Recently we were invited to partake on road trip up the California coast from Mazda USA. Normally we'd be champing at the bit to go, but due to scheduling conflicts, none of the Super Street staff could commit to the journey, not to mention we also just wrapped up a similar road test last summer with Mazda. Not wanting to let a good opportunity go to waste, we extended our invitation to Jonathan Grunwald, who might just be the biggest Mazda fanatic we know. He's had two epic rotary builds featured in the pages of Super Street (http://www.superstreetonline.com/features/1810-2009-mazda-rx-8-ghost-in-the-shell/; http://www.superstreetonline.com/features/1708-1994-mazda-rx-7-magic-man/) and we're in the works of getting his latest FC project car featured shortly as well. So, without further ado, here's his road trip recap, which honors Mazda's 30th anniversary of its most popular and most tracked sports car, the MX-5, aka Miata.
Last February at the Chicago Auto Show, Mazda unveiled its 30th Anniversary MX-5 in Racing Orange, a special edition model that would be limited to 500 units. While the new Miata looks really good in orange, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the best-selling sports car of all-time shouldn't take place inside an auto show in bitter cold Chicago during the winter. So, Mazda USA invited key influencers on a unique road trip experience up the California Coast. Before I knew it, a shiny red 2019 Grand Touring RF was delivered to my doorstep for a special weekend in Monterey.
After spending the initial drop off day cruising around Los Angeles and familiarizing myself with the MX-5's new amenities and creature comforts, I had no idea what I was about to get myself into or the lasting impression this little roadster was about to make.
Instead of the traditional straight shot up the I-5 freeway, I opted for a special detour across Southern California's infamous Frazier Park. I put the MX-5 up against icy gravel-filled mountain passes to start the run, then broke through to the beautiful winding farmland highways of Highways 33 and 58. As a huge Touge (canyon driving) enthusiast, it was definitely an exhilarating run—the type of run that dreams are made of. Sharing it with friends and Mazda USA made it that much more special. I touched down in Paso Robles for some lunch and enjoyed a smooth cruise into Monterey playing tag with some light rain prior to a clear sunset arrival.
On the next day, Mazda locked down the legendary Laguna Seca circuit for hot laps. Spirited driving shakedowns through the mountains is one way to get a feel for a brand-new car, but hitting the infamous momentum-based proving grounds Mazda once used to develop generations of this platform is on another level.
Navigating the legendary corkscrew into high-speed turn nine was definitely a confidence inspiring highlight, but I had to be mindful of the wet rumble strips from the prior evening's rain. Two hours into the day, it was all dry and fair game. I began utilizing the entire track, which is key for these lightweight roadsters. The 2019 MX-5s have a nice bump in horsepower so it was rewarding to lay into throttle throughout the entire track. In the last session, the rain finally caught up and cut the day short. Overall, though, it was awesome to see Miatas still battling it out in the rain and on the track (not to mention a few going for a spin). Definitely smiles for miles sharing the experience with my new Mazda friends and owners carrying the 30-year legacy.
The next day's agenda was to drive home. I opted for the longest route possible back to Los Angeles using the world-famous Pacific Coast Highway. The gold coast run has always been high on my personal bucket list. Finally, with all the sections of PCH open, it was time to cut loose. I beat the rain to Big Sur, then enjoyed the epic view of the Bixby Bridge and exchanged Miata stories with other car enthusiasts that couldn't help but notice the shiny red RF I was driving. Then it was time for the last leg home, and it looked like a scene from a postcard through Los Padres National Forest along with endless beachside rock formations. 7.5 hours of winding roads and ocean air was well worth the effort.
I conquered ice, gravel, dirt, Laguna Seca and PCH. It's safe to say, I think we celebrated the MX-5's legacy with a proper birthday weekend. Thank you so much to @mazdausa and @mazdamotorsports for an unforgettable experience!—Jonathan Grunwald