The machine-gray metallic paint on the 2017 Mazda Miata MX-5 RF starts with a black primer followed by a layer of aluminum silver paint.The stylish 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country crossover SUV is fully connected and has outstanding safety features. 	 The Volvo SCC90 T8 e-AWD has Nappa leather seating for up to seven passengers and has a safety rating as a Top Safety Pick+.

Mazda’s first MX-5 Miata RF sportster is out of the blocks with style

Mazda keeps creating new Zoom-Zoom products that attract new buyers and keep existing fans excited. The 2017 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF we recently tested (and was an entry in the sports/performance car competition we recently attended that included 24 various models) proved that Mazda has designed a car “designed to awaken your senses.”

While there are substantial key features on this model, the power retractable roof is what the automaker refers to as an engineering feat. The rigid hardtop roof folds into a space that the cloth-top model might hold, and it does the trick in 13 seconds. Plus the hardtop is much preferable to many buyers over the soft top.

With a new cabin design built around the driver, the RF (Retractable Fastback) also has a lighter weight aluminum power plant frame that has been reduced by 20 percent.

The RF is powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-L four-cylinder aluminum-alloy engine that produces 155 HP and is paired with a very reactive six-speed manual transmission. The combination has allowed for EPA/DOT fuel ratings of 29 MPG overall (26/city and 33/ highway) and we experienced 31.2 overall during our weeklong test.

Not much is missing on this RWD sports car. Our likes, in addition to the very cool retractable roof, included the 17-inch performance tires mounted on alloy wheels, LED tail lamps and daytime running lights, heated seats and side mirrors, blind spot monitoring system, lane departure warning, the Mazda navigation system, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with bountiful sound.

The downside to this sportster is a small cabin and very limited cargo space. Road noise on the RF is vastly subdued from the soft-top model.

With a tight suspension system on the MX-5 monocoque unibody construction, it features a front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension, both with stabilizer bars.

From stability control to advanced air bags, leather-trimmed seats to rear cross traffic alert, our tested RF Grand Touring (top of two levels) model had an MSRP of $32,620 with only two options (gray metallic paint for $300 and keyless entry for $130).


Love these Volvo models

The 2017 Volvo XC-90 T8 e-AWD Inscription and the V90 Cross Country T6 AWD are both classy vehicles with both similar and variable features.

Volvo describes the XC90 as its idea of luxury and they are not far off. This is an amazingly luxurious SUV that has won multiple awards and accolades.

The AWD XC90 Plug-in Hybrid has a Drive-E powertrain (electric and gas), which combines Volvo’s 2.0-L Super & Turbo-Charged engine (400 HP) with a 9.2 kWh electric motor. Taken together with its refined eight-speed automatic transmission with a stop/start eAWD feature, the result is an EPA/DOT fuel rating of 54 MPGe overall on electric/gas, and gas-only ratings of 25 MPG overall. The vehicle runs 14 miles in zero-emissions electric mode.

Besides the likeable powertrain, we have many favorite features on the tested XC90 that included adjustable drive mode settings, 20-inch all-season tires, Sensus navigation and connectivity systems (though nav takes some time to master), leather upholstery, heated 10-way power front seats, Volvo’s City Safety collision avoidance system (as well as their other extensive safety systems from lane departure warning to roll stability control), and its 85.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

While loaded with standard features with a base price of $69,900, there were nine package or single options that brought the price to just under $88,000 - quite an upgrade, though we did enjoy the superb Bowers & Wilkins audio system, LED lighting, 360-degree surround view camera, heated windshield washer nozzles, and the two dozen other add-ons.

The 2017 V90 Cross Country T6 AWD wagon we tested during the same period also has the 2.0-L engine (with less HP) as the XC90, plus the Eco eight-speed transmission, the exceptional safety features (including pedestrian/cyclist/large animal detection, run-off road mitigation, and Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system), but 19-inch all-season tires, and less (but ample) cargo space at 53.9 cubic feet. It’s MSRP with the AWD with Traction Control is $55,300, but with lots of options similar to the XC90 our tester price out just under $64,000.     

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.