By on December 4, 2019

Remember when Mazda sold a rear-drive sedan as its flagship? Me either, but the internet assures me it happened.

Let’s have a last-of Mazda moment, with a pristine 929 from 1992.

Mazda began production of its 929 flagship in 1967. Through five generations it remained a conservative large sedan, representing the company’s most expensive four-door offering. With the introduction of the HC generation 929 in 1986, Mazda began to work on a more radical successor as part of a much bigger plan.

Mazda wanted to pocket some wealthier luxury clientele, so it began development of new models to be sold in the Japanese domestic market as Efini. The plan in North America included a new Lexus-fighting brand called Amati. Unfortunately, outside factors led to the demise of both ventures for Mazda. 1991 brought the burst of an economic bubble that had enriched Japan since 1986. The collapse of the country’s finances drastically reduced domestic demand for luxury cars. This was doubly unfortunate for the Efini line that went on sale in 1991, as the cars did not comply with Japanese regulation on size and engine displacement. That meant all the new Efini models were taxed as luxury cars.

The 929 in standard guise was called Sentia in Japan, and in upscale Efini form as MS-9. To pitch the 929 as a true luxury product, Mazda marketed it in Japan as having a front midship layout — the engine positioned behind the front axle. With its new shapely body came a bevy of advanced technology: The 929 was also available with four-wheel steering that activated at speeds under 22 miles an hour. Another advanced feature was an optional solar panel in the sunroof that powered fans to vent hot air from 929s parked in the sun. All North American 929s (929 Serenia in Canada) carried a 3.0-liter V6 which produced 197 horsepower. Said horses were delivered to the rear via a four-speed automatic. But all the tech pushed pricing toward the sky, and the 929 was off to a slow sales start.

With trouble coming from all directions, the Amati idea was dead in the water before launch. Models in development were badged as normal Mazdas and filtered through the product line, often with some de-contenting to maintain profit margins. Efini remained a luxury dealership line in Japan through 1997. It sold cars like the MS-9, and other reworked luxury variants of standard Mazda vehicles. It also sold the Citroën XM and Xantia. In 1997 Efini was closed. The final version 929 was cancelled in Canada in 1994, and in the U.S. in 1995. It lived on through 1999 as a domestic market Mazda, and through 2002 in South Korea, where it was known as the Kia Enterprise. Mazda never returned to the full-size luxury market.

Today’s excellent condition 929 sold on eBay recently for around $5,700.

[Images: seller]

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36 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1992 Mazda 929 – Frameless Luxury Motoring...”

  • avatar

    Cool looking car. Wasn’t this supposed to be an Amati before Mazda pulled back? The Millenia was another really cool car, but Mazda never really figured out how to market these types of cars when the 323 and 626 were the breadwinners.

  • avatar

    Mazda Mille[n]nia[l]!

  • avatar

    I remember how much I was craving after this car back then. Whenever I saw one on the road, it stopped me in my tracks… It was such an amazing vehicle back then!

    • 0 avatar

      This was a sweet car. I remember it in a few two-tone color schemes, like two shades of mulberry. If I remember right, it had some flaws, such as a steering wheel with no tilt adjustment! But it seemed to have potential, which fizzled out.

      I also really liked the Millennia S. Apparently that had some reliability problems with the engine, and maybe transmission. But such a nice car.

  • avatar

    Like it…but I like the Millenia even better.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Still a nice looking auto. Remember the ‘buzz’ around the automatic cooling feature that ‘kicked in’ while the car was parked.

    Does anyone remember what went wrong with it? Or why other manufacturers have not tried it? Surely with the availability of new, less expensive, more reliable solar panels, one could be included in the sunroof to power this type of system?

  • avatar

    When I’m rich I’m gonna get me a Eunos Cosmo (even if the steering wheel is on the wrong side). Twin-turbo three-rotor Wankel, baby!

  • avatar

    I wanted the previous version, in S trim. It seemed like a solid alternative to the other similarly sized cars available at that time.

