Jan 3, 2002 update to the Mazda Miata project car

Real World Improvements

For the last few weeks, our Miata has sported the "Gran Turismo look" thanks to a set of bronze 15x6.5" Rota Circuit 8 wheels. Our wheels came from Miata vendors R Speed (http://www.rpseed.net) and they clear the Flyin' Miata big-brake kit with no problems at all. According to the scale at our local
The Falken Azenis
For the past 2 years, our white 15x7" Kosei K1 Racing wheels have performed flawlessly--no chips, no bends and no problems. Even the little Kosei stickers still look perfect. Hats off to The Tire Rack for bringing these wheels to the U.S.

Two of the products on our Miata—the Falken Azenis tires and the Powerflex urethane suspension bushings—have been hot topics on the Miata Internet message boards, so we figured it’s time for a little real-world update.

Last year, the street tire wars welcomed a new player in the Falken Azenis, an aggressive-looking offering from Japan’s Ohtsu Tire and Rubber Company. Designed for high-performance street use, the Azenis features a treadwear rating of 200, making them eligible for the SCCA’s Street Touring autocross class. While appearance doesn’t mean much with performance tires, the Azenis does look cool: bold side lettering, square shoulders and big, meaty tread blocks. Underneath the skin, the tire features stiff, reinforced sidewalls.

Sizes available include 195/60R14, 195/55R15, 205/50R15, 205/55R16, 215/45ZR16, 225/50R16, 225/45ZR17, 235/45ZR17, 245/45ZR17, 255/40ZR17 and 245/40ZR18. Falken does not set their retail prices, but we have found the Azenis to be very reasonably priced, making the tire one of the better values out there. Check with your favorite Falken dealer for exact prices.

We are running a set of 205/50VR15 tires on the Miata, which weigh in at 22 pounds apiece, about the same as a similarly-sized Michelin Pilot SX MXX3. Not the lightest tire out there, but stiff sidewalls sometimes come with a price. The Azenis is also a little on the wide side, with a section width of 8.3 inches in the 205/50VR15 size. By comparison, a similarly-sized Kumho ECSTA Supra 712 has a section width of 7.9 inches. (However, Falken doesn’t have the widest 205/50R15 tire out there, as the Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position features a section width of 8.4 inches.)

Some high-performance tires are a bear on the street, but we have found the Azenis to be quite social with no annoying buzz or hum. They also don’t dart from side to side, and they have been well behaved in the rain. They may not be as fast as a dedicated R-compound tire, but the Azenis has been predictable and pretty grippy on both the autocross and race track. We started at 28 psi all the way around, but in an attempt to reduce oversteer, we bled the rears down to 26 psi. This move didn’t help, and according to Ground Control’s Jay Morris, the Miata isn’t super-responsive to changes in tire pressure.

After about 3000 miles—including a few autocrosses and a track test day—we still have a good amount of tread left. Our tires started with 8/32-inch of tread, and the fronts now show 7/32-inch while the rears are at 5/32-inch. For more info on the Azenis, check out Falken’s Web site: http://www.falkentire.com.

Like our Falkens, our Powerflex bushings have been aging well. Before installing them, we were more than a little concerned that the urethane bushings would bind and turn our car into an ox cart. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case, as the bushings’ stainless-steel inserts allows them to rotate freely. Our urethane rear anti-roll bar bushing—which came with the bar and not from Powerflex—has been a little cranky, however, so we’ll be checking it out soon. Our Powerflex bushings came from An Open Mind Associates: http://www.opmd.com

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