New Car/Review

Mercury Sable Wagon LS

by John Heilig

mercury

SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:                  3.0-liter Duratec DOHC V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       200 hp @ 5750 rpm/200 ft-lbs @ 4500 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE:               108.5 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 199.1 x 73.0 x 57.6 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3462 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:           16.0 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        38.4/81.3 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down)
TIRES:                   P 205/65R15
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, fuel level, water temperature, 
                         digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                         power seats, cruise control, air conditioner, 
                         AM-FM stereo radio with cassette, anti-lock brakes, 
                         dual front air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $22,835 (base)

I like station wagons. If there were no sport utilities or minivans, stations wagons would have to do the job.

Station wagons are basically sport utilities built on a full-size car chassis. And they precedes the ubiquitous sport utes by scores of decades.

When our family was beginning to grow, a full-sized station wagon served us well. That grew into a van and we got piggy after that. But a station wagon seats six people plus maybe a couple more in the back, it has great carrying capacity, and it has definite car-like driving style (because it is a car) and stupendous utility.

Our tester this week is the Mercury Sable LS wagon. It's probably, along with the Ford Taurus wagon, one of the more stylistic wagons on the highway. Sable has a definite oval style, which is the theme of the sedan as well. If you look at the wagon from the side, there is a pronounced oval between the A- and C-pillars. The "station wagon" part is just added to the back.

For most of the time we used the Sable, we used it as a straight sedan, as a commuter. And this was fine. It served us well, except that the distance between the inside rear-view mirror and the back of the vehicle was larger than in the sedan. The wagon is slightly heavier so it had a slightly better ride.

Our Sable was a six-seater in normal configuration, but if you only have two passengers or, at max, five, you can fold down the armrest between the front seats that converts into a console with two cupholders and storage in the console itself. It solves the problem of wanting a console with its utility, and still occasionally wanting a six-seater passenger vehicle.

It was when we needed the extra carrying capacity that the Sable wagon came into its own. I had to pick up my lawnmower from its spring tune-up home. I folded down the rear seats of the Sable to convert it into a small enclosed truck, folded the lawnmower's handle because it would not fit any other way, and I had a vehicle where I could bring the mower home. We kept the seats folded down and brought some of my daughter's memorabilia to her new home, and again, the Sable wagon was able to act as a truck.

It did its job well and I am surprised by the relative disappearance of wagons on the highway today. Because of their utility, because of their car-like driving style, one would assume that they would remain popular. But they have been supplanted by sport utilities and minivans. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see wagons return in popularity.

Our Sable was powered by a 3.0-liter DOHC V6 engine that delivered 200 horsepower, which was definitely enough for the vehicle. On interstates and winding roads it handled with aplomb. We had power enough to keep up with any traffic.

It was comfortable in the 60-70 mph range, and at speed limits as well. Because of the Sable's aerodynamic style, there was no wind noise to speak of, and there was only a little tire noise to disturb the quiet.

The instrument panel had tasteful wood trim to distinguish it from the Taurus, and Ford's oval pod that contains sound system and HVAC controls. The oval pod takes some getting used to, but once you learn where the controls are there's no problem. This is a learning process with any new car.

All in all, our week in the Mercury Sable wagon was a pleasant one. I liked the styling, because it was dramatic. I liked the practicality of the wagon because of its utility, and I liked the driving style and the handling of it.

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