Mazda has revealed their new MX-5 RF hardtop at the New York motor show today, showcasing their twist on how to produce a folding hardtop. The ‘RF’ in Mazda MX-5 RF is short for ‘Retractable Fastback’, which should give you all you need to know about this new version of the world’s most popular convertible.
The previous third-generation MX-5 convertible used a folding metal roof which functioned in a very similar manner to the soft top, but with this new version things have changed. The MX-5 RF now has an ingenious roof design which consists of segmented front, middle and rear sections, and retractable back window glass. As the roof retracts, the C-pillar segments lift up, allowing the middle section of the roof to be stowed in the boot underneath. With the roof down, the rear window glass is retractable, all via a flick of a switch.
Mazda says the aim of all this is to help the driver feel more encased in the MX-5 RF, compared to the soft top version. This is achieved via a large aero board wind blocker, while also looking more coupe-like when the roof is up. The roof can be raised or lowered at speeds of 10km/h or less, while boot storage capacity with the roof down matches the soft-top version.
Nobuhiro Yamamoto, Program Manager for the MX-5 RF project said “We asked ourselves what it meant to make a driver’s car with a power-retractable roof, ditched the traditional idea of stowing the entire roof and realised styling that further articulates an iconic sports car design. While the fourth-generation soft-top model honed the pure driving pleasure of a lightweight sports car, the hardtop model, with its exquisite fastback styling and a new open-top feel, has a personality all on its own.”
The MX-5 RF matches the soft-top version in all areas except height (it is 5mm taller) and weight – although Mazda won’t say just how much heavier it will be. The roof is comparatively simply when compared to the old NC MX-5 hardtop, so we’d guess it won’t carry the same weight penalty which that car had. The MX-5 RF is also further differentiated with extra sound-deadening in the headliner and in the wheel arches, which “significantly improves” ride quietness according to Mazda, as well as what it calls “the feeling of high quality”. It also gets its own unique suspension tune to work better with the small weight impost of the hard roof.
“If we consider the soft-top model to represent the purist appeal of the lightweight sports car, then the retractable fastback represents a new type of MX-5 that aims to be a compact sports car with a natural charm that anybody and everybody will find beautiful,” chief designer Masashi Nakayama said. “To convey the fun and charm of the MX-5 experience to a larger and more diverse range of people rather than just sports cars fans, I felt the MX-5 RF must embody natural beauty and not attempt to attract attention by merely being different.”
When it goes on sale later in the year, the MX-5 RF will only be available with the MX-5’s larger 2.0L engine, bolted to either the six-speed manual or automatic transmission.