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Driven: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring

Early last year, Mazda announced its plans to add another MX-5 to its lineup with one special twist: a retractable hard-top with the RF moniker (RF for "Retractable Fastback"). The early renderings and vehicle launch had us very excited, as if the sporty roadster wasn’t exciting enough — but a hard-top? That's pretty hard to beat (pun intended).

MX-5

It took a little while to get some seat time, but the wait was worth every second. Let’s reexamine which features of the MX-5 RF we liked and how they stacked up in real life:

1. Retractable Hard-Top

The big, obvious feature of the RF is the vehicle’s greatest selling point: the retractable hard-top. Activated with a switch down in the center console by the shifter, the instrument cluster displays an animated graphic of the opening/closing of the hard-top as it’s (as you can guess) opening or closing. The entire operation happens within seconds, much more quickly and quietly than expected.

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Verdict: Swiped right.

2. Refined Interior

In comparison to the soft-top model, the RF features a full color, high resolution instrument cluster (as opposed to black and white) to display your essentials (tachometer, speedometer, fuel and engine temp). Plush Nappa leather comes standard, so the seats and dashboard have a more luxurious touch and feel.

We noted there would be improved acoustics to not only provide more premium sound, but to also compensate for the open air. Though to be honest, the top was left down for local driving with the radio off, while the top was up during highway commutes with the radio on. We preferred having the music off to focus more on the driving and listening to the engine’s acoustics instead.

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Verdict: Swiped right (not once, but three times).

3. Back-Up Sensors

One big safety features on the RF model (that comes only on the Grand Touring MX-5 otherwise) are rear blind spot sensors. Depending on your seating position, backing out in the RF can be challenging as the hard-top blocked my direct line of sight (with the top up), so the warning alerts were useful in many situations.

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Verdict: Swiped right. Obvi.

4. The Overall Drive

Performance-wise, nothing’s changed — the MX-5 RF is every bit as enjoyable to drive as its soft-top counterpart. The seats are still low, you feel like you’re in a race cockpit that’s been lifted up with premium materials (because it has) and there’s a solid six-speed transmission to mash the gears with.

But it's the sporty suspension that really shines through. Mazda’s engineers reworked some of its components to compensate for the added weight and to give more balance. The handling’s so precise, it’s almost scary how much more connected to the road we were while maneuvering through tricky roads. That’s how great it felt to drive the RF.

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Verdict: Do we really need to spell this out? (Swiped right.)

Clearly, we liked it, a lot.

The RF gets plenty of attention from both non-car people and enthusiasts alike, and soft-top owners can’t help but give you the nod of approval (and likely a bit of jealousy even). The only things we need now are more modified versions of both.

See more photos of the MX-5 in the gallery below.

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