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SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide

1996 MAZDA MILLENIA S

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 35,595
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,345
     Engine Type                             2.3 Liter V6 w/SMI*
     Engine Size                                  138cid/2255 cc
     Horsepower                                   210 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               210 @ 3500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.3"/69.7"/189.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3410 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/55R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                  4 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/28/23          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.4 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.0 seconds @ 89.2 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                    142 mph

     * Sequential multipoint injection

(Matt Hagin is a long-time Mazda fan, having had several vintage RX rotary-powered sedans. The Mazda Millenia S and its special engine are a much different combination, he says. Over the years, Matt has learned to appreciate luxury while his father Bob likes the that the supercharged S version retains the traditional Mazda quickness.)

BOB - The Mazda Millenia isn't on the shopping lists of too many luxury car buyers these days. Mazda's Miata may be a benchmark for the modern two-seat sports car, but when it comes to luxury cars, the Millenia usually is passed over.

MATT - And that's a shame, too, Dad, because Millenia's quality and luxury are very high. And with the Millenia S model, performance is a bonus. The S engine puts out an amazing 210 horsepower from a tiny 2.3 liter V6 engine. It's forced fuel by a unique Lyscholm supercharger, and uses an even more unique Miller Cycle combustion system. With Miller Cycle, the intake phase is lengthened and the supercharger crams a more powerful mixture into the cylinders, all of which boost power big time.

BOB - That sounds complicated, Matt, and I'd have to study the technical manual a while to understand, but I know the system sure works. Millenia S will pull 142 mph, and will cruise effortlessly at high speeds. Traction control is standard on the S model and it works by retarding the ignition timing and restricting fuel delivery when the wheels start to spin on acceleration. The transmission is a bit on the slow side on downshifts, however, but it's yet another of Mazda's technological sides. On many cars with automatic transmissions, a button near the gearshift can be selected in either Normal or Power ranges, which changes the way the transmission shifts. On Millenia, that's built into the gearbox and is controlled by the position of the throttle.

MATT - I like powerful cars, Dad, but the thing that impresses me the most is the quality of the car. The interior is all done in plush leather, and the seats are super comfortable. Up front, there's enough room for me, but my brother Brendan would have a tight fit, even with the S model's standard eight-way power driver's seat. And although there's room for three across in the back seat, two is more reasonable for long trips. I appreciated the slick amenities like the power operated moon roof, heated front seats, and the Bose sound system that holds a half-dozen CDs in the player in the trunk. It rides so quiet that sometimes I'd have to check the tachometer to see if the engine was still running. I found out that Mazda was very determined to make the Millenia quiet, it even mounted the windshield wiper blades in rubber. Suzanne and I thought the trunk was extra roomy. Since Sophie is getting so big, we squeezed bags and bags of baby clothes to give away, and still had some room left over. Besides, with that nice CD player, and since it's all trimmed in carpet, the trunk's not such a bad place.

BOB - I wonder if you know that Millenia came close to having another brand name. A couple of years ago, Mazda was to create an entirely separate organization to market its luxury cars and it was to be called Amati. It was setting up an entirely independent dealer network just like Acura, Lexus and Infiniti did, but the economic situation back then in Japan squelched the deal. Mazda was so serious about competing with the Germans that it had a V12 engine in the works to compete head-to-head with Mercedes and BMW. In truth, the Millenia was supposed to be the entry-level section of the Amani lineup.

MATT - That's me, Dad, "entry-level." I understand Ford controls Mazda now - it will be interesting to see if there will be any major changes in Mazda's marketing. Jaguar seems to have retained its own identity under Ford ownership and it looks as if Mazda will be doing the same. Maybe the merger will let Mazda resurrect those old RX sedans that I liked so much back when I was a kid. They were sure fast, fun and cheap.

BOB - They also got you in trouble, kid. Besides, if Mazda decides to re-introduce the RX sedan for you, then Ford would have to build a brand-new Model A for me.

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