Stalin banned The Grapes of Wrath from theaters in Russia because he didn't like the fact that poor people in the movie owned cars. Wonder what he'd think of the relatively new "near luxury" automotive segment created by the Japanese that includes the 1996 Mazda Millenia S. With the Millenia - and other mostly Japanese offerings in its class - you can have a relatively "modest" paycheck and still drive a big-shot car. He: Oh, good. Now our readers will think you're a closet Marxist. She: Yeah, Harpo. Just because I go to the library and actually read about automotive history doesn't make me a Marxist. You're missing the point. This is a $35,000 car with a new-tech engine that gets terrific gas mileage and has a list of standard features you can just drool over. My only gripe is that the optional heated seats get too hot. What do you have to say about that? He: Maybe hot pants are making a comeback. And be more specific about the engine. It's a 2.3-liter dual-overhead-cam Miller-cycle V-6 with a Lysholm compressor and dual intercoolers. She: Don't get all hostile. Instead of getting so technical, why don't you just say that the Miller-cycle is a specially designed engine that makes over 200 horsepower from a small package, but also delivers up to 28 miles a gallon. It only comes on the top-of-the-line Millenia S, which may be OK with some people who worry that it's too new-tech and unproven. The regular 170-horsepower twin-cam V-6 on the other two models isn't bad either. And the base model starts at $28,000. He: The Millenia S is loaded. But then, the standard Millenia has many of the same features, including full power accessories, standard antilock brakes, automatic climate control and a great audio system with a standard in-dash CD player. I'd have to say it's probably a better value, but if you have the money to spend, I'd go for the S. That Miller-cycle engine is a joy to drive. In fact, the Millenia itself is really an entertaining vehicle, much more so than most of its direct competitors. She: You're talking about guy entertainment, right? And that translates to "performance" - in the automotive sense. And that's exactly why I think the Millenia is such a guy car. We had it the same week we drove the competition - the Acura 3.2 TL and that car seems to emphasize luxury over performance - something that is more of a joy to most women. I think the difference is noticeable when you compare the interiors and the ride. He: We'll talk about the Acura in more detail next week. But I thought it was far more sedate than the Mazda. I can see why you like it. Give me the Millenia. The all-independent multilink suspension gives you superb control and a firm ride, much like a midlevel Audi, and the variable-assist power steering really enhances the car's handling. Overall, the Millenia just feels more European in flavor, not Japanese at all. She: I guess I'm less impressed with the ride than the fact that the Millenia S has standard traction control, heated outside mirrors and features like rear-seat heater ducts. And it does come close to the competition's cabin with things like a standard four-way power passenger seat. If you're worried about style - most of the Japanese models in this class tend to look alike. No radical statements, just a slightly unconventional dashboard, a tasteful grille like you find on the Millenia and understated lines. This year, Mazda has added bright-finish alloy wheels to the S - wow, now that's getting risky. He: What's to risk? Buyers in this segment tend to be a bit more on the conservative side, so the companies are just playing to their potential audience. If anything, I think the Millenia has more style than its competitors. And, yes, it is tasteful. So let me get this straight. You're whacking Mazda because they're too risk-averse with the styling and because they're too radical with the Miller-cycle engin right? Typical. She: I'm just worrying out loud, like I always do. It's the opposite of male impulse buying. Anita's rating: (above average) Paul's rating: (world-class) What we liked: Powerful yet frugal engine (Paul); Euro-flavor ride ; long list of standard features; cabin inviting. What we didn't like: Engine may be too unproven (Anita); optional heated seats get too hot; may be too performance-oriented for female buyers (Anita). 1996 Mazda Millenia S Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger entry-luxury sedan. Price: Base, $35,595; as tested, $36,345 (inc. $450 destination charge). What's new for '96: Revised alloy wheels. Standard equipment: Bose premium audio system, keyless entry system, power glass moonroof, power driver and passenger seats with leather upholstery, power, four-wheel disc brakes, cruise control, automatic climate control system, anti-theft alarm, power door locks, alloy wheels, dual power heated mirrors, power tilt steering column, woodgrain trim, power windows, dual lighted vanity mirrors, carpeted floor mats. Safety features: Dual air bags, antilock brakes, traction control, side-impact door beams. Options on test vehicle: 4 Seasons package, inc. heated front seats, heavy-duty starter, heavy-duty wiper motor, heavy-duty battery, large-capacity windshield-washer tank ($300). EPA fuel economy: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway. Engine: 2.3-liter V-6; 210-hp at 5300 rpm; 210 lb-ft torque at 5300 rpm. Transmission: Four-speed automatic. Competitors: Acura 3.2 TL, Infiniti I30, Lexus ES300, Audi A6, Saab 9000, Volvo 850. Specifications: Wheelbase, 108.3 inches; overall length, 189.8 inches; curb weight, 3391 pounds; legroom, 43.3 inches front/34.1 inches rear; headroom, 37.9 inches front/36.5 inches rear; shoulder room, 55.1 inches front/54.2 inches rear. Where built: Hiroshima, Japan. 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $1,399. Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is aged 40 with no tickets who drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||January 24, 1996|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||December 9, 1995|
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