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Take lots of pictures and push every button for those of us who can't make it. I'm too far away from all of their Free drive events.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
The event in Chandler, AZ was dead! I was expecting a long wait. There was no line at all, so I was in the new MX-5 in minutes. The event is divided into three tests -- braking, slalom, and track time.



Braking (2 runs)

You take the car up to about 80mph and then stomp on the brakes to bring the car to a full ABS stop. I was SO impressed by the strength of the MX-5's brakes. I'm sure much of their efficacy stems from the fact that the car is lightweight. The 124's brakes should be far above average if the MX-5 is any indication. However, most of us do not do full panic stops on the street, so I was not able to get much of an idea of the brake pedal feel under normal driving conditions.



Slalom (1 run, 2 runs if you don't hit any cones)

Accelerate as fast as you want so long as you don't knock down any cones through a short slalom course. It was fun to wring the MX-5 left and right and feel how nimble the chassis is. Here again you really appreciate the car's light weight.



Track (2 laps)

First, you choose your transmission. The previous events were automatic only. For the track event, you could choose a manual transmission car (the white MX-5) if you desired. I chose the manual.

This was the highlight of my day. With an instructor sitting beside you, you are unleashed around the track to go as fast as you want and get a feel for the car. Cones at each corner mark suggested braking points. Tearing up the track was a blast!

There is plenty of power, strong brakes, and the sensation of speed while the wind is rushing through your hair is fantastic.

The new MX-5 is a bundle of fun but the body roll is concerning. You can really feel the body tilt and wallow around bends. Mazda claims the body roll was intentional and connects the driver to the experience, but for me it robs confidence. I prefer my cars to feel flat, full of grip, begging me to push harder and test my limits. If the 124 feels like this, I will be looking toward the aftermarket for a stiffer suspension.

The electric steering rack is a good one, but the steering feel is not excellent. Frankly I felt the Audi A3 I drove the other day had more connected feeling steering. A Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ is FAR SUPERIOR here. Just about the only area I prefer the FR-S/BRZ.

The clutch had decent weight to it, and I found the biting point immediately. Zero learning curve for me, which was welcome. The gear change is not as refined as an Audi's though. Selecting gear is just not as smooth, and the whole gearknob area vibrates upon startup. The car clearly needs that extra level of refinement. It may not be as refined simply because refinement adds weight or cost. This makes me want to drive the 124 even more -- will Fiat's team use their extra development time to refine the car a bit more over the earlier-launched MX-5? Will the 124 have less body roll? A touch more steering feel?

Leaving the track, I was highly surprised to see a clean R34 GT-R driving around! I've heard they're somewhat common in Canada, but you NEVER see these in the US. Truly a unicorn moment for me.





are the interiors going to be shared between the two?
The pics in this thread show that it will be:
http://www.124spider.org/forum/13-2016-fiat-124-spider-photos/1570-here.html
 

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Awesome! Thanks for posting this. The GTRs are more common than unicorn in Canada, but they aren't everywhere by any means.

Did the whole event convince you of you r buying decision?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Awesome! Thanks for posting this. The GTRs are more common than unicorn in Canada, but they aren't everywhere by any means.

Did the whole event convince you of you r buying decision?
Now I'm especially eager to drive Fiat's creation and compare. I'm not sold yet.

So about how many people did turn up at the Mazda event??? 5 or 6? a couple dozen? 50 or more?
When I was there, about 10 people maybe?!? Seriously dead! Totally surprised.
 

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Now I'm especially eager to drive Fiat's creation and compare. I'm not sold yet.



When I was there, about 10 people maybe?!? Seriously dead! Totally surprised.
Uh-oh. That's a bad sign when a hot new convertible doesn't draw crowds for a free drive. I assume the weather wasn't too hot as Arizona goes: high 70s low 80s?

Really, free track time in a new car not being taken. Wish they had put Portland on their list, but they didn't!

The only good news I can think of is that prices will be dropping soon.
 
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