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If Mazda sold a premium brand, like Honda's Acura or Toyota's Lexus, or Nissan's Infiniti, then the Millenia would be its flagship. The Mazda Millenia offers value among luxury sedans. With its Mazda nameplate, however, the Millenia often slips under the radar of buyers shopping for a luxury or near-luxury car.
The Millenia S packs supercharged 210-horsepower V6 engine and is one of the more interesting cars in the near-luxury class. It's crisp handling encourages you to take the long way home. It's gracious creature comforts make you want to head out on a road trip. This car is superbly engineered and is built at one of the world's highest quality assembly plants. It was, in fact, originally conceived as a premium-brand product and competes with the Infiniti I35, Acura TL, and Lexus ES 300.
The Millenia S is fun to drive. Its engine growls with authority when put into action. Its impressive torque delivers immediate go-power. Clever engineering has eliminated torque steer from the Millenia's front-wheel drive even at maximum thrust. 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 of the Millenia S is thoroughly appropriate to a well-balanced luxury sedan. At the same time, the engine is supremely smooth. Power is transmitted through an excellent four-speed automatic transmission.
With its supercharged Miller-cycle engine, the Mazda Millenia S sprints from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. Yet it achieves an EPA mileage rating of 20/28 mpg city/highway. It is more powerful yet more efficient than the base model's engine.
The unique supercharged engine that comes on the Millenia S earned industry awards when it was introduced. 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 the 2.3-liter engine to perform like a much bigger (3.3-liter) engine, while still retaining the fuel economy of a smaller engine. The result is a vigorous 210 horsepower and the brawny, quick response of 210 pounds-feet of torque. Beyond the $3,000 it adds to the Millenia's initial purchase price, the Miller-cycle package has no downside. (Plus the Millenia S comes loaded with luxury features.)
By comparison, 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, not quick for a proper luxury sedan. This makes the base Millenia seem a bit pale in comparison to the more powerful and similarly priced Acura TL and Infiniti I35.
Ride quality is stellar, a splendid combination of genteel smoothness and real athleticism. Helped by its generously wide tires, the Millenia S tops most of its entry-luxury competitors with high cornering limits. Body roll is mild and well controlled. The rack-and-pinion steering transmits excellent road information, combined with rock-solid on-center feel. All in all, the suspension doesn't disturb you overmuch with news of the road's roughness, but tells you what you need to know. Sound deadening was improved last year and remains extremely effective.
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 other cars in this class stop in shorter distances. Traction control is standard in the Millenia S. It can be switched off when, for instance, the car is being operated with snow chains.
The Mazda Millenia is an elegant example of affordable luxury. It offers a broad range of attractive attributes, and its assembly quality is uncommonly fine, on par with the very best. It has an almost timeless appearance, representative of the best in Japanese design, with just a dash of hunkered-down aggressiveness to set it apart.
Inside, the Millenia delivers 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.
The Millenia S is the model of choice, with its powerful yet efficient supercharged 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.
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