Mazda introduces 2011 MX-5 ‘55 Le Mans Edition

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 15, 2011

Mazda is introducing a special edition version of the MX-5 that highlights the connection to motorsport. This Mazda model, which might as well be called “pure driving pleasure,” is destined for the Swiss market. The vehicle is dubbed the MX-5 ‘55 Le Mans name in commemoration of Mazda’s Le Mans victory in 1991.

To those who may not be aware, the name takes its inspiration from the 787B No.55 race car, which Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler, and Bertrand Gachot drove to victory in 1991.

This title also marks the first win for a Japanese car and the rotary powerplant in the endurance event. Powering the MX-5 ‘55 Le Mans is a 2.0-liter unit that develops 160 hp and is partnered to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Mazda’s engineers gave the car a sports suspension provided by Bilstein, a front strut bar, a limited slip differential (LSD), and a set of 10-spoke lightweight alloy rims.

There are four exterior colors to choose from. It also comes with contrasting stripes (on the sides of the vehicle). To emphasize the MX-5’s racing connection, it features exterior logos and a numbered plaque has been fitted in the cabin.

The third generation Mazda MX-5 replaces the second-generation model with a lighter but stiffer body shell. The brand’s characteristic high flexural and torsional rigidity remains a primary feature. The facelift version is just as lightweight as the original, noting the ideal weight distribution (50:50). The rear-wheel drive layout is also retained along with the multi-link rear suspension systems, front midship engine, and double-wishbone front.

The rear-wheel drive design comes with the robust power plant framework in the unit’s transmission tunnel, which forms a firm connection between the transmission and the rear differential. This, in turn, supports the chassis and suppresses chassis deformation efficient during sports driving. The 2.0-litre manual transmission version is geared with limited slip differential (LSD), which guarantees optimum traction for any driving condition.

The front suspension of the facelift has been revised by Mazda engineers by altering the vertical pivot position of its ball joints, thereby lowering its front roll centre’s height by 26mm. This leads to decreased fluctuations on the outer wheel’s vertical load when cornering. Roll movement due to steering input is also improved to become more linear. In addition, the R&D team has modified the Mazda MX-5 facelift suspension settings so that the unit reacts to driver commands even more precisely, making an instinctive “roll and yaw” feel, thus leading to a superior quality ride. The 'Jinba Ittai' feeling of car control is also enhanced, especially when cornering, thanks to these modifications.

MZR 2.0-litre facelift comes with a 6-speed manual transmission equipped with a sports suspension, just like the Mazda MX-5 original third-generation. Bilstein front and rear dampers are included. The Mazda MX-5 facelift carries the original third-generation’s top-notch active and passive safety system.

Excellent brake pedal response and precise deceleration performance is made possible by the unit’s brake system comprised of ventilated front discs (290 mm) and solid rear discs (280 mm). The dynamic stability control (DSC) as well as the traction control system (TCS) is the latest standard in majority of the European markets.

A tyre pressure monitoring system is a new addition to the line-up but depends on the grade and the market. The recently launched external temperature display updates the driver and ensures safe driving, especially during winter. The passive safety package includes side impact protection, a high-tensile steel cabin, roll-over brace bars made of ultra high tensile materials in the A-pillars, and well-built body floor cross members.

Front airbags with a passenger deactivation feature and custom two-chamber side airbags to protect the head and the thorax are included. When not in use, these are integrated into the unit’s seatback. A common inflator and gas generator activate the airbags by immediately inflating both chambers, faster than single-chamber systems.

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