This review of the Mercury Sable includes specs, model history and buying advice.
The Mercury Sable has always been a kindred spirit to folks like Clint Howard, Kevin Dillon or any Baldwin not named Alec -- celebrities with even more famous siblings. People who will always be greeted with, "Hey, aren't you so-and-so's brother?" or "Your nose is much bigger than your sister's." Along the same lines, it's just about impossible to talk about the Mercury Sable midsize sedan without mentioning the Ford Taurus, its nearly identical sibling that for about half its life was the number-one car sold in the United States.
The Sable came out in 1986 at the same time as its Blue Oval-wearing stablemate, sporting the same revolutionary "jelly bean" shape and thoroughly competent driving experience -- plus it offered nifty full-width front fascia lighting. Yet the Ford got all the headlines, all the accolades and most of the sales. It should have been enough to send the Sable on a one-way trip to Billy-Carter-ville.
Alas, the Sable survived in the shadow of its more popular fraternal twin in complete anonymity as it aged ungracefully amid a family sedan segment that was rapidly getting better. Although discontinued after the 2005 model year, the Sable name was resurrected in 2008, replacing the Montego moniker. Sadly for the Sable, the discontinued Taurus was revived as well, further sealing the Sable's fate, as 2009 would be the last year for the model. Two years later, the Mercury brand itself would go extinct.
Most Recent Mercury Sable The fifth and last generation of the Mercury Sable was produced (in a fashion) from 2005 through 2009. This car actually debuted as the Montego, reviving an ancient Mercury moniker. But the company evidently felt there was too much heritage in the Sable name and thus renamed the Montego "Sable" for '08. If you're looking at a used Montego, note that it was powered by a comparatively wheezy 203-horsepower V6. A more potent, 263-hp V6, as well as a styling refresh, was part of the Sable's rebirth. In standard form, both were offered with front-wheel drive, but buyers could opt for all-wheel-drive versions as well.
In keeping with its more upscale reputation, the base trim levels were well equipped with 17-inch wheels, full power accessories, power front seats, a CD player with auxiliary input, and the creature comforts you'd expect from other sedans in this segment. Stepping up to the Premier trim level added 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated mirrors and front seats, dual-zone climate control and an upgraded stereo with a CD changer and satellite radio. Options included a sunroof, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and, on '08 and later Sables, the Sync system (standard on the Premier), which allowed voice activation of cell phones and entertainment systems.
Despite being overshadowed by its more popular Ford cousins, the Sable still managed to make its mark with top safety scores, plenty of space for passengers and cargo, a smooth ride and above-average fuel economy for the segment. The Mercury Sable's drawbacks included a non-telescoping steering wheel, a mushy brake pedal and a less-than-engaging driving experience. However, these negatives don't weigh it down enough to take it out of the running when compared to competing full-size sedans. Savvy used car shoppers considering the Taurus will likely note lower pricing with a comparable Sable.
Past Mercury Sable Models The fourth-generation Mercury Sable generation ran from 2000-'05. Although the basic body shell was carried over from the previous Sable, this edition did away with the ugly "wonderful world of ovals" design scheme, resulting in a more subdued look and improved ergonomics.
The Sable was available in sedan and wagon body styles. Depending on the year, trim levels included GS, GS Plus, LS and LS Premium. Standard equipment was generous on the lower levels, with the LS models providing upscale items like power-adjustable pedals, a power driver seat, automatic climate control and leather upholstery. A rear-facing third-row seat was standard on the LS wagon. The GS came standard with a rather antiquated 3.0-liter V6 (157 hp). Standard on the LS Premium and optional on the LS was a 3.0-liter V6 that boasted twin overhead cams and 24 valves that pushed output to 200 hp while achieving practically identical fuel economy.
Although this generation of Sable and its Taurus clone were respectable entries in the midsize sedan segment when they debuted, they were quickly outpaced and found themselves languishing as unwanted fleet and rental cars. Although they provide comfortable transportation at a low price, other used midsize sedans are more modern, competent choices.
The third-generation Mercury Sable sold from 1996-2000 featured one of the most controversial redesigns in automotive history. It shared the same oval-themed design as its Taurus sibling, but added further bizarre details that created a look that could be described as either "snakelike" or "fishy." Inside, the strange dashboard design drew more mixed reviews, featuring audio and climate controls bunched together in a single oval pod. Some saw it as a blast of fresh air; others as an ergonomic annoyance.
There were two engines available. The GS trim level came with a 3.0-liter "Vulcan" V6 that produced 145 hp, while the LS came with a 200-hp "Duratec" V6. When it arrived on the scene, we were impressed with this all-new Mercury Sable, even if its styling left us a little befuddled and/or nauseous. We thought it was better than most American sedans, while noting that Honda, Toyota and later Oldsmobile offered more compelling choices.
The second-generation Sable ran from 1992-'95 and could perhaps be considered the pinnacle for this car. An evolution of the original, its lower-profile nose and slightly crisper lines tastefully updated the car, while hardware improvements included new safety features such as antilock brakes and a passenger side airbag. Sable sedans and wagons came with either a 3.0-liter V6 or 3.8-liter V6. Horsepower was the same at 140, but the larger engine provided more torque. A four-speed automatic was the only available transmission.
The first-generation Mercury Sable ran from 1986-'91. Compared to the boxy architecture of its competition, the "jellybean" (and aerodynamically efficient) look of the Sable and its Ford Taurus sibling were a breath of fresh air. Plus, the Sable had a front fascia featuring an illuminated "grille" that connected the headlamps with uninterrupted light -- pretty cool in a futuristic sort of way. A 90-hp inline-4 (with either a manual or automatic transmission) and a 3.0-liter, 140-hp V6 (automatic only) were initially offered, but the former engine sold so poorly that it was dropped for 1987. A 3.8-liter V6 became available in 1988 that also produced 140 hp, but pumped out 55 more lb-ft of torque.