  • avatar

    “Another advanced feature was an optional solar panel in the sunroof that powered fans to vent hot air from 929s parked in the sun.”

    The previous 929 also offered this feature, I have to say its a cool idea.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    My long-ago big boss bought one of these. He was a quiet, unassuming guy who ten years earlier would have bought a Buick Park Avenue to reflect his success demurely. I know he loved how solid it felt, even ten years later when he traded it in for a Lexus.

  • avatar

    This car seemed so ahead of its time when it came out. Still looks great outside but the interior, like many ’90s designs, hasn’t aged well.

    It would be way harder to keep on the road, though, than my Legend is. Good look finding basically any part.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah agree, interior looks tacky and cheap compared with modern cars. Audi of same period was much better, BMW too but not as good as Audi. I doubt that 929 was considered luxury car even compared with Ford Scorpio which was Ford’s flagship in Europe. I wonder if V6 was the same in both cars.

      • 0 avatar

        The early E36 interior wasn’t that nice. The E34 had a nicer interior, but it was much more expensive than this Mazda. I’ve never touched a 2nd generation 929, but the only thing about the interior that doesn’t look better in photos than a 1991 Audi 80’s is the steering wheel.

  • avatar

    One of the best looking 4drs from that time period in my opinion. The previous gen car was a much blockier looking but still a decent car. And RWD to boot…

  • avatar

    Mazda design in the 90s was/is honestly something I am continually amazed at.

    The cars, basically all of them, have aged incredibly well. I main the FD RX-7 is still one of the best looking cars ever made. This one was/is always classy. Just enough curves to be sexy but enough haunch or whatever to also look strong at the same time. The Millennia also looked/loos great. Classy through and through.

    The auto trans on the Millennia was a weak spot, don’t know about the 929. The Millennia (non S) had a sweet 2.5L V6. 170 or so HP I believe. Not a rocket, but I recall the engine was incredibly smooth, and the sound when revved was beautiful.

    Mazda….the car company run by great engineers that makes great product…that nobody buys.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m saying my prayers for them. Now that GM is killing everything that isn’t a CUV or truck I’d be interested in a Mazda 6 turbo when my time with my Buick is up.

  • avatar

    Never driven one of those, but the 626 of that era was one of the worst vehicles I’ve ever driven. After a mile I wanted nothing to do with it.

  • avatar

    Teeny, tiny trunk

    Millenia with Miller cycle engine came a year later and was much more practical

  • avatar

    Or, as one motoring writer said at the time, “The most visceral shape this side of a Jaguar”

  • avatar

    I solely remember this generation of the 929 as the car my real estate agent used to show us houses in 1998. 8 year old me didn’t really notice much difference in the backseat of the 929 compared to a Caprice taxi. I’m not sure if I’ve even seen one since then.

    These comments also make me realize how long it’s been since I’ve seen a Millenia on the road, has to be close to a decade

  • avatar

    Corey, you must be a young whippersnapper, if you’ve never heard of the 929. I knew a couple of people back in the day that owned 929s, and really liked them.

    The only issue with the one that sold on eBay is that it probably still uses R-12 refrigerant, but it might be an easy conversion to R-134a.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    The owner of the Mazda dealership I used to work at drove a 929 as a demo. He liked it so much, he kept it for years.
    I remember the solar panel in the sunroof. It was an extremely comfortable car.

  • avatar

    pfffft. Like I’m buying this over an Oldsmobile.

  • avatar

    My parents actually cross-shopped the previous generation 929 (which in its early years in the US with the SOHC 3-valve motor came with a MANUAL TRANSMISSION; alas the House of Brap 13B stayed in Japan) with a GM A-body (specifically a Celebrity Eurosport wagon) in early 1987. Ultimately they held off until 1991 with the debut of the Mitsubishi Diamante (another Rare Rides candidate, especially in Aussie-made wagon spec, one of which my parents also bought).

  • avatar

    Sure I do. I remember because I was really in to Japanese car styling at the time and this one was pretty interesting looking. Also, James Garner.

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