PistonHeads - August '14



Due in Silverstone on Friday morning and having just hit publish on our story on the BBR Mazda MX-5 Super 200 before hitting the road we put in a speculative call to BBR. Given that its Brackley base is just a few miles down the road and we had a couple of hours spare was there any chance of taking the Super 200 out for a bit of a blast? Nothing ventured and all that.

Sure thing came the response from BBR’s Neil Mckay, see you in an hour. Given that the press release had only landed in the inbox an hour before that the stars were definitely aligned in our favour.

If you saw the original story on Friday you’ll know the gist of what we’ve got here. But a quick recap. For the power crazed and those not precious about preserving the MX-5’s naturally aspirated character BBR can do you a turbocharged carthat is a whole heap of fun and a very slick conversion to boot. No doubt that if you want bangs (and pops) for your buck when making an MX-5 go faster forced induction is the way to go. But the perceived complexity and, perhaps more significantly, the change in fundamental character aren’t to all tastes.

Zoom-zoom … zoom

BBR has also offered self explanatory Super 175 and Super 180 conversions for all third generation – or NC – MX-5s based around its own four-into-one exhaust manifold and remapped ECU, the latter also getting a panel air filter and full BBR exhaust system with high-flow catalytic converter. Welcome additions to the 160hp of the stock 2.0-litre car but perhaps too subtle for people wanting serious performance gains.

The new Super 200 kit is basically the Super 175 with the addition of new cams for both exhaust and inlet. It costs £2,195 fitted or £1,695 DIY and buys you a more substantial 204hp and 166lb ft – significant gains from the stock 160hp and 139lb ft. Having tried out half a dozen different cam profiles and done the numbers on BBR’s own rolling road Neil’s obviously chuffed with the results too, keen to share the comparison graph that shows the expanded peak torque comes in 1,000rpm earlier at 4,000rpm too. You’ll see the even more impressive red line on there that equates to 210hp, 171lb ft and less of a dip in the latter’s curve after the 4,000rpm peak – this is yours if you also go for the full exhaust system comprising a 2.5-inch centre section, high-flow cat and back box from the Super 180 kit. This costs £745.

The demo car awaiting us at BBR didn’t have that; the package we drove was the standard Super 200 kit in a car also fitted with the firm’s £995 custom-valved Koni damper/spring kit and a rather stylish set of Rota Blitz 17-inch wheels. The lower ride height and half-inch increase in wheel width packs out the arches somewhat and gives the MX-5 a subtly more purposeful stance. And from previous experience of the kit on the GT 270 turbo it’s also a nice compromise for fast road use.

Distinguished character
Like the turbo conversion the first thing that strikes you about the Super 200 kit is how factory it feels. Normally aspirated tuning can be an expensive business for relatively modest gains – see the more exotic throttle bodied Jota car by way of example – but the BBR kit is impressive in the way it packs out the power and torque curves rather than leaving it all for the last few hundred rpm.

Without driving it back to back with a standard car it’s hard to say how dramatic the difference is but the Super 200 just feels strong all the way through the power band. It’s not as crazed as the turbo car but nor does it ever feel bogged down or unable to pull, whether that’s in-gear or after a quick downshift via the characteristically stubby and positive little gearshifter. From 4,000 to the 7,800rpm redline you’ve got plenty to play with though, the gearing and throttle response encouraging you to keep it fizzing in this zone flicking this way and that through the six-speed box. No hardship there.

On the flowing Northants B-roads between Brackley and Silverstone the Super 200 is in its element, added pace in the ‘making progress’ mould rather than neck snapping lit firework sense. Which is entirely appropriate for an MX-5 and feels a much more natural fit with the car’s character.

Has it kicked in?
If there’s any criticism it’s that it’s almost too slick and well resolved. If you are looking for a ‘just kicked in’ VTEC style kick or peakier hot cammed four-banger power delivery the linearity of the Super 200 is deceptive. There’s a hint of induction noise and the odd ‘thwap’ from the exhaust on redline upshifts but other than that you could be mistaken for thinking it’s just a standard car in very rude health.

Which is a solid starting point for those wanting to keep a stock feel. Not all of us are so mature though and Neil assures us that with the full exhaust system the car is a little more extrovert and entertaining, if a bit raucous for everyday use. Pays your money and all that. On that subject we’d also budget for the Koni kit on the basis that the car feels a lot more settled and predictable without the sense the good old Jinba Ittai feel has been dialled out in the name of increased cornering speed. It’s perhaps a little flexier and less pointy than a GT86/BRZ but it at least now has the firepower to keep up, with the added wind added attraction of putting the roof down if you’re that way inclined.

On the subject of spending you can, of course, add the Super 200 kit to any 2.0-litre NC MX-5, prices for which start at little over £5K in the classifieds. Investing a significant proportion of that sum over and again on a secondhand car will require the support of Man Maths Financial Services Ltd but whatever the price of the car you’re fitting it to the Super 200 kit presents an impressively sensible feeling way of making an MX-5 an even more entertaining prospect. Zoom and, indeed, zoom.

Engine: 1,999cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 204hp@7,450rpm (160@7,000rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 161@4,000rpm (139@5,000rpm)
0-62mph: 7.9 sec standard, no figure for Super 200 yet claimed
Top speed: 136mph standard, no figure for Super 200 yet claimed
Weight: 1,248kg (standard car)
MPG: 36.2mpg (standard, NEDC combined)
CO2: 181g/km (standard)
Price: Donor car plus £2,195 fitted or £1,695 DIY (As tested £26,883 based on a new MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Tech £23,095, Super 200 kit £2,195, Rota Blitz wheels £598* and BBR Koni suspension kit £995)

*Original tyres retained

Author: Dan Trent


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