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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My local dealer in Northern NJ finally received manual transmission Spiders this week. Got a chance to drive both an Abarth and Lusso back to back. Both were essentially base in their trim levels. I forgot to check out the multiple drive modes in the Abarth, so I assume I was not in sport mode.

Both were fun to drive, peppy and handed very well with little body roll. Turbo lag was not an issue from my perspective. Any that was there was barely noticeable in my slightly aggressive / normal test drives. (Perhaps if I had mashed the gas in a high gear at low RPM, but why do that in a manual when you can simply downshift.)

I’m 6’ tall and was able to fit and find an acceptable driving position. I wouldn’t say perfect but good enough. I estimate I had about 1 ½ to 2 inches of head clearance with the roof up. I did not have any trouble accidently bumping the center control knob when shifting as I saw some had with the Mazda MX-5.

The Abarth of course had a tighter feel but not overly so as to be harsh. I believe the slightly additional horsepower may have also added to this experience. On some roads I did feel a slight vibration in the seat likely attributable to the tighter suspension, which might become annoying on longer trips. The Lusso was also tight but more absorbent and did not transmit any such vibration.

I actually found the seat in the Abarth to be more comfortable. The sides of the all leather seat in the Lusso dug a bit into to my back, as though the seat were a bit too narrow. I am not a wide person so that was a bit of a surprise. Did not get that sensation in the Abarth, perhaps because the combo materials have more “give”.

I was fine with the exhaust note in both trims. The Abarth was of course louder but not as throaty as I thought it would be. This is actually a plus for me as a loud throaty exhaust would likely annoy over time, but hardcore Abarth fans may be wanting more.

I’m not buying yet, but if I were I’m not yet sure which trim level I would prefer. I guess it would come down to whether I could live with the occasional slight vibration in the Abarth, or the seat in the Lusso – or if any of these situations would be more likely to dissipate over time.
 

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On some roads I did feel a slight vibration in the seat likely attributable to the tighter suspension, which might become annoying on longer trips. The Lusso was also tight but more absorbent and did not transmit any such vibration.
Please explain this vibration more specifically. What kind of vibration? Was it nowhere but in the seat? Was it a noisy vibration like a rattle, or could it just be felt in your body? Was it harmonic maybe, like tires on a rough road surface? What kind of road surfaces and speeds affected it? If it was only slight, why would it become annoying?

I'm curious, because I've been focused on the 124 Abarth for my next car, but your vibration experience is causing me to get discouraged. My current car has all sorts of vibrations and rattles. I wish a local dealer here had 124 Abarths already.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It was not a rattle at all and did seem harmonic. I felt it more in my body. I honestly do not recall what type of road surface or speed. I just remembered feeling it at one point. I am coming from an Infiniti G35 so you may not have even noticed it or care. I would not get discouraged. And it could have been a fluke. Sometimes happens with new models. Curious if you feel anything when you get to try.
 

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I'm expecting the Abarth to have a somewhat firmer ride than the Classica and Lusso. I test drove the latter two recently, and they didn't seem less comfortable than my former Corvette and 350z. I recently encountered a woman in a parking lot who was driving a 2015 Miata Club. Although she loved the car in many ways, she had buyer's remorse about the harsh ride. I'm really hoping that the Abarth hasn't been stiffened excessively. A test drive will tell, if they EVER arrive in Califonia, lol.

I am also curious about the vibration you are reporting. Also, I wonder what kind of difference there in ride stiffness between Sport Mode and Default.
 

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I'm expecting the Abarth to have a somewhat firmer ride than the Classica and Lusso. I test drove the latter two recently, and they didn't seem less comfortable than my former Corvette and 350z. I recently encountered a woman in a parking lot who was driving a 2015 Miata Club. Although she loved the car in many ways, she had buyer's remorse about the harsh ride. I'm really hoping that the Abarth hasn't been stiffened excessively. A test drive will tell, if they EVER arrive in Califonia, lol.

I am also curious about the vibration you are reporting. Also, I wonder what kind of difference there in ride stiffness between Sport Mode and Default.
While my Lusso has a rattle and squeak free ride, there is not way around the effect of the short wheel base and firm suspension combination. On washboard roads and rough surfaces, I feel it in my body, but the car is rock solid. And that is the problem. A rock solid suspension transmits the vibration directly to you, not absorbing much itself.

