2008 Mercury Sable Premier Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2008 Mercury Sable Premier
The Sable was the core of the Mercury lineup from its debut in model year 1986 until it mysteriously vanished for model year 2005, to be replaced by the Montego. And then, for model year 2008, the Montego disappeared, replaced by the new Sable.
Which looks much like the Montego. Which should be no surprise, as it is the car that was expected to have been named Sable, that instead was called Montego, but with some important upgrades. Confused? Don't be. Mysterious are the ways of automotive marketing.
As has been the case since the beginning, the Mercury Sable is the upscale cousin to the Ford Taurus. Compared to the last Sable, today's is noticeably larger, especially inside. And the Montego's power deficiency has been eliminated by replacing the venerable 3.0-liter "Duratec" V6 with a new 3.5-liter engine, which adds 60 horsepower and 42 lb-ft of torque and improves fuel economy thanks to design improvements and the use of a six-speed automatic transmission. A stiffer unibody structure and increased soundproofing improve safety, ride quality, and interior quiet.
Mercury's brief has always been near-luxury to entry-luxury, American-style. That niche has changed over the years, and Mercurys have changed with it. Gone is the overly soft suspension tuning that was the hallmark of the American luxury car of the (thankfully) now-distant past. Ditto for the sometimes garish exterior and interior styling. Not too long ago, Mercury might have called the newest Sable "European-influenced". Now it's merely mainstream American, and that's good.
Available in base and upscale Premier trim levels, with front- or all-wheel drive, the new Sable is a sedan that can be an alternative to a crossover. It's lighter in weight, and has a lower center of gravity, for better fuel economy and handling compared to a higher, heavier crossover. The trunk is huge, the split-folding rear seat is easily wide enough for three people, and the front passenger seatback can be folded flat forward to help carry long items.
A front-wheel drive Sable Premier has been my ride for the past week. It was pleasantly smooth and quiet on the highway, and capable on the byways. I had occasion to transport friends, and the six-footers in the rear seat were happy. It's not your great-uncle's Grand Marquis. The Premier's audio system sees to that, with SYNC connectivity for Bluetooth¨ phones and audio players, and playback capability for all current CD formats.
APPEARANCE: Mercury now has a cohesive look. Stylistically, the Sable fits neatly into the lineup with the smaller Milan sedan and the Mariner and Mountaineer SUVs. The Sable's center section, passenger cabin and doors, shares sheetmetal with the late Montego, but revised front and rear styling gives it a more youthful appearance. The flat-topped satin chrome waterfall grille and bright headlight clusters do the trick. At the rear, a neatly-truncated tail and taillights that use large clear triangular covers over red LEDs presents a contemporary look. The sides are clean, and the wheels fill the small, functional wheel arches. Dark plastic around the lower perimeter visually lowers the car and provides lower bumper and rocker panel protection.
COMFORT: Inside as well as out, the Sable is clean, uncluttered, and tasteful. And the spaciousness given by its size is enhanced by efficient design and use of all possible nooks and crannies. The car's size means more than ample room for five adults, plus plenty of trunk space. Interior storage includes not only the usual door pockets (with bottle holders, and in all four doors) and glovebox, but a dual-layer console box (with mini-jack, USB connection, and power point in the lower section for audio player connectivity) and a covered dash-top compartment that can hold items from coins and toll tickets to CDs. At the Premier level, perforated leather covers the seats, and the power-adjustable front seats have two-level heating elements. The steering wheel is tilt-adjustable, but optional power-adjustable pedals allow perfect driver placement, for both comfort and safety. The instrument panel is simple in design and uncluttered, with plastic "wood" and "brushed aluminum" trim appropriate to the Sable's price point. The main instruments are readily visible and shaded from glare. With the optional navigation system, as fitted to my test car, navigation, audio, and trip computer functions are available via touch-screen and voice interaction. Control is very simple and intuitive; perusal of a thick manual is not normally necessary. Audio choices include all currently-popular formats, AM, FM, and (optionally) Sirius satellite radio, plus standard, MP3, and WMA CDs and MP3 players or iPods. Microsoft SYNC connectivity integrated cell phones and audio players. Dual-zone electronic climate control is separate from the touch screen, controlled by simple and well-marked buttons. Perimeter lighting adds convenience and safety at night.
SAFETY: The 2008 Sable is built on the same platform as the Montego, which was based on the first-generation Volvo S80. So safety is expected, and delivered. The new Sable scored a five-star rating in all NHTSA crash test categories. It's rated Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. Standard safety equipment includes dual stage front airbags, seat-mounted front airbags, Safety Canopy(tm) full-length side curtain airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and traction control. The AdvanceTrac¨ stability control system is available.
RIDE AND HANDLING: On the road, the new Sable is polite and quiet. Improved sound-deadening materials and structural revisions see to that. The Macpherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is the same basic design as that of the Montego, but detail improvements make a difference. The engine is now mounted directly to the body with hydraulic mounts, not to a subframe, and springs and shocks are new, tuned for compliance without excessive bounciness. The Premier gets "plus-one" 225/55 HR18 tires on alloy rims, which improve turn-in response a touch. If you haven't been in a mainstream American car in a while, a drive in the Sable could leave you pleasantly surprised.
PERFORMANCE: The 3.5-liter Duratec V6 is just what the Sable needed. The Montego was marginally underpowered, with the 3.0-liter, 203-horsepower V6. The new engine, like its forebear an aluminum alloy design with dual overhead cams, 24 valves, and continuously-variable cam phasing on the intake cams, is considerably more powerful, with 263 horses (at 6250 rpm) and 249 lb-ft of torque - versus 207 - (at 4500 rpm). Curb weight has only increased by around 100 pounds, so performance is considerably improved, to the tune of about two seconds less for 0-60. All the better for the cut and thrust of traffic. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. There is no manual mode, which should bother the target buyer not at all. "D" works just fine, thank you.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2008 Mercury Sable combines style, space, and comfort with useful versatility.
SPECIFICATIONS 2008 Mercury Sable Premier FWD
Base Price $ 27,330 Price As Tested $ 31,455 Engine Type aluminum alloy 24-valve dual overhead cam V6 with variable cam phasing on the intake cams Engine Size 3.4 liters / 213 cu. in. Horsepower 263 @ 6250 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 249 @ 4500 rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 112.9 in. / 202.1 in. Curb Weight 3741 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 14.2 Fuel Capacity 20 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P225/55 R18 97H Pirelli P6 Four Seasons Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent double A-arm Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 28 / 20 0 to 60 mph 6.8 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES AdvanceTrac stability control $ 495 Navigation system $ 1,995 Cargo Management System $ 200 Sirius Satellite Radio with 6 months service $ 195 Reverse Sensing System $ 295 Adjustable pedals with memory $ 195 Destination charge $ 750