Test Ride in an MK Indy RX-5 Turbo with 376hp!

So having stripped my Mazda MX-5 and prepared my donor parts for modification, it was about time I visited MK Sportscars for a test ride in their MK Indy RX-5 Turbo.

MK Indy RX-5 Turbo Demo Car (image courtesy of MK Sportscars)

Now, when I booked the visit with Neil at MK Sportscars, we knew the weather would be a bit of a gamble on the day. The beginning of Oct is never the most predictable, kit car weather-friendly time of year. The forecast was not looking good as the weekend approached. In the end, I put my full trust in the BBC and Met Office weather forecasts which predicted it would be dry in Braintree, Essex until 11 am on the Saturday morning of the visit. That was in theory enough of a time window to get a test ride in before the rain started. The trip was on!

I was travelling a good 180 miles across the country to get to MK Sportcars and decided it would be best to stay overnight the night before to save a ridiculously early start. I dragged the whole family along to share the experience, some were more enthusiastic than others…

Arriving at MK Sportcars

The good news is that despite MK Sportscars being a bit out in the sticks, the postcode and Google Maps directions take you directly to the right place with no issues.

As we arrived the ground was dry and the weather forecast was holding. We were met by Neil who confirmed the test ride was on, so we jumped back in the car and went immediately to the showroom where the car was stored. This was at their other site just down the road.

We arrived and Neil opened up the showroom and Ben got the car ready. We had a good look around the other cars that were there while the demo car was started and warmed up. There was a fantastic range of MK Indys and RAW Strikers and a Pheonix, along with a couple of different chassis.

The MK Sportscars Showroom

I grabbed my GoPro and my sunglasses for wind protection and strapped myself into the passenger seat of the RX-5 Turbo ready to go.

The Car Specs

Now before we get into the ride itself let’s look at the car specs. The MK Indy RX-5 Turbo demo car is based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata like all other MK Indy RX-5 cars. It is running pretty much stock Mazda running gear other than the engine.

MK Indy RX-5 Turbo Engine Bay

It has the Mazda MX-5 NB 1.8 non VVT engine which has been rebuilt to provide the following spec for the car:

  • GTX2860RS Turbo;
  • Low mount exhaust manifold;
  • Forged Rods;
  • Standard Stock Pistons;
  • Adjustable Cam Sprockets;
  • Larger Injectors;
  • Walbro 190 in-tank fuel pump;
  • Std MK Indy Turbo intercooler setup (same as TD04);
  • ME221 after-market ECU tuned by RLM Racing;
  • Car weight (wet): 600kg;
  • Max Power on Dyno: 376hp and 320 Ft lbs torque @ 1.2bar boost at the wheels (626 hp/t);
  • Current Power: 308hp and 278 Ft lbs torque for reliability at the wheels (513 hp/t);
  • Standard 5-speed Mazda gearbox;
  • Standard Mazda 4.1 ratio differential – strengthened.

To put this into context, this is running the same power as my 3.5l V6 Mercedes E350 but weighs only 1/3 of the weight!

With the current running power and 513 hp/t it has the same power to weight ratio as a Porsche 918 Spyder and just short of a Caterham 620R (543 hp/t).

With the max power achieved on the dyno and 626 hp/t it has the same power to weight ratio as a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport! That is bonkers!

Cabin Space

The first thing that struck me when I sat in the passenger seat was the good amount of space in the cabin. Compared to a Caterham the tunnel length for legs is longer and wider and the space for elbows and overall width of the cabin is greater. The GRP seats with thin cushion covers were supportive and suprisingly comfortable. Overall the space and comfort are very good for a car of this type. Now, I’m pretty much the 50th percentile in height and weight so it should be comfortable for me. But either way, it was a nice surprise to have a bit more room than I had anticipated.

MK Indy RX-5 Turbo

The demo car has a windscreen rather than just an aeroscreen, which makes it a bit more pleasant for a test ride and means you don’t need to take a helmet with you. This also worked very well to shield the wind noise from my GoPro!

The MK Indy RX-5 Turbo Test Ride

Ben was our driver for the morning and has his own gulf blue MK Indy RR with a CBR 1000 engine. We headed out of the MK facility over the speed bumps, which the MK Indy seem to cope with better than my Merc, and onto the local country lanes. The first few minutes were a gentle sedate ride as the car got up to full operating temperature.

