New Car/Review

Mercury

1999 Mercury Mystique LS

By Matt and Bob Hagin

Mercury Full Line Video footage (7:17) 28.8, 56k, or 200k
SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 17,745
     Price As Tested                                    $ 20,420
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 2.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 155 cid/2544 cc
     Horsepower                                   170 @ 6250 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               165 @ 4250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.5"/69.1"/184.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     2873 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/60R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 70-percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/29/25          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.5 seconds @ 82.5 mph
     Top speed                                           N/A mph

     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Matt Hagin likes the "classy" upgrades that the Mercury Mystique has over its less-endowed sibling, the Ford Contour. Bob Hagin says Mercury should do the emulate the Contour SVT and give the dual income Generation X kids a reason to go for Mercury class.)

BOB - Since it was introduced in '39, Mercury has been an upscale version of a Ford rather than a downsized Lincoln. Mercury doesn't offer its own version of the Ford Contour SVT, (Special Vehicle Team), but it's an idea the company should look into. In the old days, Mercurys were considered the performance vehicles of a corporate lineup and an SVT version of the car could help drop the average age of Mystique buyers. As is, almost 30 percent of the buyers of the Mystique are over 62. It might be a good idea for Mercury to consider an SVT version of the Cougar, too, since it shares the chassis platform with the Mystique.

MATT - Ford offers the car in Europe, but there it's called the Ford Mondeo. The '99 Mystique has a lot of Mondeo heritage in it since the shared platform was a joint venture by European and U.S. design teams. The European version is a little hotter and enjoys tighter suspension since Europeans like their cars to perform well on the twisty roads that are common there. As a result, the Mystique has a redesigned front subframe and front suspension lower A-arms to match the Mondeo which sharpens the Mystique's handling. The change shows up in the improved handling but it would have been real nice if our tester came with a five-speed manual transmission. The optional four-speed automatic isn't much of a power-robber and according to the EPA, it actually gets one more mile per gallon on both city and highway driving than the stick.

BOB - I still would have liked to have at least tried that five- speed, Matt, But seeing as how the average Mystique owner is geriatric like me, I can understand the push for the automatic. But the Mystique we had is no a slouch. It came with a 2.5 liter, 24-valve, twin-cam V6 that pumps out a respectable 170 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. The Mystique also can be had as an LS model that uses a 2.0 liter four-banger that also sports twin-cams and four valves per cylinder. It also has a special variable valve timing system which the V6 doesn't have. That feature alone would add power to the V6.

BOB - Matt, I don't need buckets of power, so the four- cylinder would have been fine for me. It's a plus for "sporty" seniors to be able to get the stick-shift on either the four or the V6 engines. Our tester was the upscale LS model which came with ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) as an option for $500. Another "sporty" plus for the stick-shift LS V6 is that it's the only one in the line that has disc brakes in back as well as in front. The rear brakes on our automatic LS had drums and the four-cylinder GS with either gearbox gets drum brakes in back, regardless of the transmission choice. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels are an option on the GS, but they're standard on our V6.

Matt - This year the interior was changed to add a half-inch more knee room up front and an even larger increase in legroom to the rear. There are three sets of seat belts in back but like most sedans of this size, three medium-sized adults back there would be a squeeze. I like the car's tilt-steering and all Mystiques have bucket seats, but the LS is done in leather where the GS has cloth.

BOB - For the money, Matt, the Mystique is a pretty good machine that has good performance and lots of creature comforts. I was disappointed to see a mini-spare in the trunk but the car is limited on trunk space so this makes sense. There are only two option groups, the Sport Group for the GS trim and a Smoker's Package. All Mystiques have power door locks, windows and side mirrors, and all LS's have standard keyless entry as well. But sometimes I long for the simplicity of roll-up windows and manual door locks.

MATT - Dad, you are just not into state-of-the-art electronics and it shows in the antique word processor that you type with.

BOB - If it were up to me, Matt, I'd still be typing out my stories on my trusty old Underwood but the spell-checker broke.

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