We've long admired the Mazda 929 sedan. Unfortunately, in recent years we've had to sit back and cast approving glances from the cheap seats because the window sticker has skyrocketed. We test-drove a 1993 Mazda 929 that carried a $29,900 base
price, $4,800 in options and a sticker that read $34,700, to which you have to add $375 in freight. That's $35,000 plus change, not to mention state sales tax and the 10 percent luxury tax on the amount of the transaction price over $30,000. Not
all the blame belongs to Mazda. The rising value of the yen against the dollar has played a major role in raising the 929 price to an estimated $3,000 to $5,000 more than Mazda and the consumer would like. But there are a few areas in which Mazda
did have control and blew it. Mazda had a choice when its Japanese rivals formed separate luxury-car divisions. It could have joined Toyota with its Lexus, Nissan with its Infiniti and Honda with its Acura by forming its own luxury division.
It fought off the temptation to form a separate division and instead sold the classy 929 sedan at thousands less than its competition's offerings. Then it decided what the heck, and opted to set up the Amati division, which was to offer high-end luxury
sedans. While Mazda struggled for a few years in developing potential offerings for the division, Lexus, Infiniti and Honda expanded their lineups. The segment got crowded, too crowded, to accept another $30,000 to $40,000 Japanese nameplate. So
Mazda abandoned plans for Amati. It might someday use an Amati prototype as a new-generation 929, but Amati as a separate entity is no longer on any burner. The 929 suffered from the hype over Amati. Mazda officials kept boasting of a V-8-powered
Amati luxury car to rival Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. Mazda made it sound as if the best was still to come. So if the yet-to-be-built Amati was going to be so good, why was the existing 929 sittingin showrooms? Mazda gave the 929 an inferiority
complex, which-along with the host of competitive makes and the rising price-has done a disservice to the car. Add to that the fact that the rear-wheel-drive sedan doesn't offer traction control, and it loses a bit of its appeal among East Coast and
Midwest motorists about the time weather forecasters start talking about winter. As if the 929 hasn't suffered enough, the introduction of the Infiniti J30 sedan did little to help it. The popular J30 is almost a styling clone of the 929. It's
difficult to distinguish one from the other unless you are well versed in company logos. In the $30,000 to $40,000 market it's nice to have some individuality to justify the expense. Still, the 929 hangs in there. Changes for '93 find it offering
standard driver- and passenger-side air bags; a power, glass moonroof; four-wheel anti-lock brakes; and automatic climate control and cruise control. Still no traction c
ontrol, however. Our test car also came with an optional solar-powered ventilation system. Solar cells in the glass of the power roof collect and store energy that can be used to automatically activate fans to relieve interior heat while the car
is parked. We activated the system and found that solar power doesn't mean you'll feel like you're walking into a freezer after the car has been parked in the sun all day. But at least you don't get that blast of furnace like air striking you in
the face the minute you open the door. When solar energy isn't used to dissipate interior heat, it's used to trickle-charge the battery. While Amati and its V-8 engine didn't materialize, perhaps Mazda will consider a slightly more powerful
engine in the future for the 929. It's powered by a 3-liter, 24-valve, 195-horsepower V-6 that delivers 19 m.p.g. city/24 highway. With a 3,600-pound curb weight, a muscular V-8 would improve off-the-line performance.