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The 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF "retractable fastback" brings the option of hardtop refinement and security to the MX-5 roadster (click the arrow, above right, for more images).

New York auto show 2016: Mazda reveals retractable-hardtop MX-5 RF

Moving quickly to expand the appeal of the all-new, fourth-generation MX-5 Miata roadster introduced last year, Mazda revealed prior to the 2016 New York auto show a folding hardtop version of the car called MX-5 RF, for “retractable fastback.”

Mazda invokes the “fastback” descriptor because, unlike the prior-generation MX-5’s power retractable hardtop (PHRT) that folded the entire roof assembly in a storage area behind the seats, the 2017 MX-5 RF effectively is more of a “targa” design: only the roof’s center section and the rear glass are removed, leaving buttresses on either side. When the roof-retraction process begins (no exact figure yet from Mazda regarding how long it takes), the one-piece side-buttress section briefly unlatches to release the retractable roof section—but then somewhat disappointingly reattaches instead of disappearing. Video of the MX-5 RF roof action can be seen here.

The company did say the roof achieves “one of the fastest opening/closing times of any retractable hardtop.” A see-through acrylic wind deflector can be erected in place of the retracted rear glass to ease wind turbulence behind the occupants.

Mazda said the roof section can be retracted at speeds up to 6 mph (10 km/h), but also has yet to detail how much weight the folding-hardtop hardware adds. The new hardtop does add 0.2 in (5 mm) in height compared with the standard MX-5 roadster. The roadster’s trunk capacity of 4.6 ft3 is not reduced by the new folding-top hardware.

And perhaps in acknowledgement of the roadster’s often heightened top-up interior noise levels, the new MX-5RF’s roof panels have sound-attenuation insulation and engineers are said to have added extra sound-deadening measures around the rear wheelwell area. The suspension and electric power-steering have been slightly retuned for the MX-5 RF.

Mazda also said the 2017 MX-5 RF, which goes on sale later in 2016, continues for the U.S. market with a 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The MX-5 RF will offer an exclusive new color, Machine Grey, that infuses aluminum flakes in the paint’s reflective layer to impart a unique sheen. “With strong contrast between light and shadow and a sleek, high-density finish, (Machine Grey) gives the impression that the vehicle’s body has been sculpted from a solid steel ingot,” the company said.

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