The Spider is not a Rolls, and you can't expect it to ride like one. What you should expect is for the Spider to keep itself together, without rattles and squeaks. And that's what I am getting for over 2500 miles.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I recently encountered a woman in a parking lot who was driving a 2015 Miata Club. Although she loved the car in many ways, she had buyer's remorse about the harsh ride. I'm really hoping that the Abarth hasn't been stiffened excessively.
I tested a Miata Club over a month ago and my recollection was that a bit over stiff too. I did not feel that way in the Abarth. Of course a back to back ride would confirm, but that is my recollection.
 

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You said both the Abarth and Lusso you drove were base models. Did you have an opportunity to "test sit" an Abarth with leather seats?
 

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Whew – based on the clarification, I doubt the vibration is of any concern. I like a car that feels organic, but not rough. My second Miata had slight-but-good vibrations from the longitudinal orientation of the engine, as well as through the gearshift, and a nearly imperceptible amount of nostalgic cowl shake. Those are all sensations that contribute to glorious top-down driving.

Sometimes however, new car vibrations are caused by nothing but high tire pressures that the dealer/port forgot to adjust (lower) after the car came off the ship.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
You said both the Abarth and Lusso you drove were base models. Did you have an opportunity to "test sit" an Abarth with leather seats?
Unfortunately no - both Abarths they had have the combo leather/microfiber. I am also curious if the Abarth leather or Alcantara seats have the same effect on me as the Lusso leather seats.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Tried the Miata GT MT too

I drove the Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring trim again today (also MT) for a closer in time comparison to the 124s I drove earlier. Different roads and still separated by a couple weeks so not a true back-to-back.

To me, the Mazda MX-5 GT ride was more comparable to the 124 Abarth than the Lusso. Expected I suppose due to the softer tuning in the 124s. No occasional harmonic vibrations in my body as noted earlier from my Abarth ride, but I believe the stick shift itself vibrated more. No seat issues as noted from my Lusso ride.

Missed the 124 backup camera when backing up to re-park the car in the dealer lot with the top up. (Backup camera not an option on the Miata.)

I believe there was more engine noise in the cabin with the roof up on the highway then either of the 124s. Since I believe they all share the insulated top, this may be due to other insulation differences, different engines, etc. The Mazda engine seemed more raucous.

Did not detect a measurable difference in body roll as noted in many critic reviews, perhaps because I was not driving aggressive enough.

Noted of course the more linear power curve of the natural 2.0, but to me just a difference rather than a strong preference. I might prefer the fun of the turbo boost.

Also noted the differences in design/style. As critics note, the 124s do seem a bit more mature, but likely just everyone's personal preference.

To me these are both fun cars and it comes down to whether one has a strong preference for the differences one model offers over the other. I'm currently leaning toward the 124, but also want to try the RF (retractable hardtop Miata) due out early next year.
 

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There is a factory backup camera for the Miata, There's a little dimple cutout above the license plate where it mounts and it wires directly into the infotainment screen. The box says "Genuine Mazda Part", but I think you have to order it from Japan or a 3rd party vendor. I've got the part number somewhere.
 

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I drove the Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring trim again today (also MT) for a closer in time comparison to the 124s I drove earlier. Different roads and still separated by a couple weeks so not a true back-to-back.

To me, the Mazda MX-5 GT ride was more comparable to the 124 Abarth than the Lusso. Expected I suppose due to the softer tuning in the 124s. No occasional harmonic vibrations in my body as noted earlier from my Abarth ride, but I believe the stick shift itself vibrated more. No seat issues as noted from my Lusso ride.

Missed the 124 backup camera when backing up to re-park the car in the dealer lot with the top up. (Backup camera not an option on the Miata.)

I believe there was more engine noise in the cabin with the roof up on the highway then either of the 124s. Since I believe they all share the insulated top, this may be due to other insulation differences, different engines, etc. The Mazda engine seemed more raucous.

Did not detect a measurable difference in body roll as noted in many critic reviews, perhaps because I was not driving aggressive enough.

Noted of course the more linear power curve of the natural 2.0, but to me just a difference rather than a strong preference. I might prefer the fun of the turbo boost.

