New Car/Review

Mercury

Mercury Sable LS (2000)

SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide


by Carey Russ

The renaissance continues at Mercury, and can be best symbolized by the newest version of the company's Sable sedan. Mercury is at a crossroad. Traditionally, it has been a manufacturer of upscale, entry- luxury cars. Large sedans of the type once preferred by the American upper-middle class dominated its product lineup. Then customer tastes changed, with smaller luxury cars and well-appointed sport-utility vehicles becoming popular. Mercury faced the same challenge as did most other luxury manufacturers: attract new customers without alienating existing ones. It is rising to the challenge: with the Grand Marquis for the traditional Mercury buyer, and the Mystique sedan, Cougar sports coupe, Mountaineer SUV, and Villager minivan for younger customers, the Mercury brand has something for everyone. The Sable fits neatly in the middle, with size and features to attract all the broadest spectrum of people in Mercury's target market.

And, the Sable has had significant changes for the 2000 model year. If not quite a totally-new car, this year's modifications are far more than merely a mid-life styling freshening. This is not to discount the styling changes -- only the passenger cabin and doors remain the same as on last year's Sable. There are numerous interior improvements, for greater comfort, convenience, and safety. And both 3.0-liter V6 engines have important enhancements for increased performance and lower emissions. The 2000 Sable is offered in sedan and wagon body styles, with two trim levels, base GS and upscale LS. A Sable LS has been my transportation for the past week, and has impressed me with its comfort and civility. It is the type of car that can appeal to a wide range of people, and gives far more than basic transportation at a price far less than that of many luxury sedans.

APPEARANCE: The 2000 Sable's new skin gives it a much more defined look. Although the central part of the car is the same, the vague roundness used from 1996 to 1999 has been replaced by a "New Edge"-influenced crispness at both ends. A much-larger grille set into a lower extension of the newly-sculpted hood proclaims the Sable's Mercury identity, combining cues from both the Grand Marquis and the Mystique. Larger, reshaped headlights give the car more presence, and also improve night vision. At the rear, the deck lid is longer, with less slope and a squared-off tail for increased trunk space and improved appearance. Prominent wraparound taillights, similar to those on other Mercury and Lincoln cars, dominate the rear. A very Lincoln Mercury chrome trim piece is found at the top of the rear panel.

COMFORT: The Sable's interior has been redesigned even more than its exterior. Like the outside, the inside is now more mainstream in appearance. It's a glare-reducing dark gray over cream design, with a gently flowing instrument panel with a well-hooded instrument cluster. The "Integrated Control Panel" (ICP) has been given a squared-off restyling, but still has the large, well-marked control buttons typical of Ford products. A six-passenger layout, with a split-bench front seat, is standard, but my test car had the optional five-passenger interior. It features power- adjustable front bucket seats and a useful center console. The optional CD changer fits into the console box, and there's even room left over for small items. "Convenience" is the theme, with storage spaces in all doors and even in the passenger-side footwell. A perfect driving position may be obtained thanks not only to the power-adjustable seats, but to power- adjustable pedals. Shorter drivers can keep their distance from the airbags. The Sable in on the large end of midsized, and three people fit into the rear bench seat with relative comfort. The trunk has been enlarged, with a lower liftover and an internal emergency release.

SAFETY: The 2000 Mercury Sable features the "Personal Safety System," a computerized system that utilizes sensors that detect occupant position and seatbelt use to intelligently deploy the front and optional side airbags and seatbelt pretensioners. All positions have 3-point belts, and the chassis has front and rear crumple zones.

ROADABILITY: Sporty cornering is not a concern in the Sable's class, but good maneuverability in emergency situations is, and the Sable's fully- independent suspension is tuned to deliver the comfortably-controlled ride expected of a luxury car and good handling as well. On the road, the car is quiet and surefooted. The lighter "Duratec" engine found in some Sables helps handling by decreasing weight and improving weight distribution.

PERFORMANCE: Both of the Sable's 3.0-liter V6 engines have significant enhancements for 2000. The base pushrod "Vulcan" engine gets 10 more horsepower - 155 - and 12 more lb-ft of torque, now 185. The dual overhead cam "Duratec" has the same horsepower and torque ratings - 200 for each - but is 30 lbs lighter thanks to composite materials used for the cam covers and intake manifold. My test car was so-equipped, and had plenty of power for acceleration and passing. The four-speed automatic transmission worked well for its tasks in this car.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2000 Mercury Sable combines comfort and value with new styling.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price                $ 21,245
Price As Tested           $ 23,980
Engine Type               24-valve dual overhead cam V6
Engine Size               3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower                200 @ 5750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)            200 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission              4-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length        108.5 in. / 199.8 in.
Curb Weight               3325 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower     16.6
Fuel Capacity             16 gal.
Fuel Requirement          unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                     P215/60 R16 Firestone Affinity
Brakes, front/rear        vented disc / drum
Suspension, front/rear    independent MacPherson strut /
                            independent multilink
Drivetrain                front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed       20 / 28 / 21
0 to 60 mph                     8.2  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                 16.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Traction control                $ 175
5-passenger seating with console floor shift and
  dual 6-way power seats        $ 350
Anti-lock braking system        $ 600
Side-impact airbags             $ 390
Audio group - includes: Ford Mach audio
  system, 6-disc CD changer     $ 670
Destination charge              $ 550

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