The first major changes to the Mazda Millenia luxury sedan since it was introduced in 1994 include new front and rear styling, a reinforced body structure, new side airbags, a two-tone interior, and a new in-dash 6-disc CD changer. Its price of $41,450 is all-inclusive.
Styling upgrades refocus attention on this forgotten Mazda
The Mazda Millenia, Mazda’s top-of-the-line luxury sedan, was first introduced in 1994. It was intended to be the first car in the Amati luxury car division (Mazda’s answer to Lexus and Infiniti) but when Amati was shelved in the early 90’s, the front-wheel-drive Millenia became Mazda’s top sedan replacing the rear-wheel-drive 929 Serenia.
Its most unique feature was and is its ‘Miller Cycle’ V6 engine which uses a Lysholm compressor and delayed intake valve timing to produce 210 horsepower, more power than would normally be associated with a 2.3 litre V6 engine. Unfortunately, the general public never really understood the benefits of this engine, or even how it worked. And the Miller Cycle engine has never been used in any other Mazda automobile.
As well, the Millenia has not had any major design changes in seven years, even as competing models were redesigned and new competitors were introduced. Mazda hopes to refocus attention on this forgotten Mazda for the 2001 model year with a restyled nose and tail, added safety features, a stronger body, improved ride and handling, an improved entertainment system, and a quieter cabin.
New features for 2001
Until this year, the Miller Cycle engine was available only on the top-of-the-line ‘S’ model, but it is now standard on all Millenias. The base 170 horsepower 2.5 litre V6 engine has been discontinued.
The 2001 Millenia’s restyled nose now has a sharper, edgier look similar to Mazda’s other new sedan, the Protégé. The Millenia’s hood, front fenders, grille, bumper and headlights are all new, as are the rear taillights, and rear bumper.
Inside, there’s a new two-tone interior colour scheme – the upper portion is available in dark grey or brown while the lower portion comes in matching light grey or beige. A new two-tone steering wheel with the same two-tone colour scheme now includes audio and cruise control buttons.
A powerful new 200 watt, 9-speaker Bose audio system includes an AM/FM/cassette player and in-dash 6-disc CD changer, as well as the new steering wheel controls.
Also new for 2001 are: power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a new centre console with storage for ten CD’s and a power outlet inside the storage compartment (for cell phones), and four cupholders, two in the front and two at the rear.
The Millenia’s dual front airbags are now de-powered and side airbags are a new item of standard equipment.
Less visible are improvements to the Millenia’s body structure, including reinforced sidesills and roof, which have improved torsional rigidity by 30% thereby reducing noise and vibrations transmitted to the cabin, and improving handling.
Attractive, luxurious interior
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The Millenia’s new interior has a more upscale appearance than before – the two-tone dash and steering wheel look very attractive, and the standard leather upholstery, subtle use of wood trim and chrome door handles all blend together harmoniously.
I liked the big well-marked buttons and dial on the upper centre control panel for the automatic climate control, and the illuminated power window buttons on the doors are easy to see and reach. In fact, buttons for the power windows, door locks and mirror are all illuminated for easy reach at night. However, I found the clear plastic lens over the temperature display reflects glare under certain lighting conditions.
With a power tilt steering wheel and a 10-way power driver’s seat, it’s easy for the driver to find a comfortable seating position. Outward visibility is excellent, and the view of the back-lit instruments directly ahead of the driver is unhindered.
With a fairly long 2753 mm (108 inch) wheelbase, the Millenia has a long passenger compartment and generous front and rear legroom. Headroom is also just fine for five passengers, although the back seat is best suited for two passengers. Getting in and out is also helped by long doors.
The Millenia’s 377 litre (13.3 cu. ft.) trunk is about average in size, and has a pass-through for skis, but folding rear seatbacks are not available.
