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Making a sportier Mazda MX-5

UK tuner BBR improves performance of Mazda’s easy-to-drive roadster

Published: December 6, 2015, 11:30 AM
Updated: December 8, 2015, 5:25 PM

BBR Mazda MX-5 Super 190

The MX-5 is widely regarded as one of the sportiest and easiest-to-drive roadsters on the market, and as such it makes it a natural target for aftermarket upgraders.

And none have pushed the former Miata further over the years than British tuner BBR GTi, which has recently revealed new upgrades for the new MX-5. The upgrades apply to the two engines available in the European market, including the 155-hp 2.0-litre SkyActiv 4-cylinder available to Canadian audiences.

That iteration has two engine upgrades available – one to 175 hp and another to 190 – in addition to the chassis upgrades across the board. And because the tuner is familiar with Mazda products, the conversions are fully reversible, and maintain the manufacturer’s electronic fail-safes.

“BBR’s tuning program on the SkyActiv engine began last year with our 2.0-litre Mazda3,” says BBR’s Director, Neil McKay. “Our technicians used the Mazda 3 SkyActiv for initial development – particularly on the ECU requirements – which gave BBR a significant head start with the detail work on enhancing the new MX-5 platform’s engines. Even so, we are pleasantly surprised by just how tunable the new MX-5 is compared to the previous model.”

The Super 175 upgrade uses the in-house BBR Starchip ECU software upgrades to optimize camshaft, ignition timing and fuel delivery across the rev range, which has been expanded by moving the red-line up. The result is an increase of 17 hp peaking at 6800 rpm (the production model makes 155 @ 6000) and 10 more lb-ft of torque (up from 148 lb-ft).

The Super 190 adds 30 hp (peaking at 6700 rpm) and 24 lb-ft of torque (peaking at 3550 rpm, which is more than 1000 below the production peak) to the standard 2.0-litre 4-cylinder outputs, using engine component upgrades including BBR proprietary cold air intake system, optimized exhaust manifold with a 2.5-inch diameter outlet, a high-flow exhaust system with integrated catalyst, and a Grand Tourer muffler with twin 2.75-inch tailpipes. BBR claims more than 85% of peak torque is available from 2500 to 6500 rpm.

“The Super 190 builds on the entry level upgrade by improving the inlet and exhaust efficiency of the SkyActiv engine, whilst retaining full MOT compliance and everyday usability. In particular, at motorway speeds, where exhaust noise is often an issue,” explains McKay.

The modifications also apply to the suspension, through the use of lowered springs (which reduce ride height by 30 mm), and braking with high-performance competition front pads. And to finish off the customization, BBR has a full catalogue of lightweight alloy wheels and performance tire packages, including the OZ/Goodyear F1 package that widens the offset and features a 215 width tire (the production MX-5 uses 16-inch wheels shod with 195/50R16 tires as a base, upgradable to 17-inchers with 205/45R17 tires).