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New Car/Review


By Matt/Bob Hagin

MERCURY VILLAGER SPORT Full Line factory footage (7:17) 28.8, 56k, or 200k
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,015
Price As Tested                                    $ 29,480
Engine Type              SOHC 12-valve 3.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 200 cid/3275 cc
Horsepower                                   170 @ 4800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               200 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  112.2"/74.9"/194.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3974 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  20.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                          P225/60R16 all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                   0.36PERFORMANCE
EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            17/24/21          
0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
Maximum payload                                 1290 pounds
Towing capacity                                 3500 pounds
* Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Being the father of two little girls, Matt Hagin views the suitability of a vehicle through the eyes of a father. His own father, Bob, views a vehicle as "suitable" if it's comfortable and easy to park for an old guy like himself.)

BOB - I wonder how Edsel Ford would have viewed the addition of a minivan like the Villager to the Mercury lineup, Matt. Although he envisioned the Mercury line as upscale Ford products when he brought it to market in 1939, I'm not sure he had the domesticity of a family hauler in mind at its inception.

MATT - Edsel must have taken family needs into consideration shortly after that since Mercury put out a "woodie" station wagon in '41 and had wagons in the Mercury mix from then on. And that first Mercury station wagon had four doors and a tailgate, just like the '99 Villager. The original Villager had only one sliding door on the passenger side, which made getting the girls in place tough. This '99 version has two sliders now, a dramatic improvement over the previous version. It also has a lot more interior space and there's more cargo capacity behind the third-row seat. It's almost five inches longer than the previous model and a bit wider, too. The Villager comes in three degrees of trim, from the basic model to the Estate version and on up to the fancy Sport unit.

BOB - When they redesigned the Villager, I noticed that they pulled the instrument panel over closer to the driver and also moved the operating switches out from behind the steering wheel. I'm not crazy about the digital speedometer that came with the electronic instrument cluster on our test rig, but I finally got used to it. It also has a slick parcel shelf system behind the last seat. The removable shelf attaches to the trim panel at two levels and in effect, it almost doubles the amount of storage capacity back there. It's a hassle to get into place but it beats having to store items on top of each other when it's time to take the family on an outing. And the heater has ducts that run under the front seats to warm things up in back without having to wait for the entire front of the cockpit to warm or cool.

MATT - The Villager has more power this year, Dad. The original 3.0 liter V6 has been enlarged a bit to 3.3 liters. This pumps up the power by 17, for a total of 170 horsepower. One of the complaints about the older model was that it came up short in passing power and while this extra 17 horses doesn't make it a road-rocket, it takes the white- knuckle syndrome out of passing on a two-lane road. Our Sport wagon has suspension that's more "tuned" than the other versions and it shows up in the handling. Actually, this minivan handles more like a car than a van and being that it's shorter than most of the full-sized "minis," it's pretty nimble around town. And parking the Villager doesn't require the skills and techniques of a riverboat pilot docking a steam boat.

BOB - Towing capacity has been bumped up a bit over the previous model, so it can now tow 3500 pounds - if properly equipped. It's ability to tow is due in part to the fact that the engine puts out 200 pound/feet of torque and is very strong at low rpms. There's a relatively low-cost towing kit available for the Villager, but our test rig didn't have one. It did have the Smoker's Kit which is cheap at only $15 and I guess that the cigarette lighter receptacle would come in handy for powering ancillary stuff like a cell phone. Another option I enjoyed is the dual powered outside mirrors and both front powered leather seats. I found that the two outer mirrors and the front power seats had a memory feature so my settings could be set for me at the push of Button One or Button Two.

MATT - The Villager has an optional feature that I enjoyed playing with, Dad. Built into the driver's sunvisor is a digital voice message recorder that Ford calls TravelNote. It allows you to record up to three minutes of messages so when you get home, you can review them. It beats having to make notes on a scratch pad while you're driving.

BOB - If I'd had one when I was raising you kids, it would have only picked up the sounds of you kids arguing.