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I love cars (OK, and some trucks too, I'll admit). So I don't mean to sound jaded when I say that nothing much surprises me about the auto biz anymore. A few things still do, however; and I'm not too proud to say that when a 2003 Mercury Sable rolled my way recently, I was completely taken aback by how much I liked the car. The Sable is, after all, the purest equivalent to an anonymous Anycar that is currently plying the roads.
If somehow I could have been blindfolded when
approaching the car, then blinkered while driving it, I would have sworn that I
was in a peppy, responsive, nimble yet solid touring sedan from... Well, I
wouldn't have been able to say where from exactly. The 2003 Sable delivers more
pleasurable road feel and feedback than its typical Japanese rivals from
Certainly none of the world's other automakers have emphasized so completely the iconic jellybean shape that was quite revolutionary in 1986 when the Sable debuted alongside its sibling Ford Taurus. I loved that styling then, and I still like it now, although I have to admit it's very long in the tooth. In 2003, Mercury's top-of-the-line Sable LS boasts a 200-hp 3.0-liter V6. It's not exactly a race motor, but this twin-cam Duratec can at least provoke a few chuckles in the enthusiast who cares to exploit 200 brawny ft.-lbs. of torque--particularly in traffic. I really enjoy the Sable's point-and-squirt reflexes which its powertrain makes possible: the four-speed auto shifts crisply and optional traction control ($565, also including side airbags) harnesses potential front wheel spin discreetly, without distraction. Steering feel is spot on. It is precise and quick to react, but not too light in the hands or vague while cruising the highway.