Rare Rides: The 1992 Mazda 929 - Frameless Luxury Motoring
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.
KOKing on Dec 04, 2019
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).
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