So the plan was for us to take the Triumph Sprint GT for a two-up trip to the Alps with a couple of our friends this summer. But for various work-related reasons, that all fell through which just left Alison and me going alone. I found a lovely-looking hotel in Gstaad that looked the part, booked it and asked them to reserve a place for the bike in their garage.

And then Alison said, “Why don’t we take the MX-5? We could then even chat whilst we’re driving!” And so we changed plans and booked a Eurotunnel fare that was “Flexiplus” coming back for the MX-5. We’d have packed the Sprint’s top box and panniers relatively lightly, but the MX-5’s boot space gave us a little more space to play with; this is our luggage for a week away, comprising two holdalls, one wheeled bag and two running rucksacks with our running gear in:

Gstaad Luggage

Gstaad Luggage

London to Gstaad is quite a schlep so I found somewhere near Dijon to stay on the way down and the way back and booked those too and on the appointed day off we went with the roof up as it was an ‘oh-dark-hundred’ start.  Once we got to Folkestone, the roof came down and for the rest of the day’s drive it stayed down until we got to Gevrey-Chambertain and the Hotel Arts et Terroirs.  The hotel was quaint and comfortable but didn’t serve Dinner on a Sunday, so we walked into the town centre for a lovely meal at Chez Guy.

Monday morning after a lovely breakfast, we packed and set off towards Gstaad, making full use of the Sanef Tolling “Liber-t” tag e’d ordered in the UK and which allowed us to approach some péage toll booths at up to 30kph (the rest having to slow right down) and just drive through with no need to collect tickets or fumble for cards or cash.  Use this link to receive €5 off yours!

On arrival at the Hotel Gstaaderhof we drove into their underground car park and made our way to our lovely room with a hell of a view!

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Tuesday saw us heading up the other side of the valley for a BBQ lunch laid on for us by the hotel which was a lovely gesture, followed by a rest day wandering around Gstaad. The plan was to go for a run in the late afternoon – I’d plotted out a couple of routes before we left – but a thunderstorm put paid to that.

Wednesday’s afternoon weather forecast was looking a little dodgy so after breakfast we borrowed a couple of mountain bikes from the hotel – at no charge! – and headed off for a shortish 20km ride:

Great fun!

Thursday was to be our drive up into the Alps with a plan to drive for a couple of hours to Innertkirchen and then start a figure of eight drive through the Five Passes. We hadn’t really left enough time for this and by the time we’d been stuck in some roadworks leading towards one of them, we decided that time wasn’t on our side, so we made do with just the Susken Pass, Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass.  Great fun, although the smell from the MX-5’s brakes showed we’d been pushing it quite hard…

Wave!

Wave!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Twisties

Twisties

Friday was another rest day. Well … if you count riding 42½km on mountain bikes as rest! But the day started with an invitation up to the top of the Höhi Wispile for breakfast cooked by our hotel’s owners. Fabulous views and a lovely breakfast.

Cheese!

Cheese!

Berghaus Wispile

Berghaus Wispile

After breakfast, we walked back to the hotel, changed and then hired mountain bikes from the hotel. We ended up doing some laps of Gstaad and out towards Saanen, stopping on each lap for a drink and a rest at one of the town’s restaurants. Sadly my Garmin fenix 3 has a habit of resetting itself when it’s paused for longer than 25 minutes (originally 5 minutes) and that’s just about as long as it takes to lock up a bike, find a table, order and drink a coke, a water and an espresso and then get the bill. So this ride got logged as four separate rides:

Saturday and we headed away from Gstaad. We’d decided to change our plans and rather than returning via Gevrey-Chambertain as originally booked, we’d earlier cancelled the booking and instead decided to go home via Strasbourg and the rather nice Château de l’Ile & Spa which had a pool. Very useful as temperatures had hit 33°C on the autobahns in Germany (where the MX-5 had hit 125mph and rising (with the roof down) before traffic built up and slowed us down).

 

First Beer of the Day

First Beer of the Day

After breakfast on the Sunday, we headed off for Calais and the Eurotunnel, still with the roof down. We almost managed a full continental trip with the roof down until an hour or so off our destination there was a torrential downpour. In the MX-5 we can keep above 80mph in rain and only get flicked with drops off the side window, but this rain was so heavy we couldn’t see far enough ahead to keep speed up and once we’d backed off sufficiently to be safe, we were getting very wet! Still, after half an hour or so, the sky lightened up and we dropped the roof for our return into Calais.

Having paid extra for Flexiplus, we were relatively quick through Border Agency and onto the next train, so well worth the extra money.

So, how did we fair? The MX-5 was lovely but – even with our 2.0 litre engine – it could have down with a little more oomph and possibly more fanfare? Ours puts out 160hp but that’s less than my RX-8 R3 at 230hp. The RX-8 has roughly the same power to  weight ratio as the new 170hp Abarth 124 Spider which is based on the Fiat 124 Spider which is in turn based on the Mazda MX-5…

So that got me thinking: I’d loved the open-top motoring of the MX-5 but wanted more pace and noise and we’d managed quite well with the limited luggage space in the MX-5, so as my RX-8 R3 is getting long in the tooth – 87,000 miles and 6½ years old – maybe it’s time to make the switch? So I’ve placed an order for one subject to a test drive on Sunday at Silverstone race circuit. Maybe next year, we’ll take the Abarth to the Pyrenees?

