- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

Mazda's Millenia S with its Miller Cycle V-6 was indeed something special when it was first introduced it received untold critical acclaim during its first year on the market. The Millenia lineup still comes three ways: the Millenia Premium; the Millenia S with its award-winning, high-performance Miller-cycle engine; and the special limited production model the Mazda Millenia Millennium Edition. The base model is powered by a 2.5 liter V-6 engine that produces 170 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 160 pound feet of torque at 4,800 rpm.

The S model is powered by smaller 2.3 liter V-6 that serves up a whopping 210 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 210 pound feet of torque at 3,500 rpm (equivalent to a 3.3 liter motor). Not possible, you may proclaim don't put your money on the line in dispute, lest you lose. It is indeed possible.

Not to worry that you may never have heard of Mr. Miller or his technology. R.H. Miller developed his internal combustion engine concept proposal more than 40 years ago. No, the Miller Cycle engine is not a transplant from a motorcycle. It is an engine that provides more power, better fuel economy and reduced emissions than an engine of larger displacement up to 50 percent more torque while improving fuel efficiency by 10 to 15 percent and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the same percentage.

To achieve these results, Mr. Miller employed a combination of compressing the intake charge and altering the valve timing to provide higher output from less displacement. With the Miller Cycle engine, compression of the fuel-air mixture does not begin until the piston has completed approximately 20 percent of its upward stroke this reduces the possibility of abnormal combustion and allows the full expansion of combustion gases in the cylinder, maximizing the engine's thermal efficiency.

Mazda has added a Lysholm compressor, which uses a unique screw-type rotor to compress and force large amounts of air into the cylinders.

The test Millenia S was equipped to the hilt including the Miller Cycle V-6. The S version also comes with: a leather interior as standard; electronic traction control; remote keyless entry and anti-theft alarm; power glass moon roof with retractable sunshade; dual heated power door mirrors; eight-way power driver's seat and four-way power front passenger seat; power tilt steering wheel with memory; and all of the other usual power amenities.

The interesting thing is that the base price of my Millennium 2001 test unit at $31,025 was $4,570 less than the similiar 1996 model I tested and the final sticker, with more equipment and better performance (not to mention styling upgrades), rang up at the register for $3,840 less than the 1996 version.

In the appearance department, this latest iteration of the Millenia features a restyled hood, front fenders, grille, front bumper, headlights, taillights and rear fascia. Functionally, the Millenia has improved ride and handling characteristics by increasing torsional rigidity 30 percent and by fitting larger brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD).

Interior improvements include: a power lumbar support for the driver's seat; a new two-tone treatment; better cabin illumination; a leather-wrapped shift knob; and upgraded sound insulation. A new center console has also been added with 10 CD storage, an additional power outlet and cup holders that no longer interfere with the gearshift lever.

The Millenia S remains distinctively Mazda but it is also distinctively different from the 626 midsize sedan which it is positioned above in the marketplace and it is now 1.8 inches longer. Overall styling is sleek, dramatic and contemporary it is a four-door sedan that projects a racy coupe-like image.

The Mazda Millenia S for 2001 possesses all the elements for driving fun. The Millenia S is exceptionally comfortable and extremely capable in the performance and handling departments. The ride quality is solid but not harsh and it is quiet as well. Acceleration is crisp, and the fit and finish are what one might expect from European competitors that cost considerably more.

The gracefully sweeping instrument panel sports highly legible, backlit, white on black analog gauges with luminescent red pointers and no-nonsense, honest-to-goodness rotary knob controls for both the climate and sound systems.

The Millenia S is an outstanding vehicle that seems to be a well-kept secret, judging from past sales. The Miller Cycle V-6 exhibits well-defined muscle tone without even working up a sweat we should all be so lucky. There is a strong message here for auto enthusiasts globally, that Mazda is adept at finding a need and successfully filling it pricier competitors beware.

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