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2000 Mercury Villager Preview

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A year after the clean-slate remake of the 1999 Villager, room for improvement was limited, indeed. Nonetheless, the Y2K model comes to the market with some feature-list additions and upgrades - all at no additional cost. And now, playing in this minivan near you: the Personal Entertainment System, a multimedia shrine for rear-seat passengers.

Villager was built by PLUs, or people like us - albeit, with engineering degrees - who understand that minivans are intrinsically a bit, well, ho-hum. Mercury knows that the minivan market is essentially flat because most people buy them to carry groceries and ferry kids, not because they're particularly exciting rides. But Mercury's design team penned the new Villager with sharp looks, compact size, and good road manners in the hopes of attracting attention from a typically un-minivan crowd, including young professionals with one child and sophisticated empty-nesters, who sometimes travel with grandchildren. Recently relocated to trendy southern California, Ford's Mercury division sought to turn their updated minivan into more of a "lifestyle vehicle" which will appeal to a wider market still in need of a comfortable people-mover.

Mercury's van has three distinctive styles; the base Villager, the Villager Sport (with a more athletic look) and the upscale Villager Estate. Each model has a slightly different personality, with unique content, color and trim treatment. The only engine offered is Nissan's 3.3-liter V-6, which produces 170 horsepower and 200 ft-lb of torque, up by 19 and 26 respectively, from the previous 3.0-liter engine. As a bonus, it has even better fuel economy, earning an EPA rating of 17 city/24 highway. For 2000, it meets the LEV (Low-Emission Vehicle) standard. A 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission powers the front wheels. Changes to the suspension, steering, and braking systems complement Villager's increased power, making it more car-like and easier than ever to drive.

A peek into Villager's enlarged interior reveals several refinements, surprises, and clever attention to detail. In response to popular demand, a driver's-side sliding door is standard equipment, but neither sliding door can be ordered with Ford's power-operated feature, which is a comparative disadvantage. New for ‘99 was a voice "memo unit" on the driver's sun visor which can record up to three minutes of audio.

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