Behind the Wheel

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF Review: A sports car for those who think comfort is a desirable feature

The Mazda MX-5 RF is one of the better-rounded sports coupes you can buy.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Mazda loves to remind us that it makes the best-selling two-seater sports car in history. The company mentions this in just about every press release it issues on the Miata. It's even certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

With more than a million units sold over the past thirty years, the Miata — or MX-5 in the rest of the world — has been a reliable pick for folks looking for an authentic sports car experience at an affordable price. Lotus founder Colin Chapman said his theory on race car design was to "simplify, then add lightness". Mazda's engineers have remained more-or-less faithful to that idea over the years when it comes to the MX-5.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The fierce design and unique drivability of the MX-5 help make it a desirable commodity.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Small cars don't need a ton of power, and they're a joy to drive. The 2020 MX-5 sports a 181-horsepower, 151 lb-ft four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed manual (or a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, but what you really want is the manual). My test unit this week — a luxury-focused MX-5 Grand Touring — came with a limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, front- and rear-stabilizer bars, and, of course, rear-wheel drive. It's not necessary to understand what all that stuff does to enjoy the car, though it's an impressive list of tech.

There's a running joke in car journalism that when someone asks which car they should buy, the answer is always "Miata" regardless of whether the buyer is a 70-year old retiree or a housewife with three kids. I don't know if that's strictly true, but the MX-5 will put a smile (and a sunburn) on your face regardless of who you are.

My fully-loaded manual transmission Grand Touring RF test unit priced out at a a whopping $35,345, but included a wide array of luxe features like automatic windshield wipers and high beams, leather everything inside the (tiny) cockpit, and a nine-speaker Bose stereo system that included speakers built-in to the headrests so you can hear your tunes even with the top down.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The hard top of the MX-5 RF gives the convertible a sleek look.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support is new for 2020, though there's no good place to put your phone. Or a cup of coffee. Or a handbag or really anything else except for two humans. It's really tight in there. The cupholders are two bits of plastic that go behind your elbow on the center armrest, requiring a stretching maneuver that wouldn't be out of place in a yoga studio to retrieve your beverage. There's also a diminutive "glove box" behind the cupholders that's good for holding a tube of sunscreen, your car registration, and very little else.

The trunk isn't spacious but it'll swallow a rollaboard suitcase easily enough, and the RF's hardtop doesn't affect the trunk at all which is a big plus.

The ride is firm but pleasant, with a far smoother and more refined ride than the similarly sized Toyota 86. This is the car for people who think comfort is a feature, and are willing to trade a bit of time in the slalom or on the skid pad to not have their spine ruined.

The six-speed manual transmission is a delight, reminding me why it's fun to have a stick shift. Not many folks will use their MX-5 as a commuter car, so there are almost no downsides to the manual tranny. Gear changes are quick and easy, and the clutch is incredibly forgiving. Third gear is particularly wonderful, as is the rev-happy naturally aspirated Skyactiv-G engine that scores an EPA-estimated 26/34/29 city/highway/combined.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The interior of the MX-5 is well-designed, but cramped.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The exhaust isn't noisy, but it make a nice burble, particularly with the top down. And I do have to call out that top. The RF — or Retractable Fastback — is the MX-5 to buy. Not only is it stupidly good looking, but you get the best of both worlds: When the top is down, you get 93 million miles of blue sky. But when you put it back up, you're in a sports coupe that's almost quiet and refined.

The roof can open and close in just 13 seconds, though you do need to be stopped for it to operate. It looks especially good in Mazda's Polymetal Gray paint scheme.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The Mazda MX-5 RF has the same design attributes as the MX-5, just with a hard top.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

I love convertibles. I love the MX-5. I love the RF. I love 93 million miles of blue sky. And if you go take one for a test drive, I promise you'll love it too.

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The F-150 has gotten an available hybrid power plant for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Don't get so focused on similarity of the headlights and bed of the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 that you miss the significant new details that make the truck one of the best you can buy. Consider that its revisions are a response to consumer demands and the F-150 really begins to shine.

One of the shiniest spots of the F-150 PowerBoost comes from its hybrid powertrain. Its also one of its sorest points. Each F-150 hybrid is equipped with a 3.5-liter hybrid V6 engine. Unlike some engines that are calibrated for fuel economy ahead of power availability, the Ford engine allows for both delivering 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque upon request.

