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The Mercury Sable provides a pleasant blend of family-car safety and mid-market value. It combines the virtues of high quality, five-star crash protection and comfortable accommodations (and those accommodations are even quieter for the 2003 model year), and adds in a healthy helping of driving fun. Especially when equipped with the optional Duratec V6, the mid-size Mercury is blessed with the kind of performance and agility expected in expensive front-drive sports sedans.
The Sable wagon is every bit as fun to drive as the sedan, and adds capacity for kids and cargo.
The Mercury Sable is startlingly agile, controllable, even sporty for such a relatively large and roomy family sedan. Even with the stoic Vulcan in the engine room, the Sable chassis proves itself anything but unemotional. Its finely tuned variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering provides just the right amount of boost (less of it as road speed increases) and a constant stream of information to the driver. This live wire steering combines with a finely tuned front suspension to deliver surprisingly sporting driving sensations. Driven to the extremes, the Sable takes the safest course, understeering to warn the driver that traction has been overcome. But before exceeding the tires' grip, this family taxi feels for all the world like a closet sports sedan.
Having said that, the Sable still manages to provide a comfortable ride, one that gently deletes even the worst broken pavement as it passes beneath the wheels. Mercury has achieved a fine balance between crisp handling and gentle ride, the same sort of balance that has earned the best European sedans their loyal following.
Add the superb Duratec V6 to this mix, and the Sable really comes alive. Its fine handling qualities now complement a very responsive engine.
When heavy throttle is applied, acceleration is sharp enough that traction control is needed to prevent wheel spin. The Duratec makes a tactful but nonetheless exciting growl. So equipped, the Sable allows the hidden hurrier in you full expression, but in this car, who will suspect? It's just a family sedan, right? (Just smile and nod; nobody needs to know your secret.)
A test drive of the Duratec will demonstrate that it positively transforms the personality of this Mercury. With its finger-snap responsiveness, the Sable has a heads-up, ready-to-run willingness that knowledgeable drivers will find irresistible.
Once a styling leader, the Mercury Sable has retreated to a more conservative look, quietly handsome while avoiding the industrial blandness of its import competition. The Sable provides safety, comfort, quiet and practicality. Yet it's an enjoyable car to drive.
Mercury Sable resides at the large end of the current mid-size scale. Its interior is spacious and pleasing, and by and large, its controls and instrumentation are contemporary, straightforward and easy to use. Its list of safety features is comprehensive, and its five-star front-impact rating from the federal government is unbeatable. Its trunk is capacious.