Also noted the differences in design/style. As critics note, the 124s do seem a bit more mature, but likely just everyone's personal preference.

To me these are both fun cars and it comes down to whether one has a strong preference for the differences one model offers over the other. I'm currently leaning toward the 124, but also want to try the RF (retractable hardtop Miata) due out early next year.
I also drove a manual Miata GT as a comparison, and my feelings were the same as yours. The Miata felt like it wasn't quite finished, like it could have used some more development time for tuning and refining. Fiat used sound insulating glass in the windshield and more deadening in the roof, so it is indeed quieter than the Mazda.

Fiat seems to have supplied that additional time and massaging the Miata needed in creating the 124. It's just a notch better in ride, handling, and overall experience.
 

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Fiat used sound insulating glass in the windshield and more deadening in the roof, so it is indeed quieter than the Mazda.
A couple of clarifications: The 124 has thicker windshield AND rear window glass; the top insulation on ALL 124 trim levels is equivalent to the Miata GT (only) trim level; and the 124 has additional cabin insulation at the firewall, wheel wells, tunnel, and floor. A smart move by FIAT, since one of the major complaints of the Miata is cabin noise, which resulted from Mazda's too-severe weight reduction effort.
 

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There is a factory backup camera for the Miata, There's a little dimple cutout above the license plate where it mounts and it wires directly into the infotainment screen. The box says "Genuine Mazda Part", but I think you have to order it from Japan or a 3rd party vendor. I've got the part number somewhere.
I've got a UK Anniversary edition which does not have the camera. I've asked the dealer to check about retrofitting one, but no response yet. The Mazda part would probably do the job so I'd be interested to know the part number if you can find it?
 

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The part number for the Mazda camera is ndn1-v7-532. There are pictures at http://www.thephotobooth.net/Backup-Camera-Install/n-vkRtmG/ of it being installed. It does not look like a fun job. I have seen some posts that say in some models the wiring harness is already in place so that would make the job much easier. It can be ordered from rev9 at http://rev9autosport.com/mazda-backup-camera.html or rakuten at http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/auc-hyogoparts/item/ndn1v7532/. I have not used rev9 before, but have used Rakuten for computer stuff.
 

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I have test driven a Club Miata with the Brembos/BBS/Recaro package as well as the Lusso manual and Abarth automatic (the latter very briefly) and am also undecided about the choice of transmission if I go with a 124. There is no way I would want to drive an auto without paddle shifters though – it seems crazy that Fiat did not equip at least the Lusso with these.

Comparing the Abarth with the Club – the former seemed more stolid, and felt less on its toes and a bit heavier, but the ride was less fatiguing as the Club is not very compliant. Its acceleration in the midrange felt more ferocious as well, lots of fun, even when not in Sport mode {which lowers the torque maximum by 700 rpm). And the Lusso I drove at 130 kph had far less wind noise in the cabin than the Club at the same speed – I would have to drive the latter with earplugs but not the former.

The Club does urge you to dance more though. I can’t remember much about the engine sound in the Abarth at this point but the Lusso I drove on the same day as the Club sounded better to me.

I did not remember about the Sport switch until the last minute or so of my Abarth drive so my test of it was minimal but it did not seem to make a huge difference in steering stiffness or throttle sensitivity – 20% at most.

Going to test out an Abarth manual next week (bad weather for the next few days here). Both the Club and the Lusso had OK clutches but the bitepoint takeups are rather abrupt so I found them hard to shift smoothly. The Club manual transmission feels incredible when shifting, perfect. Will have to compare the Abarth’s carefully. (What was Fiat thinking with that stupid square shift knob? Hopefully that can be replaced.)
 

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Devon - good analysis of the options. I haven't driven the Abarth because the Lusso had everything else I wanted and to accommodate my wife had to have an auto. The paddle shifters weren't that important to me because I'd gotten used to the sport manual shifting in my Bimmer and the Fiat works pretty much the same way. Wondering if you tried the auto with the shifter slid over into the manual position. Some folks think the up and down shifting is backwards but, again, same as the Germans so I find it very intuitive. On those curvy back roads of Louisiana its a blast from my perspective. Anyway, if you haven't you might like that.
 
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