Vehicle Overview
Little changed in 2003 on Mercury’s midsize front-wheel-drive Sable sedan and wagon. The sedan models get a revised rear fascia and taillights for 2004, while a fresh grille and fascia with new fog lamps go on the LS Premium. New six-spoke aluminum wheels are standard on the LS Premium, which also gets a new steering wheel with lighted speed controls.

The Sable and its close cousin, the Ford Taurus, were last restyled for 2000. Ford’s version is by far the stronger seller. The base V-6 engine in the GS version generates 155 horsepower, but the Duratec dual-overhead-cam engine in LS Premium models makes 200 hp.

Except for the four doors, all of the Sable’s exterior panels were new for 2000. Even though it is closely related to the Taurus, the Sable exhibits a more conservative and traditional appearance that is led by its chrome-plated vertical-bar grille. With a wheelbase of 108.5 inches and an overall length just below 200 inches, the Sable is one of the longest midsize cars on the U.S. market. All Sables ride on 16-inch all-season tires.

Either five or six people fit inside the sedan models. Five-passenger sedans have a floor-mounted gearshift and a front console. Six-passenger models have a flip-fold center seat and may be configured for a front center armrest with cup and coin holders.

Standard GS equipment includes a cassette player, air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry, and power mirrors, locks and windows. The LS Premium gets automatic air conditioning, heated mirrors and a six-way power driver’s seat. Options include an 80-watt Mach audio system with a six-CD changer. The Sable’s trunk volume is 16 cubic feet, and the 60/40-split rear seatback folds for additional cargo space.

Under the Hood
Sable buyers have a choice of two 3.0-liter V-6 engines. The base GS engine is a 155-hp version with overhead valves. A more powerful dual-overhead-cam V-6 is installed in the LS Premium sedan and produces 200 hp. Both engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Mercury also offers a version of the 155-hp V-6 that runs on a mixture of E-85 ethanol and gasoline, or either substance alone.

The front airbags deploy at one of two inflation levels based on crash severity and whether or not the seat belts are buckled. Side-impact airbags for the front occupants are optional. Antilock brakes combined with all-speed traction control are a no-charge option. Front seat belt pretensioners and retractors remove slack in crashes.

Sable Wagon
Mercury’s midsize wagon differs little from the sedan in performance and interior fixtures. Cargo capacity totals 81.3 cubic feet when the second-row seat is folded. A rear-facing third-row seat is optional.

Driving Impressions
The Sable sedan might not generate much driving excitement, but it has a lot to offer. This car appeals to consumers because of its practical virtues, which include strong V-6 performance, ample load capacity and a generally comfortable ride — and you get all this in a reasonably refined package.

The Sable has a very quiet engine. It is stable on the highway and easy to drive. Its acceleration is smooth and refined. The automatic transmission is effective, downshifting promptly for passing or merging, and it yields close-to-gentle upshifts. The Sable’s ride comfort is pleasing most of the time, but it can hit some bumps and holes rather hard. Over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t the best, and the mirrors could be larger.