In Wheel Time

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF 'drive for good' with wind in your hair

Want to get away? This is your car. In Wheel Time

Already very familiar with the MX-5 two-seat sports car soft-top model, we recently had a chance to spend a week in the new 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF, equipped with the new retractable hard convertible top. The RF joins the MX-5 soft top version for 2017 — both offering a lighter and more nimble Mazda interpretation of their classic open-top drive experience — reasonably priced and fun-to-drive vehicle that is sure to please nearly everyone in search of "wind in the hair" driving adventure.  

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

Our test MX-5 RF was the Grand Touring trim level with the exclusive machine gray exterior and a black/gray interior with red accent stitching, piano black trim and carbon fiber accents.  

There are a many road trips worth of reasons to like the new rear-wheel-drive Miata RF, including its slightly lower and sleeker fastback silhouette, the iconic Boxer four-cylinder engine producing 155 horsepower with 148 lb.-ft. of torque, and the very slick and quick six-speed short-throw manual transmission that very effectively puts the power to the road. Running on 17-inch dark silver alloy wheels mounted with Bridgestone 205/45 R17 high performance tires, the manual gear box gets fuel economy of 33 mpg highway. (The available six-speed automatic is rated at 35 mpg highway.)

The key feature of the RF is the "one touch" — exceptionally fast — retractable hardtop that stows in just 13 seconds, enabling quick open-top getaways. Other attributes of note include LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED taillights; standard Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio; BOSE audio system with ine speakers (including in the headrests); Mazda Connect infotainment with navigation and satellite radio; and a 7-inch color touch screen. Seating is sport type with durable cloth cover, contrasting accent stitching and three-level heating.

Underneath, the MX-5 RF features a double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension with monotube gas shocks, stabilizer bars and uses double pinion electric power-assisted steering and equipped with stability and traction control. Brakes are 11-inch vented disc-single piston caliper front and 11-inch solid disc-single piston aluminum calipers rear.

Mazda is known for its safety features, and the MX-5 RF Grand Touring has got them, including Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Front Lighting with High Beam Control and Rain Sensing Wipers.

Our test 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring — delivered — had a sticker price of $33,885.

A test Drive for Good extra

As part of our test drive arrangement with Mazda, they granted us the privilege of participating in their industry-leading Drive for Good charitable giving program by giving us a “giving card” that we could use to make a donation to a 501(c)3 charitable organization of our choice.  

We selected the Air Warrior Courage Foundation — a 501(c)3 we work with through the Lake Travis Christmas Hope organization. Our charity provides direct financial assistance (not available from the government) to wounded warrior families going through rehabilitation at the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC).

The Drive for Good program

Back in 2012, Mazda decided that — instead of the usual end of year holiday sales event promotion — to offer an opportunity for consumers to test drive a Mazda vehicle with Mazda making a service donation to charity as a result. Further, if one purchased a Mazda vehicle during the event, Mazda would make a $150 donation to a selected charity as directed by the customer.   

It was so successful that Mazda expanded the program to year-round and continues it today, doing good across the United States through millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours going to worthy causes.  

Mazda announced it would be donating over $5.4 million to select charities across the United States in 2017 — money raised during their 2016 Mazda Drive for Good event.

Since the program began in 2013, Mazda has donated more than $18.4 million and delivered over 263,000 hours of service to selected charities.

Mazda’s national charity partners include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Red Cross, American Heart Association and the Mazda Foundation.

Thanks Mazda, for the test drive of the new MX-5 RF — it was a blast even without much hair for the wind to blow on my "vintage" head.  

And a big thank you from the families of our wounded warriors in rehabilitation at SAMMC who are working every day to get back to a new normal life.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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