A quick glance at this rather anonymous early-1990s Mazda sedan may have you thinking 626, but a keener look will make you want to flip your sixes around – this car is a 929 (more specifically, a 929 Serenia, the suffix attached to Canadian models). Sold as the Sentia in Japan, the 929 was Mazda’s flagship sedan in North America from 1988 through 1995. While both the 929 and 1993 626 shared the same design language, the 929’s larger proportions made for a far more elegant expression of style.
Arriving for the 1992 model year in North America, this final generation 929 shed the generic boxy look of its predecessor for flowing lines and sculpted bodywork. More athletic proportions were achieved by a longer wheelbase, wider body, and lower roofline. According to my brochure, the 929 was designed using Kansei Engineering, “a philosophy based upon human perceptions, feelings, and emotions”.
With rear-wheel drive, V6 power, and luxury appointments sans luxury name, the 929 was really the odd man out. By that point, all other Japanese luxury cars were being sold under newly created luxury brands. At the time, Mazda was planning its own luxury brand, Amati, to compete with Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. While it’s unclear whether the 929 was meant to preview a future Amati flagship or become part of Amati itself, it’s apparent that this 929 was a reflection of Mazda’s upmarket ambitions. Amati, however, never came to be, and the 929 continued its relatively short life as a regular Mazda.
Among the 929’s most notable features was the optional Solar Powered Ventilation System. Powered by a moonroof integrated solar panel, when outside temperatures reached over 59°F, two auxiliary ventilation fans near the trunk would automatically engage, pulling hot air out of the parked car, and bringing fresh air in to maintain internal temperature. In theory, it’s a really genius idea. No one likes getting into a 100+ degree car that’s been parked in the sun all day. It’s surprising that a similar feature is not more common on luxury cars today.
These cars could be loaded up rather nicely, with features such as leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, automatic climate control, and a 12-speaker audio system with 6-disc CD changer. North American Mazda 929s were powered by a 24-valve 3.0L V6 making 193 horsepower and 200 lb.-ft. of torque. With close dimensions, power, and levels of luxury, the 929 was most similar to cars like the Acura Legend, Infiniti J30, and Lexus GS. Whether or not prospective buyers of these cars took notice of the 929 is another story.
It is likely they didn’t, as I don’t ever remember seeing a whole lot of 929s out on the road, even many years ago. Mazda withdrew the 929 from the Canadian market in 1994, and the U.S. in 1995. It would be replaced by the slightly smaller, front-wheel drive Millenia, a car that shared the 929’s identity crisis.