So the other night Mazda unveiled its new MX-5 RF at the 2016 New York Motor Show.

3Mazda_MX-5RF_showmodel_Side_open_white-1140x400

Wow! I love the look of this. And it actually looks great with the roof up as well.

MX-5-RF-GIF

So, a two seater fastback that looks great but this one looks like a Targa top as well. So do we trade-in the MX5 Sport Venture later this year when this RF becomes available or do we trade in the RX-8 R3 on the basis that the RX-Vision may not be released for a while yet, and then only as a two-seater?

Finally, the weather was good enough and we weren’t too busy to do the promised photoshoot with Ali and her MX5 last weekend.

We went for a fashion theme, rather than lingerie or nudes and as our orders of latex dresses hadn’t arrived, we went for the little black dress with some killer Christian Louboutin heels and set the whole ensemble to a Black Widow/Merry Widow theme:

The Merry Widow

The Merry Widow

Intent

Intent

Ali and Her MX5

Ali and Her MX5

Ali and Her MX5

Ali and Her MX5

The full story is over here on my photography website.

On Good Friday, we finally got a chance to take the MX-5 for a proper drive, having collected it on a rainy Sunday before heading off on holiday.

I had arranged a studio photoshoot with Zara Watson up at Milton Keynes and Ali was going to be joining in for part of the shoot.

A to Z

A to Z

This meant that we had to keep the roof up on our drive up to MK, sadly, so as not to potentially leave her hair in a mess. This did show that even at speed on a motorway with the roof up, the car was actually fairly quiet inside.

Our journey back home – via Thurrock Lakeside for shopping – was another story though: having worked out that you can’t lower the roof is the boot is not closed whilst loading my camera kit and Ali’s modelling gear, we dropped the top, turned on the super-efficient heated seats and hurtled off.

I can report that the MX-5 handles superbly on the MK race circuit – er, I mean roundabouts and roads – and that again at speed with the roof and windows down it’s still very acceptable in terms of noise and a lack of turbulence.

After shopping and dinner and despite it getting dark, we dropped the top to drive back up to London. As Ali had been forced to drink wine, she still didn’t get a chance to drive her car either. Result!

Whilst the weather last week was lovely and Spring-like, we couldn’t go and collect it on a nice, dry and bright Saturday as I was moving house. No, we went to pick up the MX-5 on the Sunday, my birthday, as it happens.

But it was a little soggy when we woke up and grabbed a bus, the London Overground and a train to get to Eden Park and walk down to the dealers, Masters.

As we walked into the showroom, there it was – it’s a ‘she’ apparently… – sitting there in the showroom looking lovely.

We did the paperwork, handed over some more cash and off I drove into the traffic: Ali isn’t used to London driving yet, so I got to drive the new MX-5 home. Sadly, it wasn’t dry enough to put the hood down: instead, we got to try out the exceptional 5-point heated leather seats which were very efficient indeed!

I plugged the house address into the built-in satnav and off we drove. A lovely car it is to drive too! Once home, we put the hood down and set to work pairing our iPhones with it: the MX-5 has a feature where it stores multiple user profiles so my phonebook and phone are set for one user and Ali’s for another.

But rain stopped play with our intended photoshoot which will have to wait until we’re back from our holiday.

I was just saying to Ali that the dealer – Masters Mazda – had been a bit quiet about a delivery update for the MX-5.

But on Friday, the telephone call from out of the blue was that it had physically arrived at their compound! Yay!

On Saturday after shooting a music video, we popped in to drop off the signed Certificate of Entitlement for the personal plate on our way down to Somerset so we’re good to go for next weekend, hopefully 🙂

When Ali Brooks moves in with me, she’ll need a car to go back and forth to Somerset to see family. She was going to bring hers up to London, but her ex needs transport too, he’s going to keep the car and so Ali will need to get herself sorted.

My RX-8 R3 is hideously expensive to run, so it makes sense on longer trips for me to use less fuel for the same speed/distance as well.

Having already spent a day thrashing an MX-5 around Brands Hatch a couple of years ago, I already had a soft spot for the model.

So that’s what we used as an excuse this weekend when we rode out to Masters Mazda at Beckenham to test drive an MX-5.  It turned out that they had the precise model we were after – a Deep Crystal Blue 2.0 litre MX-5 Sport Venture  in the Roadster model (a retractable hard-top) – ready for us. Ali wasn’t keen on driving an unfamiliar car in front of someone else, so the sales guy drove her for a spin which she loved. I declined the offer of a test drive (knowing what it was like anyway) and as Ali loved the car, we went inside and did a deal for one. After I’d paid the deposit to secure a new one, we were allowed to take the car out ourselves: me first and then Ali brought it back in.

We both loved the immediate response from the 2.0 litre engine as well as how quiet the car is with the roof and windows down, so we were chuffed with our choice.

It’s coming in April and will have a personal ‘plate on it: AL1 4 MXS 🙂

Demo Sport Venture