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The Mazda Millenia S, with its unique 210-horsepower Miller-cycle V6 engine, is one of the most interesting cars in the near-luxury class. A crisp-handling sedan that encourages you to go home the long way, it's coupled with the kind of gracious creature comforts that'll make you want to invite the boss along.
And in the matter of value for dollars, the Millenia S must be considered entry-luxury's secret weapon -- especially in 1999. That's because the generously equipped Millenia S, furnished with just about everything you could expect in a deluxe sedan, sells for 15.2 percent less than it did in 1998. Without degrading this car's content in any way, it's been discounted $5,550, to a Filene's Basement price of $31,045.
But with all the luxuries on board, no one will know you bought this sleek, energetic automobile on sale. To the contrary, given the rarity of Mazdas on the road, a Millenia S will set you apart from the everybody's-got-one sedans in valet parking. At a generous discount, you'll be the "interesting stranger" people want to know more about.
The Millenia S doesn't really come into its own, until its Miller-cycle V6 goes to work. Its unique Miller-cycle engine has been named one the world's "10 Best Engines" by Ward's, an automotive trade journal for the past four years. It uses a Lysholm compressor -- a scroll-type supercharger -- to boost intake pressure along with late intake-valve closing to produce an impressive amount of power without sacrificing fuel efficiency. This system allows this 2.3-liter engine to perform like a 3.3-liter engine, while still retaining the 2.3-liter engine's economy of operation. The result is a vigorous 210-horsepower with the brawny, quick response of 210 foot-pounds of torque. The package has no downside.
Put into action, this engine makes an authoritative growl. Its torque delivers immediate go-power, yet the front-wheel-drive equipment has been engineered to deliver not a hint of torque-steer even at maximum power. (That's not the case with some of the Millenia's competitors.) The crisp acceleration performance of the Millenia S is thoroughly appropriate to a well-balanced luxury sedan. At the same time, this engine is supremely smooth.
Power is transmitted through an excellent 4-speed automatic. The Millenia ride is also stellar, a splendid combination of genteel smoothness and real athleticism. Helped by the generously wide tires, this sedan's high cornering limits are better than most of its entry-luxury competitors. Body roll is mild and well controlled.
The rack-and-pinion steering transmits excellent road feel, combined with rock-solid on-center feel. All in all, the suspension doesn't disturb you overmuch with news of the road's roughness, telling you only what you need to know. Sound deadening is also very good, on a par with the competition. Braking is adequate, although some others in the class demonstrate shorter stopping distances.
The Millenia S is an elegant example of affordable luxury. It offers a broad range of attractive attributes, and its assembly is uncommonly fine, on a par with the very best. Its pleasingly contemporary appearance is representative of the best in Japanese design with just a dash of hunkered-down aggressiveness to set it apart.
Inside, the Millenia S delivers comfort and ergonomic competence of a high order. The materials used, from the elegance of the S model's leather upholstery to the tactile solidity of the switchgear, confirm that this car is worth its purchase price.
But what truly sets the Millenia S apart is its award-winning Miller-cycle engine. A paragon of resource-friendly fuel efficiency, it seems to do the impossible, using a small 2.3-liter engine's fuel appetite to deliver a much larger engine's responsiveness and excitement.
The Millenia S is a complete luxury automobile, and given its hotly competitive new price, it's no wonder sales have begun to climb steeply. So if you're in the market for luxury sedan and want to spend your money wisely, then sneak down to your local Mazda dealership. Just don't tell anyone our secret.