need for outer doorhandles, side windows and their openers unnecessary. A single, filigree aluminium,wide-angle mirror gives a good view of the road behind. It’s placed inside anextension of the bonnet. Front and rear lights are the same as those of theproduction model with additional LED lamps at the front, and brake lights at the backof each roll-over bar, which contribute to the roadster’s sporty look.
The lack of a windshield required an extension of the original aluminium bonnet intothe cabin. The attached sheet here is made of lightweight carbon fibre and provides ahood for the dashboard frame. This also changed the proportions of the body’sdesign, making the front of the car longer and the passengers seem like they aresitting further back towards the rear-drive axle, all of which is enhanced by themassive roll-over bars and their aerodynamic cladding. The MX-5 Superlight versiontranslates the dramatic proportions of historical race cars into a very modern form.
The purity in design of the exterior also characterizes the interior design, which doesnot have aesthetics as ultimate goal, but was conceived to contribute to reducingvehicle weight. Driver and passenger of the MX-5 Superlight version are greeted byracing bucket seats made of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre. They are slide adjustableand upholstered with the same saddle coloured leather as the armrests, the steeringwheel, and the lightweight aluminium shift lever and hand brake. Colour-coordinatedfour-point seatbelts hold the driver and passenger firmly in their seats.The bonnet extension into the passenger cell provides a canopy for the dashboard,which makes the dashboard look smaller than the production MX-5. Made oflightweight plastic reinforced with fibreglass, it contains the same instruments as theproduction MX-5. These are held in place by a dashboard frame made of lightweightcarbon fibre. Like a purebred race car, the MX-5 Superlight version has an ignitionbutton in the centre of the dashboard, along with two emergency kill buttons forimmediate fuel and electricity cut-off.
Supplying air and climate control to the open passenger compartment is onlypossible in limited form, so the show car has no air conditioning and no fans. Air-flowis increased when the roadster accelerates, and only small air vents are needed. Theinterior is made without any trim. Sound insulation mats and rugs do not meet therequirements of a purist concept like this and are not used at all.
Also made of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre is the “floating-design” centre console withiPod® adaptor and the triangular reinforcements in the trimless doors. Driver andpassenger can rest their arms here while driving.
The Mazda MX-5 Superlight version concept is fully-drivable, but there are no plansto produce it in the near future. Under the bonnet is the cultivated and frugal MZR1.8-litre four-cylinder engine paired to the production roadster’s five-speed manualtransmission. It develops 93 kW/126 PS of maximum power at 6,500 rpm. For anappealing engine sound, there’s a Mazdaspeed cold air intake made of polished andpowder-coated aluminium and a Mazdaspeed exhaust system, both of them specificto the MX-5 Superlight version. These systems deliver more intake air-flow, and lessexhaust-gas back pressure. The engine sound is designed to suggest an engine withmuch higher displacement than the concept actually has. During charge cycles, ahigh-resonance bubbling sound in the muffler delivers the exciting sporty sound youwould expect from a very powerful engine.
The show car is designed to provide improved driving dynamics as well, and uses afour-piston, fixed-calliper brake system with perforated discs that, because of theirsize required an increase in track of 50 mm. A specially tuned chassis with aBilstein® B16 coil-over suspension and Eibach® stabilisers give the body of the MX-5 Superlight version a ground clearance that is 30 mm lower than the production MX-5. Its sporty hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion steering system is the same asthat of the regular roadster. Its linear steering, coupled to a precise-shifting fivespeedmanual transmission with short shift travel, have contributed to the characterof the world’s most successful roadster for years. Also from the production model arethe roadster’s 205/45 R17 original-equipment tyres and alloy wheels from the 2.0version, which are some of the lightest on the market today at less than 8 kg.