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Who wants a 220bhp MX-5?
BBR gets the spanners out for Mazda's finest. But is 220bhp the right amount of power in an MX-5?
Is there such a thing as the right amount of power? Well obviously, yes.
The problem is that if you asked five strangers what the right amount of power is, four of them would have different answers. The fifth would spray you with mace. It’s just that kind of hypothetical.
The people who work in tuning houses tend to feel that the right amount of power is about 25 per cent more than any given manufacturer is willing to put in their cars. So if BMW says 335bhp, Das Tuning Haus will bump that up to about 420. If Renault says 250bhp, Le Voiture Rapide says 315 is just about right.
When it comes to Mazda MX-5s and the 25 per cent rule, it’s time for the team at BBR to savour the Northamptonshire ‘sunshine’, put on a strong cuppa and figure out a way to ramp 180bhp up to 220. And, knock us down with an eiderdown, they’ve gone and done just that.
“But,” you might be thinking, “Mazdas don’t have turbos, which means that BBR can’t just turn the ECU to 11 and call it good.” And you’d be right, you clever sausage – this is proper old-school tuning, favoured by men with goatees and sheds, and stacks of Haynes manuals by the door of the khazi.
We’re talking new camshafts and valve springs, as well as a cold air intake, stainless steel exhaust and high-flow air filter. There is a bit of ECU fiddling to make sure the 2.0-litre lump can make the most of its new performance parts, then hey, presto – 220bhp. Or, to put it in BBR’s nomenclature, the right amount of power.
It’s also 110bhp per litre from a naturally aspirated and mostly stock engine. For a little bit of context, the Lamborghini Aventador SV has 113bhp per litre. So they’re not doing too badly over in Brackley. Or in Hiroshima, for that matter.
If you’re uneasy at the concept of rummaging around in the guts of your engine, BBR will do you a halfway-house version. You’ll keep the bolt-on bits, but your valves and camshaft remain as Mazda envisaged. BBR says that regardless of your choice, low-down shove and top-end power is improved over stock, which makes it “more user-friendly”. Having had quite a bit of time in a two-litre MX-5, we’re pretty sure the only way it could become any more user-friendly is if it offered to pick up some milk on its way home.
Nevertheless, this has us wondering: what’s the right amount of power in an MX-5? And could it be 220bhp?