New & Used Mercury Sable: In Depth
2001 Mercury Sable GSEnlarge Photo
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The Mercury Sable was a large or mid-size sedan that was, except for badging and some minor trim and feature differences, nearly identical to the Ford Taurus. It was made for the 1985 through 2005 model years, and then again for 2008 and 2009, when it was a short-lived, refreshed (and rebadged) version of the Mercury Montego.
Even though they weren't around for long, these most recent Sables are likely nearly as common at used-car dealerships as their predecessors. These versions of the Sable are large, spacious sedans, with front-wheel drive, and powered by a 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. We found that the engine and transmission work well together, with smooth power delivery, although steering was light and the Sable didn't feel particularly nimble or responsive once the road turned curvy.
The combination of large switchgear, plus a comprehensive package of airbags, stability control, and available all-wheel drive (although stability control was optional), made the Sable one of the safest cars on the road. There were plenty of storage spaces, and the high-set seating allowed drivers a commanding view of the road ahead and good visibility.
These newer 2008-2009 Sable models all included power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, and CD sound. Options included navigation, satellite radio, Sync Bluetooth connectivity, a moonroof, power-adjustable pedals, and upgraded materials like real wood grains and two-tone leather.
Earlier versions of the Mercury Sable, from the 1985 through 2005 model years, are completely different cars—a half-size down, and more basic in their presentation. In general, all of these Sable models carried a reputation for reasonably good design and comfort, with performance (and reliability) that was a step short of import models.
The original 1986 through 1991 Sable shared much of its breakthrough 'jellybean' look with the first, iconic Ford Taurus, but its powertrain was unremarkable with the V-6 and crude and sluggish with the four. Then the so-called second-generation models (really refreshed versions of the original) are considered the best models in retrospect, with more refined lines, better interiors, and a choice between 3.0-liter and 3.8-liter V-6 engines and a four-speed automatic transmission.
Third-generation Sable models are, like their Taurus siblings, quite controversial, with a design that really pushed the oval theme to the max—even inside. Some of these models got an upgraded (and more refined) 200-hp, 3.0-liter Duratec V-6; and despite all of the aesthetic backlash, these are quite good cars in terms of ride quality, comfort, and general usefulness.
The Taurus returned for a fourth-generation run for the 2000 through 2005 model years, but this was essentially just a thorough aesthetic makeover—smoothing over the extreme look of the previous models. Very few other changes were made to the Sable and Taurus here, although they did get a few other improvements, like better noise insulation and wider availability for automatic climate control. All four of these earlier generations offered sedan and wagon body styles of the Sable (many of the wagons with a rear-facing third row).