On The Road as 2021 Mazda MX-5 RF

By Peter Perrotta

It’s time for a bit of spring cleaning. That means starting off with a review of a roadster cabriolet: the 2021 Mazda MX-5 RF.

It also means cleaning out the old notebook and catching up with telling you about some cars I’ve driven but just haven’t had a chance to tell about yet until now – those will include the 2021 VW Passat and the 2021 Lexus IS 350.

The MX-5 model I drove was the RF, so it came with a retractable hard top. It is also available in a soft top.

Mazda is probably the most underrated Japanese importer. It’s not as big a company as Toyota or Honda, but it sure produces a good quality product.

Mazda has been making this rather small roadster for more than 30 years.

The cabin is a bit tight and there isn’t much cargo space, but that’s not what this car is all about. It’s not a family ride made for road trips. It’s more a Sunday “let’s take it for a nice ride in the country” type of car.

As a recreational, pleasure car it more than works.

It’s way fun to drive, is spunky and sticks to the road like glue in and out of any hairpin turn you might encounter out in the country.

The base price of my tester was $33,045. However, the bottom line sticker price came in at $39,155.

Additional options included: $4,670 option package that includes Brembo brakes with red calipers, black hard top retractable roof, side sill extensions, heated sport seats and 17-inch dark allow wheels.

The MX-5 was powered by a 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder engine that is coupled with a six-speed manual transmission.

This powerplant puts out 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm.

The RF model does 0 to 60 in a quick 5.8 seconds and is spunky enough to have fun with, but is not overly powerful.

The EPA fuel consumption rating on my tester car was 29 miles per gallon overall, 26 in city driving and 34 on the highway.

The EPA estimates its annual fuel cost at $1,700. This vehicle has not been crash test rated by the government yet.

There were not many changes on the 2021 model besides the fact that AppleCarPlay and Android Auto are now standard.

The editors at Car and Driver give the MX-5 an impressive 9 out of 10 score in its review.

I don’t think I would give this car that high of a mark, but it certainly warrants at least a 7 to 8 out of 10 score.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport

For 2021 the folks at Lexus freshened up the IS 350 interior and exterior styling and gave it some enhanced driving dynamics, improved driver assistance features and updated the infotainment system.

I drove the V-6 equipped F Sport version of the IS 350 for one week.

The 3.5 liter V-6 engine in the F Sport gives this vehicle a very muscular feel to it as it puts out an impressive 311 horsepower at 6,600 rpm. This engine is paired with a very smooth  8-speed transmission.

The F Sport version of the IS 350 brings numerous performance upgrades including a limited slip rear differential, staggered 19 inch wheels and an optional adaptive suspension.

This F Sport version clocks 0 to 60 in a very impressive 5.6 seconds.

I found the IS 350 F Sport a pure pleasure to drive. It’s comfortable, yet sporty, sticks to the road in all kinds of road situations, and is fast.

Rear seat space is a bit limiting in this sedan, but upfront it is plenty roomy and the ergonomics inside are luxurious.

The base IS 350 carries a base sticker price of $42,900.

However, my F Sport tested carries a much more hefty bottom line sticker price of $55,050.

Added options included $4,200 for the F Sport package; $2,750 for the navigation package with the upgraded Mark Levinson audio system; $1,100 for a power moon roof; $1,250 for triple beam headlamps; and $1,400 for parking assist package.

The EPA fuel consumption ratings come in at 23 miles per gallon overall – 28 on the highway and 23 in city driving. The annual fuel costs are estimated at $2,100.

Overall, this is a good quality vehicle – as most Lexuses are – that is sporty and classy at the same time and a ton of fun to drive.

2021 VW Passat 2.0T SE

Volkswagen is one of the leading sellers of automobiles in the world and the Passat has been a staple in its offered lineup of cars for decades now.

I think the folks at Car and Driver said it best about the Passat in its review of the 2021 Passat: “straightforward family transportation that delivers exactly what’s needed and nothing more.”

I would put it more like this: If you are looking for a picture and definition of a pure, basic car, the Passat is it. It checks all the right boxes in being a very typical affordable sedan, but it simply won’t overwhelm you in any one of those boxes you need to check off.

The tester I drove for one week was the 2.0 Liter turbo powered version SE. It has a base sticker price of $26,995 and a bottom line sticker price of $27,990.

This Passat gets an impressive average EPA miles per gallon rating of 28 – 36 in highway driving and 24 around town.

The EPA estimates it will cost the average consumer about $1,450 per year in fuel costs.

This is a spartan, yet solid small-sized front-wheel drive sedan.

The 2.0 liter turbo engine puts out 174 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, so it has plenty of pep to get you around town in.

Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears every other week. He can be contacted at pperrotta@comcast.net.

On The Road is sponsored by Capital Motor Cars of Springfield, N.J.



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