The Mazda Millenia S: A Luxury Car with a Sporty Personality

by Hinesh Patel, Automotive Industry Club

The Mazda Millenia S: "One superb sedan."

Sports cars have always meant performance -- braking, acceleration and handling wrapped up in a two-seater body. But, suppose you could find a mixture of sports attributes in the features of a luxury car. Enter the Mazda Millenia S, which goes where few luxury-sports cars have before. In a civilized and intelligent fashion, it offers a finely honed balance of all the disparate parameters of performance and luxury.

The Millenia S's body structure is dimensionally nearly identical to that of an Infiniti J30. But, aside from its distinctive nose and grille, the Mazda sheetmetal is low profile. The aggressive swoop of its styling keeps its coefficient of drag low at 0.29. Aerodynamic efficiency generally equates with a quiet interior and good fuel economy, and the Millenia S covers both categories quite well.

The Automotive Industry Club recently had the opportunity to test out the 1996 Millenia S complete with the optional Four-Seasons Package. This gave the car heated front seats (a Michigan necessity) and a heavy-duty starter and battery. This sand mica metallic came with a long-list of standard luxury-line features including dual airbags, electronic traction control, leather seating surfaces, a full power package system including moonroof, and a sweet AM/FM/cassette/multi-CD BOSE stereo music system. Needless to say, this car was fully-loaded.

We found the interior design to be conservative, where visibility and ease of use prevailed over luxury. The instrument panel included clearly visible gauges, the radio controls were big and friendly, and the standard automatic climate control was simple and effective. Walnut panels on the console gave the only "traditional" touches of luxury. An ample sized closed storage bin in the center console, complete with upper and lower compartments, and deep storage spaces found under the armrest of the doors provided all the storage space needed. Additionally, the Millenia's large doors made entering and exiting easy, and the roomy, flat seats provided a comfortable ride which would be most useful during long trips.

The Millenia S's distinguishing technological leap is its Miller V-6 engine, the first production powerplant to make use of the efficiency-enhancing combustion cycle. The Millenia 24 Valve 2.3-liter DOHC V-6 engine is matched to a smooth shifting electronically controlled four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, which automatically chooses between Normal and Power shift modes based on how aggressively the driver presses the accelerator. As a result, it out-powers nearly all of its competitors with this new breakthrough Miller Cycle technology. But, even with that power, the Millenia S's still provides a fuel efficiency typically found in a smaller engine displacement. We tested the vehicle found it indeed took under 7.5 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. Its ride was firm and well-controlled, and the variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering gave the Millenia great maneuverability at low speeds and on the interstate.

The Millenia S presents a well-balanced mix of luxury and performance. Mazda astoundingly combines engineering, safety, handling, reliability and durability in a luxury car priced at about $35,000. Therefore, whether you are looking at power, performance or features, the Millenia S simply adds up to be one superb sedan.