Mk Indy RX-5 Turbo Test Ride

Ride Comfort

The ride was remarkably comfortable with the Protec suspension soaking up the undulating country lanes with ease. I was expecting a much harsher ride than this and was pleasantly surprised. At 20-30mph the windscreen offers good protection with only some mild buffeting of wind coming round the sides. There is also no differential whine at all like you get with some of the Ford-based differentials, and no vibrations coming into the cabin. It is a really pleasant place to be going through a few villages.

A Thump in the Back

MK Indy RX-5 Turbo Passenger View

We then transitioned into the de-restricted zone at the edge of one village and Ben dropped it down a gear and opened up the taps… Oh my word, what a thump in the back as you felt the torque kick in hard as the revs climbed. The car pulled like a steam train to the red line. Within a blink of an eye, we were at the national limit and Ben backed off. As the engine overran there were glorious pops and bangs from the exhaust with the unburnt fuel going off like a grande in my left ear.

As we came over the crest of the hill and past a car coming in the other direction Ben accelerated hard again up to the red line with the shift indicator on the DigiDash flashing away like a Christmas tree. That insane surge of power and the subsequent pops and bangs is very addictive.

She Stops Too

As we came towards the end of the country lane, Ben was hard on the brakes which seemed to come in gradually with the car remaining very balanced and controlled. The undulating bumps in the road were just soaked up by the suspension.

We entered a roundabout which joined a dual carriageway, the car remained poised and felt extremely well planted as we went round. As we exited onto the dual carriageway Ben accelerated hard in 3rd gear. There was that same thump in the back again as you get pushed hard back into the seat. We quickly got up to the national speed limit and cruised for the rest of that section up to the next roundabout.

At this speed, the buffeting from the wind was much worse which literally was taking my breath away. Leaning forward slightly eased this somewhat. Cruising at this speed would definitely benefit from doors or at least the additional window extensions which are often seen on some Sevens. Apart from that though the ride was comfortable and the car sat stable and quiet just ticking over under minimal engine load on the dual carriageway.

Pops and Bangs

We turned off the dual carriageway back onto the country lanes and went past the infamous MK Sportscars photoshoot spot! We headed towards a narrow tunnel where Ben backed off and let the engine overrun creating a fireworks display in the exhaust with loud pops and bangs resonating through the tunnel for a brief second. What a noise, that is definitely addictive!

MK Indy RX-5 Turbo Overrun Pops and Bangs

We carried on around bend after bend with the car just sticking to the undulating road surface. This was despite the pretty poor roads, I was impressed! The ride was astonishingly good, so much better than I was expecting. I had anticipated an overly harsh ride which would have been better on the track, but this was sublime. The Protec suspension was working hard to keep each of the 4 independently suspended corners planted to the surface. Ben made driving the car look easy and he didn’t visibly have to fight the steering to keep the car in a straight line. Overall an extremely well-balanced car on these unforgiving roads.

We arrived back at MK Sportscars before I knew it and my Dad quickly hopped in and went straight out with Ben whilst the rain was still holding off. My Dad has been such an inspiration to be for this build and the one that got me into cars and engineering in the first place. He absolutely loved the ride and came back with a beaming smile on his face which completely made my day!

Conclusion

I knew before I visited MK Sportcars that a test ride wasn’t going to change my mind about buying an RX-5 kit. It was always going to happen. But what I hadn’t expected was how much more I was going to fall in love with the car, or how much more motivation I felt afterwards for building one. I guess that’s the point. Seeing what can be achieved and giving you an idea or a dream to hang on to.

MK Sportscars have something very special here, not just as a car but as a brand and as a business. Focussing on the customer and giving them an experience you will never forget. Thanks guys for a great experience, time to order my kit!

MK Indy RX-5 Turbo Images

Test Ride Video

Summary of Build Costs and Hours

Here is a summary of the costs and person hours (total number of hours for every person that has helped) for the build so far. This should hopefully help others with the planning of their builds, by providing cost and time actually incurred for this build. A more detailed breakdown of all the costs and hours worked on the build to date can be viewed here.

Totals This Post To Date All Posts
Person Hours Worked 0 hrs 161 hrs 161 hrs
Car Build £0 £225 £225
Tools / Consumables £0 £237 £237
Total Cost £0 £462 £462

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