New Car/Review

99 Mercury Sable

MERCURY SABLE LS WAGON

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,740
Price As Tested                                    $ 24,190
Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 181 cid/2967 cc
Horsepower                                   200 @ 5750 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               200 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.5"/73.0"/199.1"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3493 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                      P205/65R15 92T all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                 85 percent          
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32



PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            18/26/23          
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                          17.5 seconds @ 82.0 mph
Top speed                                           110 mph

* Sequential Multi-port fuel injection

(Bob Hagin says Mercury doesn't get its due respect. Matt Hagin agrees but says that with the resurgence in the popularity of the traditional station wagon, maybe its Sable wagon will help to change all that.)

MATT - With the public's renewed interest in the traditional station wagon, Mercury's Sable wagon is in a good place at a good time. But that's if buyers could be enticed into Lincoln-Mercury showrooms to take a look. Although it's a blood-brother to Ford's Taurus, it's different enough that a Mercury driver won't lose it in a sea of Fords in a parking lot. It's really a pretty good-sized machine, and like the station wagons that our family used to own, there's an optional pull-up rear bench seat available that's built into the floor.

BOB - And like those wagons of yesteryear, that fold-up seat faces the rear. When you kids were little, you'd fight for the opportunity to sit back there so you could wave at the drivers behind us and make faces at them. Then as you got older, you'd too "grown-up" and self-conscious to sit there. But a wagon like that is very handy for a small family that doesn't want to have to live with an oversized mini-van. For family buyers with a more "sporting" attitude, a station wagon is a practical alternative to a sports sedan. Several European makes have developed tricked-out wagons with hot engines and tuned suspensions and Sable's 3.0 liter, 200 horse twin-cam V6 comes close. There's a pushrod 3.0 liter V6 that is standard, but since it has 55 less ponies, its performance is much weaker. The suspension on this Sable wagon also has a rear sway bar that's lacking in its sedan counterpart and the springs are progressive in the wagon. I suspect that these differences were made with additional load carrying capacity in mind, but they also make the wagon handle better when it's not loaded. The wagon has the added performance advantage of having disc brakes in the rear as well as the front, a feature not offered in the sedan.

MATT - Although the design of the Sable has been around for a while, it's still unusual enough to not be dated. The best way to describe it is that it comes from The Oval School of Design and this extends into the driver's compartment as well. All this roundness no doubt contributes to the Sable's low .32 coefficient of drag. It also probably helped in achieving the average 22 miles per gallon that the Sable wagon achieved while we were driving it. Both the Sable station wagon and the sedan come in two states of trim: LS and the GS. The LS is the more luxurious of the two and has leather upholstery and a keyless entry system as standard equipment. The optional rear area "catch" net and cargo cover are useful and just might keep some bad guy from breaking in to get at whatever is in the luggage area. And this alone is worth the $140 optional cost.

BOB - Another extra that's really a necessity in my mind is the anti-lock braking system that adds another $600 to the sticker price. You only need to use it once to make it well worth the money. The particulate-eliminating air filtration system has been eliminated from the Sable line this year. The base price of all the Sable wagons has been scaled back by around $2000 for '99 and I guess that it was achieved by dropping those items that are "nice" to have as opposed to those items that a buyer "needs" to have. Since safety is now a very big deal, both the Sable and its Taurus clone advertising the fact that both of them are up near the top in crashworthiness and got a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in side impact tests. I'm not crazy about the foot-operated parking brake operation. I much prefer the more "sporting" hand lever system.

MATT - The grille and some of the forward sheet metal are what distinguish the Sable from the Taurus and from the back, the location of the black-trimmed rear lights and the bumper/apron give the appearance of a cartoon face wearing sun glasses grinning at the cars behind.

BOB - Only a guy who spent time in a rear-facing back seat of a station wagon making faces at following cars would think of that, Matt.

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