Looks are subjective, but we like what we see in the Mercury Sable. This latest Sable is not as daringly innovative as the groundbreaking design that introduced the nameplate back in 1986, but it's better looking. Nowadays, the Mercury Sable and Ford Taurus, seem to have slowly swapped places, so that the Sable is now the conservative older sister and the Taurus the adventurous sprite. But the old girl is still pretty easy on the eyes, if now in a buttoned-down, business-suit sort of way.
Like the very best automotive designs, Sable comfortably blends beauty and function. Its total passenger space, at 102.5 cubic feet, is only 6 percent short of the interior space of the full-size Mercury Grand Marquis. Subjectively, the Sable's interior feels huge, even for a mid-size car. The sedan offers a generous cargo space of 16 cubic feet. The station wagon has 38.8 cubic feet of space with the rear seat up and a cavernous 81.3 cubic feet with the seats down.
The Mercury Sable cabin has been refined for 2003. The control for the adjustable pedals has been moved to the revised instrument panel for easier use. Interior materials have been upgraded. Cupholders have been revised. And the interior is quieter, thanks to new insulation in the floor pan and wind-blocking seals on the doors, windows and sideview mirrors. Expanding foam fills the windshield support pillars to reduce noise further.
The refined interior space is furnished with controls and instruments that are admirably straightforward and user-friendly. For 2003, the interior also gets new color schemes and seating fabrics. A new process for applying wood grain trim enhances its appearance.
Power-adjustable pedals provide up to thee inches of movement, which enhances safety by allowing shorter drivers to find a comfortable seating position without sitting dangerously close to the airbag.
Sable can be ordered in either five or six-passenger configurations, pretty much regardless of trim. If you get the twin front bucket seats, they deliver surprisingly good lateral support without incurring a penalty in seating comfort, even for larger drivers. The cushions and seatbacks are on the firm side, which might initially seems a shortcoming; but firmer seats, if well-designed, usually feel more comfortable and reduce fatigue on long drives. This is certainly the case in the Sable.
The Sable's rear seating for three is spacious and comfortable, with the two outboard positions having a semi-bucket form. In our LS Premium, a pull-down center elbow rest presented us with two cup holders. And if you ski, or carry ladders everywhere you go, the positively enormous split-seat pass-through into the trunk will make your life immeasurably easier.
Other nice touches in the LS Premium include dual vanity mirrors with a rheostat for raising or lowering their illumination. Also, the sunroof opens with one touch.
In the area of safety, the Sable has earned the U.S. government's top five-star frontal crash-test rating. It is equipped with dual-stage airbags, which sense the intensity of the impact and deploy at one of two different speeds. In lesser impacts, gentler deployment reduces the risk of injury by the bags themselves. Head-and-chest side airbags are available as an option. Seatbelt pretensioners are standard, as is a system that releases small amounts of seatbelt tension to reduce injury.