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It was inevitable that Mazda would launch a Millennium Edition of its Millenia luxury car. After all, Mazda deserved that even more than Buick deserved a special edition of the Century. Presumably Mazda can carry this theme through 2001 to celebrate when the new millennium actually begins.
While that adds some distinction within the Mazda Millenia line, anyone who buys a Millenia will enjoy exclusivity because many shoppers miss this luxury car. It shouldn't be, because this is a great luxury sedan that and offers good value: Mazda dropped prices of the Millenia over last year. The entry price has been reduced by $1,750 over last year to $24,995.
Mazda Millenia S, with its supercharged 210-horsepower Miller-cycle V6 engine, remains 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.
Though it's $5,000 less than the S model, the base Millenia's 170-horsepower 2.5-liter dohc V6 is a tepid performer. It takes more than 9 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, which is not quick for a proper luxury sedan.
By contrast, the smaller-displacement Miller-cycle engine in the S sprints to 60 mph about 7.5 seconds. Yet it still achieves an excellent EPA mileage rating of 20/28 mpg city/highway.
This car really comes into its own when its Miller-cycle V6 is put to work. Mazda's unique Miller-cycle engine was 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 Miller-cycle package has no downside.
Put into action, the Miller-cycle engine makes an authoritative growl. Its torque delivers immediate go-power, yet the front-wheel-drive equipment has been engineered to eliminate torque steer even at maximum power. And that's not the case with some of the Millenia's competitors. (Torque steer is a tugging of the steering wheel that occurs in powerful front-wheel-drive cars.) 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 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.
Four wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard. (ABS allows the driver to maintain steering control in a panic braking situation.) Braking is adequate, although some others in the class demonstrate shorter stopping distances.
The Mazda Millenia is an elegant example of affordable luxury. It offers a broad range of attractive attributes, and its assembly is uncommonly fine, on par with the very best. Its almost timeless 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 and Millennium Edition models deliver comfort and ergonomic competence of a high order. The materials used, from the elegance of the leather upholstery to the tactile solidity of the switchgear, confirm that this car is worth its purchase price.
But what truly sets the Millenia 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 Mazda Millenia is a complete luxury automobile. Given its hotly competitive new price, it is no wonder that sales of the Millenia 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.
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