1998 Mazda Millenia

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2000 Mazda Millenia

This 2000 review is representative of model years 1995 to 2002.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8
Pros:
  • New, lower base price
  • Efficient Miller-cycle V6 available
  • Strong quality record
Cons:
  • Less-than-silky shifts at times
  • No luxury dealership frills
  • No side airbags or additional head protection

The Mazda Millenia continues to be a solid sedan with a refined ride and a good quality record. Even the Millenia's limited-production Millennium Edition for 2000 doesn't waver from this car's strong sense of simple class.

With a name like Millenia gracing their most luxurious vehicle, Mazda officials couldn't pass up a unique opportunity: Capitalizing on the arrival of a new millennium. So, surprise! There's a 2000 Mazda Millenia Millennium Edition. Despite its name, this car isn't glitz and hype. It's a solid, refined-riding 4-door with a few new features never seen on a Millenia before. This Millennium Edition, which was built until the start of the new millennium, also brings new attention to Mazda's often-forgotten flagship.

"The Millenia has always been Mazda's best-kept secret," company spokesman Brian Betz said. But, he added, price reductions over the last year have pushed the starting manufacturer's suggested retail price with destination charge down to around $25,000 for a base Millenia. This is some $1,000 less than when the Millenia debuted in the 1995 model year as Mazda's first luxury sedan in this country.

"With the substantial price realignment, (the Millenia) is now our secret weapon," Betz said.

A strange history
I've always liked the Millenia, and judging by how sales have increased following the price reductions, other Americans are finding it to be a good value, too. In fact, Millenia sales in calendar 1999 rose to their highest since 1995.

Many car shoppers might not recall that the Millenia was actually designed to be the first of many luxury vehicles from Mazda. All were to be sold via a new, luxury dealership network called Amati. It was supposed to work the same way that Toyota sells luxury cars under the Lexus name and Honda sells them under the Acura name.

But Mazda's financial problems in the early 1990s cancelled those plans. They didn't cancel the Millenia, though, which arrived at Mazda dealerships instead. And it explains the Millenia's classic looks and upscale ride.

You just don't get the luxury dealership experience that Amati would have provided.

Two engines offered
There are two regular models of Millenia. (The special Millennium Edition—with charcoal-colored, synthetic suede seats; unique wood trim; leather-wrapped transmission gearshift lever and handbrake lever; special badging; 17-inch, chrome alloy wheels, and a 6-CD changer that's in the dashboard—will be found on dealer lots until it's sold out, according to spokesman Fred Aikins.)

The base Millenia comes with a 2.5-liter 170-horsepower double overhead cam V6 that provides decent power.

But the high-performance, award-winning Miller-cycle engine in the top-of-the-line Millenia S and Millennium Edition is tough to resist. This V6 displaces just 2.3 liters, with double overhead cams and 24 valves. Yet it develops the kind of horsepower you normally find only in larger engines.

For example, maximum horsepower is 210 at 5300 revolutions per minute. This compares with 210 horses at 5800 rpm in a Lexus ES 300 with a 3.0-liter 4-cam 24-valve V6, which is about 30 percent larger than the Millenia engine.

Torque is 210 at 3500 rpm from the Millenia's Miller-cycle engine compared with 220 at 4400 rpm in the ES 300 with the bigger V6.

This special Mazda engine basically works via delayed intake-valve timing and uses a Lysholm compressor like a supercharger to push more air and fuel into the engine to get more power. Note that Mazda was the first to put Miller-cycle technology to work in an automobile.

Refined performance
You feel the power in the front-wheel-drive Millenia S right away. It's not brawny power; it's more refined in how it transfers to the wheels. But the engine reacts quickly to driver demands and the car feels light on its feet. I passed others on 2-lane roads with confidence, and I zipped into traffic without worry.

There was none of the noisy rush of a supercharger during these maneuvers. But unlike a silky-smooth Lexus, the Mazda tester did have shift points that I could feel at times.

The only transmission in the Millenia is a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic. But it's geared a bit differently for the Miller-cycle engine than it is for the base V6.

Ride is compliant, not stiff
The ride is tuned for luxury, even in the Millennium Edition, which comes with those fancy chrome alloy wheels. Standard wheels on the base Millenia are 16-inchers, and the S model has 17-inchers.

All Millenias have the same suspension with independent, multi-link strut arrangements in front and back, and it's great on long highway trips. The cushioning of bumps and the quiet of the interior make for pleasant travel. The suspension is also quite forgiving on potholes in slower-moving city streets.

But because this 3,300-pound sedan isn't overly stiff, there is some body lean in fast curves and when you have to react quickly to steer around an obstacle in the road. Anti-lock brakes are standard.

Well built
Fit and finish in the Millenia continues to be up to snuff. There wasn't a part or a seam that was out of place or off-kilter anywhere on the test car. Earlier-model Millenias have been noted for their quality.

All Millenias have the same basic, 5-passenger layout. The cars come well equipped, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, automatic climate control, keyless entry, fog lamps, 8-way power driver seat, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD player.

And all have the formal, clean, outer styling that has stood up well over the years. But the Millennium Edition is offered in only two colors: Silver and a dark, Millennium Red.

Size about comparable to more-expensive ES 300
The Millenia's front seats are comfortable for a car that's a tad narrower than the ES 300 and the Acura TL sedan. The 43.3 inches of front legroom in the Millenia is close to the 43.5 inches in the ES 300 and better than the 42.4 in the TL. But both competitors have a bit more rear legroom.

Still, with the front seat forward a ways on its track, I sat comfortably in the back seat. Side windows go down nearly all the way, which is a plus, and there's a pass-through from the trunk to the back seat for skis and other long items. Tall riders get a bit more headroom in the back seat than they do in the ES 300 and TL, but it still may feel a bit confining.

I liked the fact the two outboard riders in the Millenia back seat have head restraints, and they're adjustable. The middle person doesn't have one, though, and gets only a lap belt. Mazda also does not offer side airbags or inflatable head protection in the Millenia.

The car's trunk is good-sized at 13.3 cubic feet. This compares with 13 cubic feet in the ES 300 and 14.3 in the TL. The Millenia's trunk is finished nicely with quality-looking lining, though the trunk-lid hinges are old-style goosenecks.

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BB06 - 8/29/2014 1:32:40 PM