Degrees of difficulty

Does stepping up to a GT raise the temperature?

GLENN BUTLER

OurGarage

FOR the second half of the MX-5ís six-month stay in our garage Iíve moved from a 1.5-litre manual base model to the top-spec 2.0-litre GT auto. Thatís a step up in many areas, and a step down in a couple as well, surprisingly.

I thought having extended exposure to both drivetrains would help me choose a favourite, but four weeks into big-bore heaven and Iím even more confused.

Part of this is the fault of the automatic transmission. This six-speed Aisin unit makes day-to-day driving easier, no question, and itís a smooth, competent cog-swapper. But it doesnít suit the intent or character of this car, even with paddles to manually manipulate.

The MX-5 is a driverís car, and paying an extra $2000 to be less involved doesnít gel with the puristís perspective.

I can see why some might consider $2K a fair tariff to free up your left arm and leg, but I never found using the manual to be tiring, even in peak-hour traffic. And thatís on top of having to row it more enthusiastically to make the most of the 1.5ís torque deficit. So for me itís a step backwards. Itís also detrimental to the MX-5ís mechanical soundtrack, although to be fair, even with a manual gearbox the 2.0-litre doesnít sound as zippy as the little 1.5.

Will I change my mind when we tackle a Sunday drive together? I was totally convinced by the 911 GT3 RSís paddle-shifting ways, but then in that car a driver needs all attention on the rapidly approaching horizon. The MX-5ís fun happens at a slower, more easily digestible pace. And while my top-spec test car is a claimed 48 kegs heavier than the base manual, I suspect the 2.0-litreís extra power and torque (up 23 and 33 percent respectively) will easily overcome that five percent weight handicap.

And slightly bigger brakes and tyres will also help in that regard. But by opting for the auto, I lose the manualís limited slip diffÖ hmmÖ But thatís for next month.

Now, what about the bells and whistles that additional $9560 has bought me? Putting all the mechanical differences aside, the step up from 2.0-litre Roadster to 2.0 Roadster GT is actually $5060, which is partly justified by the more upmarket infotainment and sat-nav system (see breakout).

The added seat heaters in the meantime are making Melbourneís single-digit winter mornings much more tolerable.

But no amount of investigative spirit will make me go topless on those mornings; Iím hoarding every degree I can get.

MAZDA MX-5 2.0 ROADSTER GT

Date acquired: May 2016 Price as tested: $41,710 This month: 1116km @ 8.2L/100km Overall: 1116km @ 8.2L/100km

Equipment upgrade a mixed bag

There are two MX-5 equipment levels: Roadster and Roadster GT.

The GTís infotainment screen is a boon, and is generally easy to use Ė although it insists on sucking in my smartphoneís contact list every time (is 853 names too many for it to remember?). The beefier Bose sound system is well worth having, as is climate control. As for functions like auto headlights and wipers, autodimming mirror and heated wing mirrors, theyíre nice to have but werenít conspicuous by their absence on the cheaper model.