Overview

The 2005 Mercury Montego is an all-new mid-size sedan designed to offer roomy accommodations for five passengers and a smooth, comfortable ride. It's powered by a 200-horsepower V6. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available for better traction and handling in adverse conditions.

Ford Motor Company is in the middle of a major model changeover and rationalization, using a single Mazda-based platform for small and sporty cars and a Volvo-based luxury car platform for its larger and more luxurious models. The Mercury Montego falls into the latter category, and shares its modified Volvo underpinnings with the Ford Five Hundred sedan and the Freestyle crossover SUV.

The Montego is intended to replace the ancient Sable sedan, added to Mercury showrooms almost 20 years ago as a 1986 model. Montego offers a much larger interior package than any Sable ever had, still with front-wheel drive, but also offering all-wheel drive. It's Ford's first car-shaped SUV, with lots of help from Volvo and a bold new sedan look for Mercury.

The Montego's generous interior dimensions put it among the roomiest sedans. Its seats sit about four inches higher than those in the Sable, and the high driving position makes it feel more like an SUV than a car, nice and high up, with wonderful outward vision.

We found its all-aluminum V6 engine with drive-by-wire electronic throttle control worked extremely well with the new wide-ratio six-speed automatic transmission, which was extremely smooth and quiet and always matched the right gear with the driving situation. The all-wheel-drive models come with a continuously variable transmission that's smooth and responsive as well as efficient for good gas mileage. The steering and suspension of the Montego are European in feel, offering quick response and minimal lean in corners. The brakes are excellent, responding quickly when the pedal is pressed and slowing the car quickly when necessary.

Model Lineup

Mercury Montego comes in two trim levels. All models are powered by a 3.0-liter 24-valve V6 engine and offer a choice of front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. Front-wheel-drive versions are tied to a new six-speed automatic transmission co-developed by Ford and GM. All-wheel-drive versions use a new continuously variable transmission, or CVT, co-developed by Ford and the German ZF firm. If you order the all-wheel-drive version, you automatically get a suspension upgrade that includes self-leveling rear shock absorbers.

The Luxury model ($24,345) comes standard with dual-zone electronic climate control, six-way power driver's seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat, split-fold rear seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, two 12-volt power points, AM/FM stereo with single CD player and tilt steering wheel with remote audio controls, remote keyless entry, folding heated power exterior mirrors, power windows and door locks, passive anti-theft system, 17-inch seven-spoke wheels, automatic high-intensity discharge headlamps, LED tail lamps, fog lamps. The Luxury model is available with all-wheel drive ($26,045). Cloth upholstery is standard; leather is optional ($895).

The Premier model ($26,545) comes with leather seating, heated front seats, power passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, overhead console with Homelink, woodgrain interior appliques, memory function for power seats, mirrors and adjustable pedals, remote perimeter lighting, an AM/FM stereo with 6-CD changer and subwoofer, and a trunk cargo net. Premier comes standard with traction control and 18-inch 15-spoke alloy wheels. It's also available with all-wheel drive ($28,245).

Options and packages include a moonroof ($895); park assist ($250); and a safety package with side curtain air bags and a rollover sensor ($595). We strongly recommend the curtain air bags as they can help reduce the chance of head injuries to your passengers, assuming they're wearing their seat belts.

Walkaround

The styling of this all-new sedan borrows from the Mercury Mountaineer SUV, the Mariner SUV, and the Monterey minivan. This can be seen in its waterfall grille bars and integrated headlamps in front and in the design of its LED taillamps with their metal crossbars. And the Montego sits high off the ground for a sedan, a design influenced by high-riding SUVs.

The Mercury Montego shares its general proportions with the Ford Five Hundred, which is to say that it has an Audiesque proportion of metal to glass, and a shape not unlike a larger VW Passat. The Montego will come in eight exterior colors.

The Montego comes standard with high-intensity-discharge, or HID, headlamps and an extremely large set of very bright taillamps. The Luxury model comes with 17-inch alloy wheels while the Premium gets 18-inch alloy wheels, not just for looks but also for better brake cooling.

Interior Features

Inside is where the Montego shines, in several ways. First and foremost is in the sheer roominess, 107 cubic feet front and rear combined, that the engineers have designed into this family sedan. The Montego's generous interior dimensions put it among the leaders in virtually every category, including best-in-class headroom and knee room in the rear compartment. Mercury says that the Montego has more interior space than competitive vehicles that are up to seven inches longer than it, and that its trunk, at 21 cubic feet, is also the largest in the class, aided by a space-saver spare tire. Both rear seats and the front passenger seat can be made to fold down, extending the useful cargo area of the Montego to station wagon proportions. With the front seat flopped over, you can get nearly 50 inches of storage length down the right side of the car.

