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Road Impressions

1998 Mercury Mystique - What a Surprise!

Andrew Frankl

European Bureau Chief

SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide

Never, in 30 years of testing automobiles did I ever want to hate a car as much as the Mercury, which arrived outside TACH's HQ the other day. I was ready with my entire vocabulary and then some. Ugly, gutless, overpriced, ill-handling, over-rated, ill-conceived, you name it I had it ready and waiting.

The reason? Purely subjective. As far as I was concerned Mercury completely ruined the Olympic coverage from Nagano. Unless Tara Lipinski was having breakfast or Michelle Kwan was washing her teeth it was Mercury, Mercury and more Mercury. Arguably some of the most pathetic, idiotic, juvenile ads I have ever seen. So much so that I actually put pen to paper-or at least switched on the computer and wrote a letter to Jacques Nasser, head honcho at Ford-makers of Mercury. Suggesting that he should at the very least sack the agency to stop this appalling garbage ever hitting the TV screens again.

Oh dear! Did I like the car in spite of the nauseating ads? Yes.
Is it tremendous value for money? Yes.
Does it deserve better advertising? Certainly.

According to the fact sheet that came with car the total cost on the road is $19,235. For that you get a four door sedan with leather seats and far more to the point an adorable 2.5 litre V6 engine which growls like something out of one of the more exotic automakers in Northern Italy. It handles like a dream and goes like stink. My biggest problem was slowing down to acceptable speeds in view of the ever attentive boys of the CHP. The car came with a very satisfactory A/C which was very welcome on the first truly hot day in Marin County this year. (Would you believe April 25?)

The sad thing is that in England you would get almost nothing worthy of interest for this sort of money. It works out at just over 11 thousand pounds for which you will be lucky to get an Escort or a small Volkswagen. Unfortunately it would be impossible to arrange a car buyers strike so all the manufacturers make mints out of the cars they sell in the UK. Renault for instance have not lowered their prices even though one pound sterling is now approximately 10 francs, whereas previously it was something like 8! The 20% difference is very welcome to the French automaker but is grossly unfair to the British public. If Ford were to export the Mercury and sell it at let us say 13 thousand pounds which is 22 thousand dollars they would clean up. I cannot remember the last time I came across such excellent value.

The trunk/boot is huge, the consumption is totally acceptable-depending on your right foot of course and all in all there is very little wrong with it. I have no idea how many Mercury Mystiques are sold annually but one thing is sure. With proper advertising it would increase considerably. An excellent product, it certainly deserves to.

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