Meet Mazda’s master of driving feel

Dave Coleman wants motorists to enjoy the ride

Dave Coleman wants motorists to enjoy the ride

Mazda‘s Dave Coleman with one of his team’s entries in the 24 Hours of LeMons endurance race, in which all cars must cost $500 or less.

LOS ANGELES — You can measure horsepower, but you can’t measure driving feel.

Tuning a steering and suspension is as close as the auto industry gets to wizardry, and Mazda Motor Corp. has always prided itself on that occult art, aspiring to build machines that take corners as if they can read a driver’s mind.

Mazda faced the ultimate test of this skill with the redesign of the MX-5 Miata, a roadster with a cultish following and a global symbol of the Mazda brand. And each car now arriving in U.S. showrooms reflects the tastes of Dave Coleman, a 43-year-old engineer at Mazda’s r&d center in Southern California who has become the official arbiter of how a U.S. Mazda should drive.

“What we’re trying to do is differentiate Mazdas from bland cars so they have a liveliness and responsiveness that you can feel in normal driving,” said Coleman, who tends to rattle off engineering details at a caffeinated pace. “But when you do get a second to charge an on-ramp or take a twisty road, this car will give a wink to the enthusiasts. When you do drive it hard, it’s going to reward you.”

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