YES, that is a brewery in the photo. No, Wheels is not advocating drinking and driving; we’re all mature enough to know right from wrong, right?
First published in the June 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
That’s the Red Hill Brewery on the Mornington Peninsula, which also happens to have fantastic roads ideally suited to the Mazda MX-5. So when the time came for one last fang in the 1.5 before swapping into the 2.0,
I gravitated to my favourite set of roads.
My first half dozen COTYs etched these roads into my memory, sharing laps with Carey, Ponchard, Bulmer, Robbo and other judges evaluating that year’s contenders on the lumpen curves of Arthurs Seat and long undulations out to Flinders.
Custom decreed that each judge drive the loop in every car. With weekend visits in other test cars, or my motorbike, I’ve done it at least 200 times. I know every bump, and I lament their passing when road gangs iron them out in the name of progress.
Last week I climbed Arthurs Seat with 5.2 litres of V10 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder around me, and I’d like to apologise to the residents for the banshee wail that followed us up the hill that evening. No shortage of poke there. In fact, that roofless, ruthless Italian possessed more than enough of everything to humble the mighty Arthurs Seat.
The MX-5’s boot can handle five cases. The editor’s wallet not so much.
A week earlier was my visit to the brewery, which I’d reached via Arthurs Seat. I won’t pretend the $32K Mazda felt just like the $500K Lamborghini, but comparing the two was illuminating. Both carve up corners like a master chef, one wielding its light, lithe chassis with scalpel-like precision, the other leveraging massive rubber and all-wheel drive to bludgeon the bends. The 455kW Lambo’s biggest advantage is the way it devours straights with a hunger the 96kW Mazda cannot hope to match. The MX-5 requires effort and focus to retain every possible increment of hard-earned velocity. Picking the best line is crucial, steering as little as possible lest an overly greedy turn-in bleed speed.
There was a great sense of elation when I peaked in the Lamborghini – how could there not be in such a thunderous and theatrical Italian steed – but the Mazda gave me a greater sense of accomplishment, more satisfaction. Dare I say it… like a hard-earned beer. A few minutes later I had one, a clean and cold Red Hill Pilsner, to accompany the action replay running through my mind.
I gained three things from that drive: a load of Red Hill beers; a better appreciation of the MX-5’s ability to use its dynamic prowess to overcome a lack of horsepower; and a hunger to come back as soon as possible in the 2.0-litre MX-5.
My Samsung Galaxy S6 refused to connect with the MX-5 via Bluetooth. Initialising the handshake via the phone, or via the car, made no difference. They wouldn’t play nice together. Until Mazda Australia told me to stop using the dials and use the infotainment system’s voice commands instead. Success! Turns out the non-satnav-equipped system uses older software that has this glitch. The new version, as fitted on next month’s Mazda MX-5 2.0-litre GT, will not have the same problem, Mazda assures me.
Mazda MX-5 1.5 Roadster
Price as tested: $32,240
Part 3: 885km @ 8.2L/100km
Overall: 3669km @ 7.5L/100km
Date acquired: December 2015