When we talk about Japanese luxury cars of the early 1990s, we usually mention the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45, and maybe— if we’re allowing smaller front-wheel-drive machines to fit our definition of genuine luxury— the Acura Legend. Once in a while, maybe some edge-case type might thrown in a reference to the Mitsubishi Diamante, but one car that almost never comes up in the discussion is the Mazda 929. Why not? It’s a big, comfy, rear-wheel-drive sedan with healthy V6 power. The late-80s/early-90s 929 is just about extinct these days, but I managed to spot one in a California self-service yard a few weeks back.
I owned a somewhat beater-ish ’90 929 for a brief period (before trading it for a Volvo 240 wagon and a computer monitor), and it was a pretty good car— not as sophisticated or powerful as the Lexus LS, but it had a lot of power and the fact that everything still worked on a car that hadn’t been coddled showed a certain level of build quality.
This one didn’t even make it to 150,000 miles on the clock in 21 years.
James Garner pitched the 929 as an El Cheapo alternative to expensive German sedans, with predictable results.
The problem with the 929 was mostly image; we don’t associate Mazda with conspicuous-consumption machines, and the styling on this car was vanilla approaching invisibility.
Perhaps Mazda should have called it the Big Personal Luce, as was the case in Japan. Big Personal!