2021 Ford F-150 interior features The interior of the F-150 is quite well-appointed, but not as luxurious as the Ram 1500. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It never really feels like the truck wants for power, but switching from all-electric power off the line to a traditional hybrid power combination while getting up to speed makes the truck shutter to life. Playing it easier on the accelerator does help, not that you need to be a lead foot to make the shutter happen.

Through it all, the transmission doesn't question what is happening. It's smooth as silk, with the same gear ratios with the hybrid engine as it has with all other available F-150 engines.

Buyers can get their PowerBoost powertrain with either two- or four-wheel drive. The 2WD version is more efficient, but just barely, putting up 25 mpg combined to the 4x4's 24. The other F-150 engines fall between 19 and 21 mpg combined. Towing and hauling will significantly impact those numbers (it has a 12,000-pound towing capacity).

As tested in the mid grade Lariat trim, the Ford F-150 felt just right. It wasn't as fancy as the Platinum or King Ranch versions of the truck, but comfortable enough to be lived in with the right blend of refinement and tech. It's a truck you can use every day, not worry about getting dirty, and take your date out in on a Friday night.

2021 Ford F-150 Lockable rear under-seat storage is a major plus when it comes to grocery shopping. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

With the SuperCrew box, the F-150 Lariat starts at $47,055. For the average customer the truck's equipment list is going to make it feel pretty loaded: 12-inch driver information screen, 12-inch infotainment screen, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Wi-Fi hot spot, leather-trimmed seats, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a Class IV trailer hitch, and Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0.

Plus, it has most of the features that Ford has included as part of its generational revision like the tailgate work surface, lockable rear under-seat storage, flat fold-out work surface in the center console, and foldable shifter.

It all works well, almost too well, as a matter of fact. The features of the interior of the truck are almost nice enough to get you to forget how well the Ram 1500 is appointed for a similar price tag. But, the Ram 1500 doesn't have a full hybrid system, on-board generator, or a host of other technologies that the Ford has.

2021 Ford F-150 interior features The center console folds out to a flat surface that can be used for work or as a table. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Ford is better than the Chevrolet 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Ram at all but one thing. Fix the shutter from a stop and the F-150 PowerBoost will quickly become the best choice for pickup truck buyers.

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Carroll Shelby's personal 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake sold at auction over the weekend.

Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson/Facebook

Just a few months ago, Carroll Shelby's personal 427 Cobra sold for $5.9 million at auction. This weekend, the only remaining 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake crossed the block, itself a relic of Mr. Shelby's garage.

This particular model started its life in 1965 as one of 23 built. It was shipped to Ford Advanced Vehicles in England on September 7, 1965, packaged alongside another 427 Cobra Competition and two R-model Shelby G.T. 350s. They were destined for a promotional tour of Europe.

The car, serial number CSX 3015, was shipped back to the U.S. when the tour was over. In 1967, Shelby American modified the hot rod into the Super Snake it is today. It is one of only two models built to its current specs and the only surviving car of the pair (the other was built for Bill Cosby). The sports car was billed as the "Cobra to End All Cobras" and was not street legal.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake CSX 3015 This is the only remaining Super Snake from the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 set.Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson/Facebook

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake CSX 3015

Since the turn of the millennium, the car has been sold three times. In 2007 it went for $5.5 million. In 2015 it was auctioned for $5.1 million. This weekend, it went for $5 million.

The model sold at auction is a good original condition. It has its original engine block, body panels, brake calipers, rear end, and exhaust system.

Not only is the car steeped in automotive history. It's also full of power. Under the hood is a 7.0-liter, twin-supercharged Ford V8 that achieves 800 horsepower and 462 pound-feet of torque. The Paxton supercharged engine is paired with a three-speed automatic transmission.

With a wheelbase of just 90 inches and a curb weight of just over 2,300 pounds, the powertrain setup makes the car closer to a rocket than a traditional coupe - and without modern safety features.

It was originally shipped and invoiced to Ford Advanced Vehicles in England on September 7, 1965, together with another 427 Cobra Competition and two R-model Shelby G.T.350s, to do a promotional tour in Europe.

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