New Car/Review

1997 MERCURY SABLE SEDAN LS

by Matt/Bob Hagin

Mercury

SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,080
Price As Tested                                    $ 23,575
Engine Type                             3.0 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 181 cid/2966 cc
Horsepower                                   200 @ 5750 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               200 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    108.5"/73"/199.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3405 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    16 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 85 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/28/23
0-60 MPH                                          9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 85.5 mph
Top speed                                           110 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(Until recently, Bob Hagin considered Mercury the Rodney Dangerfield of the Ford family and thought its days were numbered. His son Matt points out that its new Sable sedan is the consummate family vehicle.)

MATT - This new Mercury Sable sedan was introduced as a '96 model and it was something of a gamble if the car and its more popular clone, the Ford Taurus, were going to be accepted by the general public. Its body shape is oval and very curvy and was as radical in '96 as the Ford "aero" look was a decade before. That oval look is prominent on the inside, too, and even the dashboard and controls cluster are oval shaped. Personally, I feel the styling takes a bit of getting used to. And it's no ball of fire, but it will still crack off 0-to-60 MPH in nine seconds and is reported to be good for 110 MPH. But I don't think that performance is what buyers of cars in the Sable market niche are looking for. They want a reliable family people-mover that's comfortable, long-lasting and will stay in fashion until well after the last payment has been made.

BOB - You're getting to be a cautious family man, Matt, and I admire you for it, but I still think that the Sable sedan line would profit by offering a more sporting model, too. The GS is a step below the LS version that we tried, and while our test car packed a sophisticated 3.0 liter, twin-cam, 24 valve 200-horse V6 engine, the powerplant on the GS is a vintage pushrod V6 that's down by 55 ponies. A Sable "sport" with an optional five-speed stick-shift, a slightly tighter suspension tuning and aggressive tires would be an "image builder" for Mercury and it wouldn't have to be a total pavement-burner like the Taurus SHO. The Mercury line is getting more TV advertising play now and it's losing its "unknown marque" persona so a "glamour model" would be a real plus.

MATT - You'll never see it, Dad. The Sable is an unabashed family car that's very comfortable and pleasant to drive. The interior is spacious and the rear seat has an amazing amount of leg room, and although it's a bit short on head room, three adults can ride back there without being cramped. The center console flips up like a switchblade to provide cup holders and I must have done it a dozen times entertaining my daughter. The new oval design has resulted in forward vision through the windshield that is almost as good as a slope-nosed minivan. The fuel mileage isn't bad at 18 in the city and 28 on the highway either. The little things that make long-term ownership easier have been well thought out like the low trunk lift-over is an example. Another is the interior Micronair particulate filter that comes with the preferred equipment package which also includes a leather-covered steering wheel, cruise control, a perimeter anti-theft system, and keyless entry. The brakes have been upgraded a bit this year, but the car still has drum brakes in back and an anti-skid brake system is only available as an optional extra, or if the buyer opts for the preferred package. But I was surprised that only the driver's seat was power-adjustable.

BOB - The Sable is also available as a traditional four-door station wagon too, Matt, and you know that I've been partial to those old-time family work horses since you guys were little. The trendy sports/utility vehicle has pushed the station wagon almost into obscurity and only a couple of manufacturers are still building them. Apparently Mercury wants to move both models of the new Sable so the sedan and the wagon are all going for the same price. This market niche is pretty crowded with some nice automobiles, but Sable does a the job of holding its own when the chips are down. It's a car that a long-term buyer can afford.

MATT - The Ford Motor Company has been in business for almost 100 years now, Dad, and Mercury itself is coming up on its 60th birthday too. Mercurys have been rebadged Fords in years gone by but this Sable has enough individuality to keep it from being mistaken for a Taurus.

BOB - True, Matt, and the thing I like best about the differences is that Mercury is finally getting the respect it deserves. Rodney Dangerfield would approve.

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