Mazda’s MX-5 Miata roadster has never been a car consumed with power. In fact, its distinct lack of horsepower is part of its back-to-basics sports-car appeal. The current-generation Miata actually has less output—just 155 ponies!—than the car it replaced. But Road & Track has uncovered evidence that that could soon change.
In an annual VIN notice sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Mazda lists the 2019-model-year MX-5 Miata’s engine as a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 181 horsepower, 26 more than it has now and the most ever from a factory Miata. (The second-generation Miata’s turbocharged Mazdaspeed variant only made 178 horsepower.) How Mazda reaches that number (assuming the NHTSA filing is accurate) is the million-dollar question.
The NHTSA document does not specify whether the 2.0-liter engine in question is an evolution of the same Skyactiv-G unit currently in the Miata or something else, like, say, the brand’s forthcoming high-tech gas-fed supercharged, compression-ignition-capable Skyactiv-X engine. The X is slated to appear sometime in the next year or two in the next-generation Mazda 3 compact, and its preliminary output figure roughly matches the 181-hp number listed for the 2019 Miata.
On the other hand, the Skyactiv-G is sticking around throughout the Mazda lineup for the foreseeable future as the entry-level offering positioned beneath the Skyactiv-X. And Mazda has told us it will continue to develop the G going forward. As such, a 26-hp bump isn’t out of the question, assuming the G would be given better intake and exhaust plumbing and tweaks to engine internals to raise its 6800-rpm redline by a few hundred revolutions per minute. (Horsepower being calculated as a function of engine speeds and torque generally means that the faster an engine spins, the more power it’ll make.) The Skyactiv-G engine already boasts an incredibly high 13:1 compression ratio and runs on premium gasoline.
Maybe Mazda will employ a small supercharger like that fitted to the Skyactiv-X engine, or a similarly compact turbocharger, although neither is mentioned in the NHTSA filing. What is certain is that if the Miata is a blast with 155 horsepower (and also surprisingly quick, thanks to its light weight), it’ll be a full-on, Molotov-cocktail-chucking riot with 181 ponies under the hood.
Mazda’s document filing also reveals changes in store for the Miata’s trim-level structure. Look for the lineup to grow from Sport, Club, and Grand Touring trims (the latter two the only choices for today’s hardtop Miata RF) to include a base SV spec and a new range-topping SE (special edition in Mazda-speak)—with the RF now matching the softtop roadster trim for trim. More power and more choices? We can’t wait for 2019.