Once a styling leader, Mercury's Sable has retreated to a more conservative look, quietly handsome while avoiding the industrial blandness of its import competition. The Sable provides safety, comfort, and practicality. Yet it's an enjoyable car to drive.
Mercury Sable resides at the large end of the current mid-size scale. Its interior is spacious and pleasing, and by and large, its controls and instrumentation are contemporary, straightforward and easy to use. Its list of safety features is comprehensive, and its five-star front-impact rating from the federal government is unbeatable. Its trunk is capacious.
The Sable wagon is every bit as fun to drive as the sedan, while adding capacity for kids and cargo.
Sable sedan comes in GS ($19,745), GS Plus ($20,805) and LS Premium ($22,170) trim levels. Corresponding levels for the wagon list for $21,155, $22,045,and $23,335, respectively.
GS models are very thoroughly equipped. GS Plus adds heated mirrors, power adjustable pedals, CD player, six-way power driver's seat, and a 60/40 folding rear seat back.
LS Premium models add electronic climate control, automatic headlights, fog lights, bucket seats, console with floor-mounted shifter and rear-seat air conditioning outlet, leather-wrapped steering wheel, seven-spoke machined alloy wheels, SecuriLock anti-theft system with perimeter alarm, and a more powerful V6 engine. Leather upholstery is a no-cost option.
Mercury installs two engines in the Sable. GS and GS Plus versions get the 3.0-liter, overhead-valve "Vulcan" V6, a capable old cast-iron workhorse currently rated 155 horsepower. Standard in LS Premium is Ford's excellent and exciting "Duratec" V6, with dual overhead cams, 24 valves, and 200 horsepower. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission offered.
Side-impact air bags and traction control are offered together in a $565 Secure Package. Anti-lock brakes are a no-cost option on all Sables.
Sable received a moderate re-styling in 2000, which also resulted in some functional improvements, including a higher tail and larger trunk, headlights that were 25 percent more powerful, and better shrouding of the windshield wipers for reduced noise. Since then changes have been relatively minor.
Looks are of course subjective, but we like what we see. This latest Sable is not as daringly innovative as the ground-breaking design that introduced the nameplate back in '86. Since then, the Sable and its Ford-badged sibling, the Taurus, seem to have slowly swapped places, so that the Sable is now the conservative older sister and the Taurus the adventurous sprite. But the old girl is still pretty easy on the eyes, if now in a buttoned-down, business-suit sort of way.
Like the very best automotive designs, Sable comfortably blends beauty and function. Its total passenger space, at 102.5 cubic feet, is only 6 percent short of the full-size Grand Marquis'. Subjectively, the Sable's interior feels huge, even for a mid-size. The sedan offers a generous cargo space of 16 cubic feet. The station wagon has 38.8 cubic feet of space with the rear seat up and a cavernous 81.3 cubic feet with the seats down.
The Sable cabin is a refined interior space furnished with controls and instruments that are admirably straightforward and user-friendly. The power-adjustable pedals (standard on GS Plus and LS Premium) provide up to thee inches of movement, which enhances safety by allowing shorter drivers to find a comfortable seating position without sitting dangerously close to the airbag.
Gone is the heavy-handed oval theme of previous Taurus/Sable dashboards. Now large, legible gauges are set into a two-shade panel, the upper panel toned darker to reduce glare and the lower panel keyed to the inside door covering. Audio and climate controls are mounted in the center of the dash, which, while aesthetically an improvement, still presents an intimidating array of small, similarly shaped push-buttons with tiny labels. At first glimpse, this layout may impress you with its high-tech appearance, but it can be a challenge to find and hit the right button while battling prime-drive-time traffic.
Sable can be ordered in either five or six-passenger configurations, pretty much regardless of trim. Technically, the GS and GS Plus are six-passenger models, while the LS Premium upgrades to front bucket seats. But just $105 adds bucket seats, a console, and a floor shifter to the GS/GS PLus; while a no-cost option on LS Premium provides a front bench seat with a neat mini-console that flips out when the center is unoccupied.
If you specify both a five-passenger layout and Sable's premium audio, then the six-disc CD changer goes in the floor console, a vastly more convenient location than the trunk. The floor console also provides a dedicated air conditioning outlet for rear-seat passengers. The twin front bucket seats deliver surprisingly good lateral support without incurring a penalty in seating comfort, even for larger drivers. The cushions and seatbacks are on the firm side, which might initially seems a shortcoming; but firmer seats, if well-designed, usually feel more comfortable and reduce fatigue on long drives. This is certainly the case in the Sable.
The Sable's rear seating for three is spacious and comfortable, with the two outboard positions having a semi-bucket form. In our LS Premium, a pull-down center elbow rest presented us with two cup-holders. And if you ski, or carry ladders everywhere you go, the positively enormous split-seat pass-through into the trunk will make your life immeasurably easier.
