Are you ready? Because I’m about to blow your mind: the Mazda MX-5 Miata is an amazingly fun car to drive. OK, I understand that’s not exactly breaking news. But it’s been true since the first examples of the plucky little roadster arrived on American shores three decades ago, and at the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s 13th annual Run to the Sun, the latest incarnation proved it’s as true as ever.
The Soul Red Crystal version Mazda brought to the event was the RF Club Trim, meaning it featured goodies like Brembo brakes, 17-inch BBS forged wheels, and heated Recaro sport seats. As opposed to the standard coupe’s rag top, the RF features a power hard top, and in reality it’s more like a targa than a true convertible. That said, if I was going to purchase any version of the MX-5, this is, without question, the one I’d spring for. With the top up, even at over six feet tall, I have room enough in the cabin, and since I live rainy Seattle, the top is going to be up a lot. It’s also worth noting that the coupe-like lines created by the hard top are stunning — but the Mazda is far more than a pretty face.
Current models are packing a heavily revised version of the familiar 2.0-liter four cylinder, which previously made a respectable 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. But for 2019, that’s up to 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft — or an improvement of nearly 20 percent. On country roads outside of Portland, the extra poke make itself immediately apparent, and made a car that I’ve previously described as perfect even better. The Miata is a true treasure, so if you’ve never driven one, I’d recommend fixing that pronto.
2019 Run to the Sun: Convertibles
2019 Fiat 124 Spyder Abarth
As enthusiasts know, the Fiat is built on the same architecture as the Miata, on the same assembly line in Japan. But it’s packing a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder, which is good for 164 horsepower and 184 lb-feet of torque — and it’s also a ton of fun. Personally, I like the growl it makes better than the Miata, and really dig the matte black hoot and red accents. I had a blast flinging it around the track back in May, and I appreciate the old-school feel of its turbo, in that you have to stay focused to keep on the boost. I do wish there was a hardtop version — because the rally car looks amazing.
2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4
Truth be told, the Jeep was a little out of its element in this company, as the assembled folks were ready to carve corners, not tackle trails. And while it’s technically a convertible, that’s not exactly the first thing you think about when you think about Jeeps. That said, what my time behind the wheel demonstrated is that the 2019 Jeep Wrangler has far better road manners than any of its predecessors. Notably, the the rugged off-roader no longer feels like a “penalty box” at highway speeds. Wind noise has been greatly reduced, and the ride isn’t bouncy or hunting. This machine is equally ready to tackle daily driving duties and brutal trails.
2019 Polaris Slingshot
There’s really nothing practical about the Slingshot. There’s no roof or doors, and while the amount of storage is actually surprising, it’s still minimal. What the Polaris does have in spades is fun. The steering is race car-direct, and the gearbox is an absolute joy to row. The open nature of the cockpit is closer to a purpose-built track machine than anything else, and makes even pedestrian speeds feel like an event. Even though it’s a wheel down from anything else on this list, stability was never an issue, and while you’d have to be certifiable to daily a Slingshot, it’d be an amazing weekend toy to take on twisties with.
That rounds out the competitors in the Convertible category! But there are plenty more where that came from! Head here for a full list of cars and categories from 2019 Run to the Sun!
NWAPA (www.nwapa.org) is a professional organization of automotive journalists and media members from throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Canada. Founded in 1991, NWAPA includes 54 voting members representing more than 700 newspapers, magazines, radio stations, media groups, and the internet. Members of the organization have been testing SUVs and crossovers since the advent of the modern sport-utility vehicle in the mid-1990s. Non-voting NWAPA members include representatives from automotive manufacturers and related industry professionals.