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New Car/Review


Mazda Millenia S (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 31,025
     Price As Tested                                    $ 32,505
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 2.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 138 cid/2254 cc
     Horsepower                                   210 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               210 @ 3500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.3"/69.7"/191.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3663 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         P215/50VR17 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                  2 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/28/24
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 87.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Mazda cars in general seem to always be passed by in the automotive world and none more so than its upscale Millenia sedan. It's luxurious, comfortable and powerful but it's a rarity in everyday traffic. Now that Ford owns Mazda, perhaps a positive marketing campaign is coming up.

The Millenia comes in base "P" or as our tester for the week, in uplevel "S" trim.

OUTSIDE - Millenia's look is sleek and svelte, with smooth contours and a relatively flat overall plane front to rear. A low 0.29 coefficient of drag allows it to slice a clean path through the air, and also contributes to less wind noise and more resistance to crosswinds. The front end is raked back steeply and highlighted by a new-for-2001 five-point grille. Also new this year are large headlights with a different set of lines than before, along with a new front bumper, taillights and rear fascia. Although the design of the Millenia is getting on in years (it's been in production since 1995), it's look was fresh enough when new to last many years and it's only now reaching its end-of-life cycle. It looks better than ever, and with our test model's polished five-spoke alloy wheels, holds its own against its competition.

INSIDE - The Millenia competes in the near-luxury category of the car business, so supple leather-trimmed upholstery covering supportive well-bolstered seats is expected. Its dashboard is a handsome design, with a form-follows-function approach to ergonomics. New "Optitron" electroluminescent gauges glow eerily at night, but are easy to read. The controls are logically placed for easy reach, and new this year is two-tone color for the upholstery, a power lumbar support for the driver's seat, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and added sound insulation to quiet things even further. A new center console adds an additional 12-volt power outlet, four cupholders and room for the storage of 10 CDs. Standard Millenia S features include air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a Bose-brand AM/FM/Cassette/CD stereo with nine speakers, power windows, door locks, outside mirrors and front seats, rear window defogger, cruise control, tilt steering, variable-speed wipers, fog lights and a power moonroof.

ON THE ROAD - Mazda seems intrigued by unusual engines designs and isn't intimidated into following accepted patterns. Just as the company bucked conventional wisdom with its line of rotary-engined RX models, Millenia is powered by a 2.3-liter V6 that is called a "Miller-cycle" engine. The Miller-cycle is unique because the intake valves are mechanically left open until well into the compression stroke of its four-stroke (intake, compression, combustion, exhaust) cycle. This reduces the compression ratio, but with an extra dose of intake power from an intercooled Lysholm supercharger, it can maintain a high expansion ratio. This enables the Miller-cycle engine to produce the output (210 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque) of a much larger displacement engine and deliver excellent fuel economy as well. Mated to this is a four-speed automatic transmission that sometimes "hunts" for the right gear during certain conditions, but otherwise is unobtrusive to use. A traction control system is standard.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Less visible are under-car improvements made for 2001. Additional reinforcing of the side sills, crossmembers and other structural pieces have given it newfound integrity. The suspension consists of independent multilink layouts front and rear, with coil springs, tube shocks and anti-roll bars. It has been "retuned" to give less understeer and body roll, and the car feels more nimble and agile than its predecessor. Our test car's 17-inch performance tires gave very good grip through our impromtu slalom course. Speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering gives good on-center feel and turn-in, but lacks a bit of response during low-speed maneuvers. Braking is handled by front and rear discs with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, traction control and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - 17-inch chrome wheels, $500; in-dash CD changer, $500.