BY GRAEME ROBERTS
A Mazda what? That's likely to be the reaction of the pub pundits when you tell them you've just bought a Xedos 9. With sales of just a few hundred cars a year, you're guaranteed to have the only one in your street and that rarity value may well hold additional appeal. After all, who wants a BMW when they're everywhere? Along with its smaller brother, the Xedos 6, the 9 represented Mazda's attempt to break into the world of luxury sporting saloons dominated by the likes of the aforementioned BMW. The brand never quite achieved that aim -its bid to match Lexus in the States was a flop - but, with top build quality and Mazda's renowned reliability, the cars make excellent second-hand buys here in the UK. High initial depreciation makes the well-equipped Xedos 9 cracking value for money on the used car market. Early ones with the regular 2.5-litre V6 engine are a bit ordinary, but explaining how the unusual 2.3-litre Miller Cycle engine of later cars works should keep the pub 'experts' engrossed for hours.
Models Covered: JANUARY 1994 TO OCTOBER 1998 - (2.5 V6 4DR [STANDARD, SE]OCTOBER 1998-2001 - 2.3 MILLER CYCLE V6 4DR)
The Xedos 9 followed the 6 onto the UK market a couple of years afterwards, in early 1994. Initially only a 'standard' version was offered with automatic transmission but, six months later, the plusher SE version arrived. Both have the silky smooth, quad cam, 24-valve V6 from the 626 and MX-6. The SE was dropped in 1995 after barely a year on sale and the standard car was upgraded with leather 'n' walnut trim plus a remote control stereo with CD autochanger. In October 1998, the intriguing Miller Cycle 2.3-litre V6 replaced the earlier engine and the Xedos 9 was given a mild facelift. Only one trim level was offered. The car eventually died in the UK in August 2001.
What You Get
Mazda stylists originally built 20 full-size clay models before arriving at this graceful design with its quietly original lines recalling the lightness and elegance of a Jaguar. Indeed, strip away a little of the chrome and brightwork and the Coventry badge would rest easily on this car's sculptured flanks. The earlier 2.5-litre V6 is a superbly smooth engine but not particularly economical. If you can afford it, go for the later 2.3-litre V6 Miller Cycle engine whose arrival coincided with a minor styling update and improved interior. The Miller Cycle (named after Danish-born Ralph Miller) is quite a clever way of making smaller capacity engines behave like larger ones. At the beginning of the compression stroke, the inlet valves are closed later than normal, which raises the capacity of the cylinder and increases power without affecting fuel consumption. Clever stuff. In this case, thanks both to Miller magic and the addition of a Lysholm turbocharger, the Xedos 9's 2.3-litre V6 engine has been made to behave like a 3.3, with power leaping from 166 to 203bhp and torque rising an astonishing 35% to make overtaking a cinch. Yet the kind of appalling fuel consumption you'd expect from a 143mph super saloon of this prodigious capacity simply doesn't materialise: you should get close to 30mpg in day to day use.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Only consider cars that are immaculate inside and out with a full (preferably Mazda dealer) service history. There's a lot of equipment so check it all works and also look for minor bodywork and trim damage.
(based on a 1995 Xedos 9 - approx. - exc. Vat) A full exhaust system is around £1080 (inc. catalyst) and front and rear brake pads are £70 and £50 respectively. An alternator is around £285 and a starter motor around £235. While on the subject of the electrics, a complete headlamp unit is £275. When a major service is due, budget in the region of £600.
On the Road
There's a Jaguar-like quality about the ride, which provides smooth and unruffled progress over almost any surface. The automatic gearbox (there's no manual option) is not quite as impressive, inclined as it is to be somewhat jerky in kickdown mode. Refinement and build-quality are, along with the stylish exterior, Xedos 9 strongpoints. Mazda's body engineers originally set out to create a structure that would rival the most rigid Europe had to offer. So it is that the whole shell is heavily reinforced. For noise suppression, Mercedes was the benchmark, which meant filling all roof pillars with polyurethane and developing a secret new sound-damping material for the floor. It works too; this is an extremely refined car.
Accomplished handling, a superb ride, high levels of grip and an invitingly cosseting interior make this the best Japanese luxury saloon you can buy new for less than £30,000. Second-hand, that rather high initial depreciation and rarity value ought to make it difficult to ignore. But be prepared for a search - there aren't many about.