A Mightier Miata A round of revved-up cars should make Mazda roar even more
By Lawrence Ulrich

(MONEY Magazine) – Mazda's Miata saved the convertible from auto oblivion--its daring 1989 debut cleared a path for pop-toppers from BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and more--but fans of the roadster have never stopped wishing for a bit more (okay, a lot more) power.

Enter Mazdaspeed. The automaker's high-performance unit will kick off a slate of speedier models with the Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata. On sale nationwide in March, this limited-edition Miata gets 178 horsepower, a 25% bump up from the leisurely base model. "Miata's evil twin," says Mazda executive Robert Davis.

Expect zero-to-60-mph times well below seven seconds. That's about two seconds better than the everyday Miata, fast enough to muss the most severely sprayed 'do.

Racy additions include a short-throw six-speed manual transmission, bigger 17-inch alloy wheels by Racing Hart and a lowered and stiffened sport suspension. Pricing isn't official, but the base tag should stick close to $25,000.

By early 2005, performance junkies can expect a turbocharged Mazdaspeed 3 sports compact that should pump out at least 200 horsepower (or up to 240, if Mazda decides to offer an all-wheel-drive version). The hotted-up 3 should be followed by Mazdaspeed's take on the mid-size 6.

It seems like every automaker--from Mercedes and BMW to Ford and Cadillac--is obsessed with bringing more power to the people. But Davis stresses that Mazdaspeed is no racetrack rookie. Begun as a side project of a Tokyo Mazda dealer in the '70s, Mazdaspeed evolved into the automaker's successful racing operation in the '80s, then into performance parts and vehicles. Mazda remains the only Japanese automaker to capture an overall win at the storied 24 Hours of LeMans, accomplishing the feat in 1991 with a rotary-engine prototype. "Our performance cars are true to our inherent nature," Davis says. "We're not starting with some SUV or cushy luxury car." --L.U.