Other nice touches in the LS Premium include dual vanity mirrors with a rheostat for raising or lowering their illumination. Also, the sunroof opens with one touch.
In the area of safety, the Sable has earned the U.S. government's top five-star frontal crash-test rating. It is equipped with dual-stage airbags, which sense the intensity of the impact and deploy at one of two different speeds. In lesser impacts, gentler deployment reduces the risk of injury by the bags themselves. Head-and-chest side airbags are available as an option. Seatbelt pretensioners are standard, as is a system which releases small amounts of seatbelt tension to reduce injury.
For such a relatively large and roomy family sedan, Sable is startlingly agile, controllable, even sporty. Even with the stoic Vulcan in the engine room, the Sable chassis proves itself anything but unemotional. Its finely tuned variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering provides just the right amount of boost (less of it as road speed increases) and a constant stream of information to the driver. This live-wire steering combines with a finely tuned front suspension to deliver surprisingly sporting driving sensations. Driven to the extremes, the Sable takes the safest course, understeering to warn the driver that traction has been overcome. But before exceeding the tires' grip, this family taxi feels for all the world like a closet sports sedan.
Having said that, the Sable still manages to provide a comfortable ride, one that gently deletes even the worst broken pavement as it passes beneath the wheels. Mercury has achieved a fine balance between crisp handling and gentle ride, the same sort of balance that has earned the best European sedans their loyal following.
Add the superb Duratec V6 to this mix, and the Sable really comes alive. Its fine handling qualities now complement a very responsive engine. When heavy throttle is applied, acceleration is sharp enough that traction control is needed to prevent wheel spin. The Duratec makes a tactful but nonetheless exciting growl. So equipped, the Sable allows the hidden hurrier in you full expression, but in this car, who will suspect? It's just a family sedan, right? (Just smile and nod; nobody needs to know your secret.) A test drive of the Duratec will demonstrate that it positively transforms the personality of this Mercury. With its finger-snap responsiveness, the Sable has a heads-up, ready-to-run willingness that knowledgeable drivers will find irresistible.
The Mercury Sable is a happy blend of family-car safety and mid-market value. When equipped with the optional Duratec V6, it is blessed with the kind of performance and agility expected in expensive sports sedans. The Sable combines the virtues of high quality, five-star crash protection and comfortable accommodations, plus a healthy helping of driving fun. That's a combination that should see Mercury's star player selling large numbers well into the millennium.
|Model Line Overview |
|Model lineup: ||Sedan: GS ($19,745); GS Plus ($20,205); LS Premium ($22,170); Wagon: GS ($21,155); GS Plus ($22,045); LS Premium ($23,335) |
|Engines: ||155-hp 3.0-liter ohv 12-valve V6; 200-hp 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|Transmissions: ||4-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (standard): ||Dual-stage front airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, dual rear child-seat anchors, emergency inside-trunk release |
|Safety equipment (optional): ||side airbags, ABS, traction control |
|Basic warranty: ||3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: ||Chicago, Atlanta |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): ||LS Premium Sedan ($22,170) |
|Standard equipment: ||3.0-liter 24-valve V6, six-way power driver's seat, power adjustable pedals, power mirrors, doors and locks, keyless remote, electronic climate control, automatic headlamps, polished alloy wheels, 60/40 split folding rear seat, tilt steering, tinted glass, passive anti-theft system |
|Options as tested (MSRP): ||Secure Group ($565) includes traction control and side-impact air bags; six-way power passenger's seat ($350); power moonroof ($890), Audio Group ($670) includes six-speaker Mach stereo with cassette and six-CD changer, ABS (NC), leather seating surfaces (NC) |
|Destination charge: ||($625) |
|Gas guzzler tax: ||N/A |
|Price as tested (MSRP): ||$ 24,920 |
|Layout: ||front-wheel drive |
|Engine: ||3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): ||200 @ 5650 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): ||200 @ 4400 |
|Transmission: ||4-speed automatic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: ||20/27 mpg |
|Wheelbase: ||108.5 in. |
|Length/width/height: ||199.8/73.0/55.5 in. |
|Track, f/r: ||61.6/62.1 in. |
|Turning circle: ||39.7 ft. |
|Seating capacity: ||5 |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: ||39.8/54.4/42.2 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: ||N/A |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: ||36.7/55.7/38.9 in. |
|Trunk volume: ||16.0 cu. ft. |
|Payload: ||N/A |
|Towing capacity: ||1750 Lbs. |
|Suspension, f: ||Independent |
|Suspension, r: ||Independent |
|Ground clearance: ||5.5 in. |
|Curb weight: ||3313 lbs. |
|Tires: ||P215/60R16 |
|Brakes, f/r: ||disc/drum, with ABS |
|Fuel capacity: ||18.0 gal. |
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of September 10, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-392-3673 - www.lincolnmercury.com
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