Are you a techno-junkie? If so, and I count myself as a charter member of that automotive sub-culture, then Mazda has an engine for you. The 2.3 litre DOHC V-6 unit is supercharged and intercooled, producing 210 horsepower at 5300 RPM, and 210 pound-feet of torque at a usable 3500 RPM. The numbers are considerable for only 2.3 litres, and the engine is more fuel-efficient than Mazda’s normally aspirated 2.5 litre engine. Mazda’s unique approach to good power and fuel efficiency is the combination of the Miller cycle design with the blower and intercooler. Miller cycle engines are four strokes with a difference: the intake valve closes past piston BDC. The result is lower effective compression than the static numbers would suggest, reducing engine knock. Why not just lower compression in a supercharged application? Because the Miller cycle design allows the combustion mixture to act on the piston dome over a longer stroke, with a compact combustion chamber for a smaller flame propagation distance. The Lysholm supercharger is integral to the system, supplying a cooler intake charge (courtesy of dual intercoolers) to give excellent cylinder filling throughout the RPM band. The Lysholm blower design screws the air into the cylinders quietly, and nestles neatly between the cylinder banks for a low hood profile.
The wrapper for the Miller magic is the restyled 2001 Mazda Millenia S, a four-door luxury tourer equipped with a long list of features, including a 200-watt BOSE audio system with 9 speakers, a six-disc in-dash changer, and a cassette tape player. Multi-channel ABS and four wheel discs slow alloy wheels shod with 215/50 VR 17 Dunlops. Mazda includes a three-year roadside assistance program that covers towing, winching, boosts, fuel delivery and tire changing throughout North America. A trip planning service is also included. Warranty coverage is three years or 80,000 km, with the exception of normal wear items.
And how does it drive? Not at all like a 2.3 liter, as the Miller powerplant pulls strongly off idle and delivers good passing power through a four-speed electronically controlled transaxle. A “hold” button is available on the selector lever, but the transmission adapts to sporty driving and delays upshifts, making this feature necessary only in very hard driving. The engine is quiet, with no noticeable whine from the supercharger, and idles smoothly. Transport Canada rates the Millenia S at 23MPG city, and 35MPG highway, very close to SSGM test figures. The Millenia S is comfortable, with large easy to read controls and good interior space utilization. Gripes? They are few, and are relatively personal, so they may not apply to every driver. I’d like to see a power lumbar support for the passenger as well as the driver. The cruise and radio steering wheel buttons aren’t placed high enough on the wheel rim, and a true toggle shifter would give the Miller engine more room to maneuver. Of course, these changes would add cost, and at an MSRP of $41,450, not everyone will find one of these under their Christmas tree. With the Miller cycle engine, the Millenia S gives good performance and fuel economy, a combination which should be appealing to many, especially at current fuel prices.