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Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29

38 \ZOOM-ZOOM Perhaps the addition of an automatic transmission could provide a new dimension to the MX-5? There’s really only one way to find out. The all-new Mazda MX-5 RF’s SKYACTIV-G engine fires with an inspiring blip of the throttle and a rasp from the tailpipe. It’s a little more subdued as I have the roof in place and the windows up, but it is well below freezing, so you can hardly blame me. I shift into drive, selecting Sport mode with the Drive Selection Switch handily located just behind the lever and tentatively move off. The road is an endless white sheet, layer upon layer of compacted snow and ice and it takes a little time to work out the best approach just to get moving. However, after a bit of experimentation, I find that a manual shift to second gear using the steering column-mounted paddle is the best way to get going. In fact, manual mode seems to suit both me and the conditions better, allowing early upshifts to avoid overpowering the rear tyres. There’s promise of much sideways fun to come, but I’m now approaching the serenity of Kenbuchi’s Shinto shrine and it’s hardly the place for that kind of behaviour. So I step out and ring the temple’s huge bell for good luck instead — I may need it. Rolling on through the countryside, my next planned stop is the Hokusei-no-oka Observatory Park. Here a massive pyramid provides an incredible vista of the Taisetsu mountain range. Or at least it would, but the cloud has come in thick and fast and it’s difficult to see further than a few metres. With visibility getting worse and night closing in, I think it’s best to take the Hokkaido Expressway towards Sapporo, and my overnight stop. At higher speeds and on clear asphalt, the RF is remarkably refined. With the roof up, exterior noise is kept to a minimum and the journey passes quickly as I work my way through the playlist on my phone, which hooks seamlessly to the MZD-Connect system. Sapporo is a city of almost two million hardy people, where the winter is made more manageable with such feats of weather-defying engineering as heated streets and pavements. Unfortunately they don’t extend to where we’re staying and the roads are like polished glass, so I elect to put the car away in the automated parking facility of the hotel. Simply This page: when the weather is at its worst the elevated arrows help navigate Hokkaido’s highways. Opposite page: Kenbuchi’s shinto shrine (top left); the Gentem workshop where snowboards are hand crafted (bottom left)


Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
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