Mazda MX-5 Miata Extended Test Drive – Southern California Style

A recent trip to the LA Auto show to see the unveiling of the all-new 2014 Mazda6, amongst many other exciting cars, triggered a trifecta of firsts for me. This was my first trip to a major auto show, my first (and second) time to an In-N-Out Burger and the first time I’ve driven a Mazda MX-5 Miata more than 100 yards. The latter came complements of Mazda USA, who graciously provided me and a colleague with a 2013 Mazda MX-5 Special Edition to drive during our stay in SoCal. The MX-5 proved to be a great car to drive up and down Pacific Coast Highway.


Perhaps it was the pre-trip excitement, a bad frame of reference or poor planning, but it wasn’t until we arrived at Mazda HQ in Irvine, California, that we realized that our car would be challenged in the cargo carrying department.   You see, in addition to our regular luggage and briefcases, we were also hauling a full load of camera gear to get footage at the show. In a prior life I spent many years working for company that sold two-seat roadsters, that shall remain unnamed, offering substantial trunk space in a front and rear trunk. It was not until we had our rendezvous with the MX-5 in Mazda’s parking lot that it finally clicked that not all convertibles are adept at swallowing large pieces of luggage.  Despite its Spartan trunk space, some creative packing allowed us to fit everything quite snugly in the car. So snug, in fact, that when it came time grab the camera to snap a picture of our packing prowess, I realized it was in the bottom of the trunk. So, you will have to envision a trunk overflowing with luggage and equipment.

Since it was already mid-afternoon and neither of us had eaten since we left Minneapolis before the sun rose, we high-tailed it to In-N-Out Burger.  On the short stretch of highway between Mazda HQ and lunch, I quickly realized why everyone praises the Miata. The car exhibited nimble handling, a great 6-speed manual gearbox and enough oomph to get you in trouble. Even when crammed full of luggage and two 6-foot plus guys, the car had enough guts to get the driving enthusiast in me excited. We arrived shortly at the In-N-Out Burger in Venice and if a couple of guys climbing out of a Miata wasn’t a strange enough sight for the line out the door to see, me taking pictures of the car in the parking lot probably was. After devouring a delicious double-double, we hopped in the car and made our trip north on PCH.


As we drove north towards Malibu, the opulence of the area became apparent immediately. Porsches, Mercedes, BMWs and Bentleys were a dime a dozen, parked recklessly on the side of the road and populating traffic moving in either direction. On the way back south we stopped at the Santa Monica pier to check it off of our tourist bucket list.


We finished up our afternoon at Venice Beach. The personalities and eclectic mix of shops made this an interesting stop. It was here that we saw our umpteenth film crew, shooting a new AMC reality series at the Venice Beach Freak Show. Had we not stopped, we would have missed out on the opportunity to see America’s tallest man and a guy soliciting the public to staple his forehead with an industrial stapler.


As we headed to our hotel we got our first glimpse of California traffic, spending what seemed like two hours heading to Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. Upon arrival at our hotel it first appeared that there was a pre-teen convention going on, but upon second glance we realizes that the Jonas Brothers had a week of bookings at the neighboring Pantages Theater.  Needless to say, we avoided the Pantages theater like the plague.


Over the next two days we spent our time at the LA Convention center getting an up-close look at all the upcoming automotive offerings from every manufacturer imaginable. Within the Morrie’s portfolio of brands we saw debuts of the Bentley GT3 concept, Bentley GT Speed,  brand new 2014 Mazda 6, Ford Fiesta ST, Ford Transit, Kia Forte, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Veloster C3 Rolltop, Nissan Hi-Cross Concept and Subaru Forester.  For more details, check our 2013 LA Auto Show Highlights blog post.  http://blog.morries.com/2012/12/2012-la-auto-show-highlights/


Following the close of the auto show press day number two, we took the Miata south through Orange Country on PCH.  Before getting too far, we made the obligatory stop at the In-N-Out Burger in Long Beach for double-double number two.


We then continued south through Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach and finally Dana Point. As we drove along the cost on windy roads I could only think of how fun it would be to spend more time here with a two seat roadster like the MX-5 Miata.


Waking early the next morning, we our last stop at the Mazda Design Center, where we got an exclusive look at Mazda’s motorsport collection. Housed in the basement, Mazda has amassed a collection of successful endurance racers including the sister car to the Le Mans winning 787, a number of IMSA GTP, IMSA GTU and Japan spec RX-7 racers as well as a couple out of place Bonneville cars. Unfortunately, pictures were not permitted in this area, so again, you will have to use your imagination.


Upon arriving at the airport for the flight home I had a chance to reflect on the trip.  The LA Auto show was unlike any show I had been to prior.  Driving on PCH was a blast and the 2013 Mazda MX-5 Special Edition was well suited for the job.  Having driven a couple hundred miles in the car I was pleasantly surprised with the cars all around drivability. Despite its sport-tuned suspension, the ride was comfortable on all but the bumpiest roads. Despite being crammed with equipment and two-tall guys, the car was comfortable even after a couple hours of seat time. Generally speaking, the ergonomics were good, except for poorly placed window switches that triggered at least a dozen unexpected window opens.  While I wouldn’t pick a MX-5 Miata as my everyday driver, I would not hesitate to drive another one on a winding road trip or country drive.


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