If you are lucky enough to drive a 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata up the coast of California, you've already won. If that Mazda Miata is a 25th Anniversary edition of the world's favorite roadster, then somebody up there really loves you. We were recently lucky and loved enough to drive one of the 25th Anniversary Miatas -- of which only 100 will be coming to the U.S. -- between the rugged brown hills and blue skies of California's Highway 1, essentially the National Anthem of driving roads along the Pacific Ocean.

The essence of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, that of a lightweight, front-engine/rear-drive 2-seat convertible, makes it the dream companion for a top-down rush in the sun. The Miata's diminutive size makes any stretch of road wider, and while the car's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine doesn't own the market on power, the Miata still "feels" snappy off the line -- especially when the drivetrain doctors order you the 6-speed manual transmission. With its short throws and even shorter gearing, the Mazda MX-5's shift-it-yourself gearbox has long been a legend. The artfully quick clutch take-up enhances the effect.

Exclusivity at a price

You can get a brand-new 2015 soft-top Mazda MX-5 Miata for under $25,000, and the retractable-hardtop models start at almost $30,000. So what kinds of exclusivity does the 25th Anniversary edition have to offer for its $33,000 price tag? Well, for starters, there's the color: Soul Red Metallic. Heretofore unavailable on a Miata, the rich Soul Red hue makes our long-term Mazda6 sedan glisten in the sunlight. The color does similar favors for the 25th Anniversary Miata, which contrasts the red with a Brilliant Black power-retractable hardtop and side-view mirrors, and Dark Gunmetal 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

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Inside the roadster, bright "Almond" leather coats the seats and door trim, while the steering wheel, shifter (on manual models), parking-brake and armrests are all wrapped in black leather. Red contrast stitching holds everything together. Aluminum-alloy pedals give the driver's feet something expensive to play with. And "25th Anniversary" reminders are etched into the leather-seat headrests and onto stainless-steel doorsill plates. On the driver's-side front quarter panel sits a 25th Anniversary badge with an exclusive ID number for the car.

Hand-painted dash

One other exclusive 25th Anniversary element is worth pointing out: The dash panel of each 25th Anniversary MX-5 Miata is painted deep red, but then hand-painted with a Piano Black gradation pattern. This flourish seemed like a lot of hype, sound and fury until we started living with it in person, photographing it, and pouring different light onto it during the drive up the coast. Each panel from each car had a rich, one-of-a-kind red glow to it.

You never know what's going to strike you most when you take an extended road trip in a new car. Top-down up the Pacific coast in a 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata 25th Anniversary edition -- or any Miata, truth be told -- gave us a firm suspension, little tornadoes of wind buffeting, and the harmony of a thoroughbred exhaust note mixed with new Eminem and old Jayhawks music, all against a 2-lane backdrop of salt water and scrub oak. That's when you know you're alive.

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