Unique Miller Cycle engine
The Millenia’s ‘Miller Cycle’ V6 engine is conventional in most respects, except that it uses a Lysholm compressor (supercharger) to force more air into the cylinders and a unique mechanical system to delay intake valve timing. The result is a horsepower rating of 210 horsepower at 5300 rpm and 210 ft-lb torque at 3500 rpm, considerably more horsepower and torque than would normally be expected from a 2.3 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 engine.
This engine has been rated more than once as one of Ward’s Auto Reports ’10 Best Engines’, a prestigious award given annually by a U.S. trade publication.
Mazda claims that the Miller Cycle engine offers more power with the fuel economy of a smaller engine, but a quick comparison of competitive 3.0 litre V6 engines in the Transport Canada Fuel Consumption Guide reveals that Mazda’s fuel economy numbers aren’t much better than some larger V6 engines which have about the same amount of horsepower.
Still, 12.2 l/100 km (23 mpg) in the city, and 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg) on the highway are respectable numbers for a powerful, well-equipped luxury car. The engines 10:1 compression ratio necessitates the use of Premium fuel, though.
With 210 horsepower and maximum torque arriving at 3500 rpm, the Millenia offers brisk acceleration, jumping from a standing start to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds and to the quarter mile in 16.7 seconds. The Lysholm compressor emits a slight whine under acceleration, typical of superchargers, but less noisy than many I have encountered. At cruising speeds, the engine is very quiet and there’s very little noise intrusion into the passenger cabin.
The Millenia’s standard 4 speed automatic transmission offers quick, painless shifts and includes driver selectable Normal and Power modes for normal or more aggressive shifting points. In addition, the transmission has a unique ‘Hold’ mode which allows the driver to hold the transmission in any gear – this is useful when you need engine braking going down a hill or when you want to hold in gear right up to the redline.
The 4-speed automatic transmission also has engine-torque sensing electronic traction control that effectively limits wheel spin when the roads are slippery.
The Millenia’s standard four wheel multi-link independent suspension combined with standard 215/50VR-17 inch performance radials provides the Millenia with excellent handling and control even though it has a nose-heavy front to rear weight distribution of 62/38. The Millenia’s ride is firm though not harsh – more like a performance luxury car than just a luxury car.
Standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (which balances front to rear braking forces) provides terrific braking performance. I found the engine rpm sensing variable-assist power rack and pinion steering a little heavier than I liked at slower speeds, but it has a very sporty feel.
Most features standard
The Millenia’s price of $41,450 is all-inclusive except for a couple of optional premium exterior paint colours. Standard equipment includes all of the items mentioned above including leather upholstery, wood trim, automatic climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, 8-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, power tilt steering wheel with memory, power door locks and remote keyless entry, power windows with one-touch driver’s window, tachometer, outside temperature display, alarm system, retained accessory power, height-adjustable head restraints, fold-down rear centre armrest with cupholders and pass-through to the trunk, variable intermittent wipers, power glass sunroof with sunshade, front fog lamps, 17 inch alloy wheels.
Like other Mazda’s, the Millenia comes with a 3 year/80,000 km warranty (20,000 km more than most standard warranties), and a 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty. The warranty also includes 3 years roadside assistance and travel planning assistance.
Competitors for the Millenia include the Nissan Maxima and Infiniti I30, Lexus ES300, Audi A4 2.8, BMW 325i, Acura 3.2TL, Mercedes-Benz C240, Lincoln LS, and Cadillac Catera.
|2001 Mazda Millenia|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-size luxury sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.3 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, Miller Cycle|
|Horsepower||210 @ 5300 rpm|
|Torque||210 ft-lb. @ 3500 rpm|
|Curb weight||1582 kg (3487 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2750 mm (108.3 in.)|
|Length||4870 mm (191.7 in.)|
|Width||1770 mm (69.7 in.)|
|Height||1395 mm (54.9 in.)|
|Trunk space||377 litres (13.3 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.2 l/100 km (23 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/80,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|