The interior design was influenced by SUVs. The beefy steering wheel looks like it came from a Mercury truck, with more buttons than ever for added convenience, easier control over the cruise control, and more audio functions. Other SUV design cues include the overhead console, a big brow over the instruments. All the graphics are large, white on black, and very easy to read.

The Montego comes in three interior colors, two-tone grey, two-tone tan, and black. There's enough brushed aluminum trim to tell you you're in a Mercury product. The Luxury model comes with a straight-grain wood trim, while the Premium gets burled wood trim.

A large, oval-shaped clock is the central feature of the instrument panel, which is dark on top and light on the bottom, just as the seats are dark on the outside and light on the inside (unless you opt for the all-black interior). The instruments are easy to read and the controls are easy and quick to use.

The driving position in the new Montego dictates that it feels more like an SUV than a car, nice and high up, with wonderful outward vision. The seats sit up about four inches higher than the seats in a Sable sedan, and they are bit of a design throwback, with big outside segments and simple transverse segments. But they are also large, plush and a good deal more supportive than Sable seats. The rear seats are set up higher still so that rear-seat passengers can see out without craning.

Driving Impressions

The upgraded Duratec 3.0 engine worked extremely well with the new wide-ratio six-speed automatic. It always seemed to match the right gear with the driving situation, and was extremely smooth and quiet in operation. The CVT version gets its good performance from very low final-drive gearing and computer-optimized ratio changes. Long-term fuel economy should be very good with either. Rated at just 200 horsepower, though, the Montego is underpowered when compared to the Japanese and Korean sedan competition which reach up as high as 270 horsepower.

The handling of the Montego is particularly noteworthy, very European in feel, with a quickness and a nice, hefty feel to the steering, and rapid response to inputs with minimal body roll. The suspension, a modified version of the Volvo XC90 suspension, worked just fine on smooth and medium bumpy road surfaces, working with the stiff body and chassis to keep noise to a minimum. The rear suspension located far outboard, kept the Montego hunkered down.

For a car of this size and weight, the brakes are excellent in terms of quick reaction to pedal input, short pedal travel before braking commences, and sheer deceleration power. The aluminum disc brakes on Montego are large, 12.5 inches in front and 11 inches at the rear; they are designed to offer more stopping power than previous designs, with less brake dust on the front wheels due to a change in friction material.

Summary

On balance, the new Mercury Montego is a nice, roomy five-passenger family sedan. It offers the option of all-wheel-drive for driving in bad weather and low-traction conditions. Both transmissions work well. The CVT that comes with all-wheel-drive models is a vast improvement over earlier designs because of its electronic controls. Think of this as your $25,000 American Volvo.

Model Line Overview
Base Price (MSRP)
$24,345
Model lineup:
Mercury Montego Luxury ($24,345); Luxury AWD ($26,045); Premier ($26,545); Premier AWD ($28,245)
Engines:
200-hp 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Transmissions:
6-speed automatic overdrive; Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Safety equipment (Standard):
ABS, EBD, front airbags
Safety equipment (Optional):
side curtain air bags
Basic warranty:
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:
Chicago, Illinois
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSRP):
Mercury Montego Luxury ($24,345)
Standard equipment:
power windows, heated power mirrors, power locks, power seats, automatic HID headlamps, AM/FM/CD system, traction control
Options as tested:
Leather trim ($895); Moonroof ($895); Safety Package ($595) includes 2nd-row Safety Canopy w/rollover sensor and side-impact airbags
Destination charge:
650
Gas Guzzler Tax:
N/A
Price as tested (MSRP)
$27,380
Layout:
front-wheel drive
Engine:
3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm):
200 @ 5650
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):
200 @ 2750
Transmission:
6-speed automatic overdrive
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:
21/29 mpg.
Wheelbase:
112.9 in.
Length/width/height:
200.7/73.7/60.1 in.
Track, f/r:
64.6/65.0 in.
Turning circle:
40 ft.
Seating capacity:
5
Head/hip/leg room, f:
39.4/54.2/41.3 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:
38.6/54.1/40.9 in.
Cargo volume:
21.0 cu. ft.
Payload:
N/A
Towing capacity:
1000 lbs.
Suspension F:
independent
Suspension R:
independent
Ground clearance:
6.5 in.
Curb weight:
3650 lbs.
Tires:
P215/60R17
Brakes, f/r:
disc/disc with ABS, EBD in.
Fuel capacity:
19 gal.

Jim McCraw

New Car Test Drive

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