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New Car Review


by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 17,645
Price As Tested                                    $ 19,235
Engine Type                             2.5 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 155 cid/2540 cc
Horsepower                                   170 @ 6250 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               165 @ 4250 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.5"/69.1"/184.8"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     2815 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  14.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/60R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 75 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/28/25
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 83 mph
Top speed                                           107 mph
   * Sequential fuel injection

(Last year, Matt and Bob Hagin tested checked the '97 Mercury Mystique LS but the version they tested had an automatic transmission but they find that the five-speed model feels like a different car.)

BOB - Driving cars like the Mystique with a five-speed could get me hooked on stick-shifts again, Matt. The LS we tried before was a pleasant enough car and had lots of amenities that made it a comfortable commuter machine, but this manual transmission has turned the car into a nimble sports sedan. It also has disc brakes in back, a feature not found on the automatic model. The only thing that would make it better would be a Mercury Mystique version of the Ford Contour SVT. The SVT is basically the same car as the Mystique, with the same 2.5 liter V6, but its suspension is tighter and the engine produces another 25 horses.

MATT - To tell you the truth, Dad, I didn't notice much difference between this Mystique and the Ford Contour SVT that we had a couple of months ago, except that the Mercury seemed to be a little more "elegantly" trimmed out and it cost less money. Its quarter-mile acceleration times aren't a whole lot slower either, and one of the reasons may be because our test car carried a 4.06 axle ratio, which is the lowest available for the Mystique.

BOB - Along with the cosmetic changes that the company has made on the nose and tail of the '98 Mystique, there's been some mechanical changes, too. The somewhat quirky shift mechanism that everybody complained about in the '97 stick-shift models has been upgraded with a new cable-operated device and the clutch pedal mechanism has been made softer, too. There are other versions of the car available, the base model being called simply Mystique and the GS version being the next step up. The only engine available in the base version and the GS is a 2.0 liter twin-cam four banger, but for '98, it's been pumped up with a new variable camshaft timing mechanism that gives it more power than the previous model. Although overseas Ford has offered engines with variable cam timing, it's the first time the system has been used on a Ford car for the U.S. market.

MATT - The LS has aluminum 15-inch wheels and wider, stickier tires, and I'm sure that the upgraded rubber adds to the handling of the car. When Suzanne drove the car, she noticed a couple of things that hadn't occurred to me. She said that she liked the fact that she could see the hood of the car from the driver's seat, and that made it easier for her to parallel park on downtown streets. She got a kick out of the glovebox, too. She hadn't driven a car that had shock absorber-like pneumatic "struts" on the glovebox door that prevented it from slamming open.

BOB - There's a couple of options that I think are almost necessities on the Mystique we had. The anti-skid braking system cost an extra $500, and the $100 power operation of the antenna keeps it from being snapped of by obstreperous kids in strip-mall parking lots. I'd have to try the standard sound system before I'd justify an extra $275 for an upgrade, but I think that $245 for the non-functional spoiler on the trunk lid is a waste of money. I can see where the optional integrated child's seat is great for a guy like you with a couple of little kids, but for the $305 it takes to buy the optional power-operated driver's seat adjustment system, I'd rather slide the seat forward by hand.

MATT - I don't think it makes all that much difference to most people, Dad. Lots of functional options make a car more valuable at trade-in time and their cost is just tacked onto the monthly payment. The Contour and the Mystique have a clone in England called the Mondeo and it's identical to the cars here.

BOB - That's not exactly correct, Matt. We rented one when we were there. The hubcaps are lots weaker and they keep falling off.

MATT - That's not how Mom tells it. She says they came off because you kept hitting the curb trying to park the right-hand drive Mondeo on the left side of the street.