2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring: The Mulholland Highway Test

Photography by: ©2014 Toni Avery & Ron Avery

What is a canyon carver exactly? Well, for car people it simply means a car that can tear through a canyon with no issues, a small nimble car built for tight twisties. Not all cars can be canyon carvers while others are built for just that. Is the current gen MX-5 Miata worthy of the title? Read on to find out.

Starting at the bottom of the Topanga Canyon Blvd., I took the Miata top down in a brisk 49° towards the famed Mulholland Highway. You’d think heading out at sunrise would avoid all kinds of traffic, but this time of year the sun comes up around 7am and that’s when parents are driving their kids off to school. So after a few stragglers I got to the fun part.

There are parts of Mulholland Highway with large sweeping turns where the gas pedal is constantly pressed and there are others where 2nd is the only gear you’ll need. Starting out, the Miata sprinted at around a comfortable 60mph on most of the larger, less twisty corners. I was beyond comfortable and confident in the cars abilities. These larger and more straightforward corners allowed the car to stay in a comfortable 4th gear while some of the straight sections asked for 5th.

The further I drove, the more twisty the corners got. These required 2nd and on occasion, 3rd gear for short stretches heading into another sharp corner. While I’ve driven practically every racetrack on the West Coast, none have had corners this tight. But I used my years of training to talk myself through each corner. “Look where you want the car to go;” it’s one of the most spoken rules of thumb in any racing school you’ll take and it sure helps on tight canyon roads like this.

As I looked where I wanted to go, the car followed. That’s one of the hardest parts, not looking at the ground in front of you, rather, around the corner where you want the car to go. As much as I coached myself, the car just followed. Every corner the car responded wonderfully. Even if I left my braking to the last minute the car reacted without complaints or tire squealing. I had total confidence in the car, even in the tightest of corners. The optional Bilstein shocks really come into play in this part of the drive. I was pushing the car, but it wasn’t pushing back, it was just happy to be driven like it’s meant to be.

Meanwhile, I made a commitment to have the top down the whole time even through the chilly temperatures. Those seat heaters! Everything but my face felt warm. If you’re looking to purchase a 2015 and can’t decide, look at what’s important to you. I chose the Club for it’s sporty edge, but if I lived in a colder climate than sunny Southern California, I’d go for the Grand Touring and opt for the Bilstein shocks. That way you get the great suspension and the heated seats. And I can’t forget to mention the great exhaust. It’s got a nice note, but it’s not obnoxious. While I swapped my Club’s out for a Magnaflow and gained some horsepower and torque in the process, I still liked the stock exhaust note. I just missed the nice crackles and pops that emanate from mine.

I only turned around after about an hour and a half of driving and came across another Miata. We had a bit of fun through the remainder of the canyon before big pickup trucks and morning traffic kicked in.

So is the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring a canyon carver? Does it pass the Mulholland Highway test? YES and YES! The Miata will always be a canyon carver in my eyes. I own a 2013 Club and haven’t driven it the way I tested out the Grand Touring. I’ll be taking my Club out for a few morning sprints very soon.

9 comments on “2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring: The Mulholland Highway Test
  1. I spent a lot of time on both those highways in the 60’s driving my BSA chopper. damn near “bought It” on a hairpin turn when we hit gravel. I bounced off 3 or 4 cement guards on the side of road, keeping the bike from falling on either side. My girlfriend lost the heel to her boot. When we stopped , we walked back to where we kept hitting the posts and saw the depth of the cliff that the posts kept us from hurling DOWNNNN. I can laugh about it now, but it gave us the shakes. The trouble was that I was trying to keep up with a bunch of bikes that were not choppers….extended front end looks nice and cool , but you sacrifice a lot on safety / stability.

  2. I drove Mulholland in my 2001 NB while I was in LA after Miatas at MRLS in September. I’m from the east coast, had, of course heard of Mulholland Hwy, but was blown away by that road. What a great ride!

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