New Millennia for the New Millennium
Luxury Sedan Top of the Line
by Jim Bray
Mazdas newly-styled 2001 Millennia is a comfortable luxury sedan that
offers a lot for the price.
I first drove the Millennia for about half an hour at a media junket, and
I liked it. I had it for a week this time, which gave me a much better feel
for the vehicle. It's the first of three Mazdas I'll be driving over the next
few weeks and, from my experience with the Millennia, it should be a treat.
The handsome and stylish Millennia S (my tester was a lovely metallic red
with a beige/gray leather interior) is powered by a 210 horsepower, 2.3 liter,
24 valve DOHC V6 that uses Miller Cycle technology. The base model
Millennia has a more conventional, 2.5 liter V6.
Patented in the 1940s, the Miller Cycle is said to give the power of
a 3 liter V6 with the fuel economy of a 2 liter. It uses a Supercharger (which
forces extra air into the engine) and compresses the air inside the cylinders
differently. The result is said to be a 15 per cent increase in power.
I can't attest to the fuel mileage (I tend to have a heavy foot) but the powers
certainly there. It's smooth, too, coming on quickly and evenly; from a standing
start I'd be at 50 m.p.h. before I knew it.
This was embarrassing in playground zones
An electronic traction control system is also included; I tried it on a couple
of icy patches and was quite pleased.
Equally important, though not as much fun, is how a car stops, and Millennia
works well here, thanks to 4-wheel Anti-Lock disc brakes.
Driving the front wheel drive Millennia is quite a satisfying experience.
The four speed automatic transmission (theres no standard, unfortunately)
shifts smoothly for the most part and automatically chooses between normal
and power mode (depending on how hard you spur it on). It handles
well and the body feels tight and solid. Mazda says it's 30 per cent more rigid
than earlier models.
The cars a nice highway cruiser, too, quiet and very stable, and it
passes slower vehicles quickly, with no fuss.
Millennias variable assist power rack-and-pinion steering puts the car
where you point it; the 4 door sedan comes standard with 16 inch wheels, and
the S model ups that to 17 inches. Standard tires are V rated,
low profile performance radials.
The interior is lush and comfortable. The seats are leather and the front
buckets have 8 way electric adjustment. The S comes with front
seat heaters, too. The rear seat is plenty big enough for my family (the tallest
of whom is about 5 feet 9); basketball players may have to squeeze, though.
The dash and control layouts are quite good, though the stereo and climate
controls could have fallen closer to hand. A strange oversight was the lack
of illumination for those same controls, forcing you to grope by feel and memory
after dark. The instrument panel is nicely lit, though.
On the upside, the center console has room to store your CD jewel boxes, which
enhances the in-dash 6 disc CD changer. Audio quality from the 9 speaker Bose
stereo is good, but the volume appears to be governed: I couldn't crank it
as loud as I'd like. To be fair, however, most people would probably never
crank it as loud as I like it.
Besides, for every apparent oversight, Mazda seems to have added a nice touch.
For instance, each front doors armrest has a fairly substantial storage
bin built in. The trunk, though shallow, is very long and has a pass through
to the rear seat area. The rear seat doesn't fold.
Other safety and convenience equipment includes front and front-side air bags,
power everything, automatic climate control, cruise control (with steering
wheel-mounted buttons) and remote keyless entry. The power tilt steering wheel
has a memory function and swings out of the way when you turn off the ignition.
I had one minor fit and finish problem. A panel below the front bumper popped
loose during a highway jaunt and started scraping the ground when the Millennia
went over even minor bumps. It was easy to correct, but it shouldn't have happened.
This is why there are warranties...
At $28,500- $31,500, the Mazda Millennia is priced similarly to the Acura
TL, Lexus ES300, and Infiniti I30. One may not generally think of Mazda in
the same breath as those other marques, but the Millennia S shows that it could