The rumor mill was right about what model in the Mazda lineup would star in its carefully guarded reveal prior to the New York Auto Show. But few envisioned the form it would take until the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF made its jaw-dropping entry onto the stage. Unlike its predecessor, which was crowned with a pleasant enough but decidedly run-of-the-mill hideaway hardtop, the new RF – for Retractable Fastback – takes that concept to a new dimension. The flowing design and elegant buttresses of its multi-piece roof creates a bold styling statement that visually shifts the cabin rearward and adds a sense of dynamic tension to the profile of Mazda’s sporty 2-seater. When the center panel is finished stowing and the back glass slips behind the seats, the RF’s aft roof elements return to their resting position giving the car a sophisticated, targa-like character.

Chic hardtop

The goal of the new MX-5 RF was to create a chic hardtop version of the world’s most popular roadster that also provides the same level of open-air comfort and freedom of the roadster while remaining true to the automaker’s Kodo design principles. Mazda points out that over half of the previous-generation MX-5 sales were Power Retractable Hardtop models and it fully expects owners of the new RF will likely spend more time with the top up than down. To that end, it needed to ensure the underlying fun factor that’s been an MX-5 hallmark for more than a quarter century remained fully intact despite the RF’s more stylish trappings.

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Fitted with an acoustic liner, the MX-5 RF’s lightweight top can be power locked/unlocked and quickly cycled in either direction at vehicle speeds up to 6 mph using a single switch. It also comes with a large acrylic wind blocker to cut buffeting at speed. As a final flourish, customers can have the center elements of the RF’s top done in Piano Black or body color – which in this case also will include Mazda’s new Machine Gray paint with a finish that creates the illusion of a steel ingot.

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Mechanically, the new MX-5 RF is a near clone of its soft-top sibling and offers all of the same basic features and options, including Mazda Connect and the i-ActivSense safety technologies. Both share the same 155-horsepower/2.0-liter SkyActiv-G engine paired with a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission. The MX-5’s suspension and Electric Power Assist Steering systems also have been specifically tuned for Retractable Fastback duty to deliver a bit more comfort and ride refinement. Inside, the RF cabin comes covered in Nappa leather, but save for the extra actuator switch and a new dash display screen animation that comes to life when the top is being recycled, it’s pure MX-5 roadster. So too is the 4.6 cu.ft. trunk capacity.

While pricing for the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF has yet to be announced, order books for this cheeky newcomer will open in the summer with deliveries to follow later.

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