We're still arguing over how to pronounce the name of Mercury's new midsize sedan -- locals want to say "MY-lin" like the drag strip -- but we're fairly certain the brand planners were going for the sophisticated images of the Italian fashion capital.
That's not a bad connection for the 2006 Mercury Milan, an elegant and likable companion to the new Ford Fusion. We tested a top-of-the-line Milan Premier V-6, with a sticker price of $25,200.
SHE: If we actually had to plunk our own money down on one of the new midsize sedans from Ford Motor Co., I'd argue in favor of the Fusion over the Milan. I just think it has a sassier, bolder look than the Mercury. I don't have a problem with the Milan; I just like the Fusion better.
HE: Wow! You're usually so girly when it comes to cars. Guess that's not the case with the Fusion, which I think looks clumsy and grotesque in the worst macho kind of way. I find the Milan much more soft, feminine and appealing. SHE: It's just a matter of taste. Once you're behind the wheel, they're pretty identical. I put a couple hundred miles on both cars, but I found myself stuck in the Milan during Dream Cruise week in a traffic jam that lasted 90 minutes. It's at times like that where the cabin either makes it or breaks it. I basically set myself up with my cell phone, an iced tea and the optional audiophile sound system on full blast. I actually felt pretty comfortable as I crawled along I-696. The cabin feels secure and looks attractive, with an unusual combination of metals and leather.
HE: That cockpit is also surprisingly roomy, considering that Ford started with the Mazda6 as the mechanical base. The Mazda is one of the smaller midsize cars in the class, but the Milan doesn't feel so small on the inside, despite its compact exterior dimensions. And that's one of the places where Ford did it absolutely right with the Milan; they've transformed a sporty Japanese sedan into a larger, roomier American-style sedan with great performance, agility and comfort. And they've done it at a pretty attractive price that's right on top of its two chief competitors in the class, the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.
SHE: I can tell you where the Milan edges the Accord and Camry. There's a stretch of freeway near our house where you need to cross three lanes of traffic in a very short space to get to a left-hand exit. That's a real acid test for our cars, because if you can't get up to speed in a hurry, you miss the exit. Our Milan Premier, with its twin-cam 3.0-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission, passed that little test with flying colors. We didn't have a stopwatch, but the Milan sure feels quicker than the Honda or the Toyota. The car is also wonderfully nimble. We could change lanes with ease, negotiate curvy local roads with confidence and point the Milan into the tightest parking space with no problem.
HE: Ford kept most of the good things about the Mazda6 when it morphed that architecture and set of components into the new Fusion and Milan. It also gave them a more comfortable ride and a bigger cabin. We noticed a few flaws on the Milan, notably a rear parcel shelf that's so tall, it really obscures your vision, and some Michelin Pilot tires that seemed to generate lots of road noise. It really annoyed me, too, that Ford would cut corners on its top-of-the-line midsize sedans by installing a manual front passenger seat next to the power driver's seat, and then put a manual recline lever on the "power" driver's seat.
SHE: You also have to pay extra for key safety features that are standard on the Accord, including side air bags and curtains and traction control. I'd like to see more family- and female-friendly features offered, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system and adjustable pedals.
HE: Aha! I don't care how much you rave about the styling on the Fusion. For my money, the new Mercury Milan is the car to beat in midsize sedans.
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He drove, she drove Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, an Ann Arbor automotive information services company.
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2006 Mercury Milan Premier
Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan
Price: Base, $23,495 (inc. $650 destination charge); as tested, $25,200
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6; 221-hp; 205 lb-ft torque
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway
Where built: Hermosillo, Mexico
Key competitors: Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Dodge Stratus, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Pontiac G6, Pontiac Grand Prix, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Jetta
12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,503 (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)
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Anita's rating: 4 (out of 5)
Likes: Inviting two-tone cabin with high-quality leather and materials. Elegant gauges and simple controls. Standard 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Lots of equipment, including six-disc CD changer, tilt/telescope steering column.
Dislikes: Side air bags and curtains cost extra. Front passenger seat doesn't fold flat. No adjustable pedals or navigation. No vents in rear. No cargo net in trunk.
Paul's rating: 5 (out of 5)
Likes: Tasteful and sophisticated exterior -- more appealing than Fusion. Lively 3.0L V-6 engine. Smooth 6-speed automatic is well-geared for performance. Extremely agile for a midsize sedan.
Dislikes: High rear parcel shelf cuts visibility. Excessive tire noise from Michelin Pilots. On top-of-the-line model, no power front passenger seat and no power recline for driver.
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|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||September 7, 2005|
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