- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

My neighbor helped me with this report. Shortly after I drove past his home in a redesigned 2000 Mercury Sable, John was standing in my driveway.

"Boy, this is a beauty," John said. "I really like what they did with the new grille, and look at those beautiful, high-polished wheels." He also pointed out to me that the oval-shaped roof line is higher in this midsize sedan. "But you know what? I'll bet I'll bump my head when I get in the rear seat," he said while proceeding to demonstrate. Sure enough, John bopped his head because the roof line drops sharply at the rear-door opening.

"Look at this interior," John exclaimed of the LS model with leather seats. "Oh, this is nice," he said as he pulled down the middle armrest. "But I can't see ahead too well. In some cars, the rear seat is higher so the people sitting back here can see where they're going." Blocking his view were the extra-large front-seat head restraints, which are 2 inches higher than normal and stay locked in place to offer additional protection during impact.

John admired the new panel containing the sound system and climate control. "That looks great; I hated that oval design," he said. "This one makes sense." The rectilinear shape is more user-friendly and easier to understand and has large buttons and dials.

I drove John home and thanked him for his observations, but as I drove away, I wished I had pointed out other features on Mercury's flagship, especially the numerous safety features.

There is one feature that should interest women who have to pull the seat far forward to reach the gas and brake pedals, putting themselves in jeopardy of an exploding air bag. A switch on the dashboard raises or lowers the optional adjustable pedals by as much as three inches. Other safety features are child-seat tether hooks and side air bags. Incidentally, the bags will deploy at two levels, depending upon how far the driver is from the wheel, whether the driver is wearing a seat belt, and the severity of the crash. Head and chest side air bags also are included on the new Sable.

I wished I had shown John the luggage compartment. It's so enormously deep that he wouldn't be able to reach something far forward unless he lowered the backrest of the rear seat. I would have pointed out the extra opening width and low lift-over height, the cargo hooks and the release that allows the trunk lid to be opened from the inside.

The LS model includes anti-lock brakes as standard equipment, along with a power moon roof, which represents a $1,440 saving on the premium LS model. The price of the model is $18,845 including shipping and handling. My tester was $21,795.

Conveniently located in the center console is a CD changer. The audio system has a cassette player plus the usual AM/FM bands. This unit has a high-quality sound and is very easy to adjust to specific taste.

The new Sable also has an adjustable cup holder. A flimsy arm holds the cup in place, but my plastic bottle of water went flying when I had to brake quickly. Fortunately, the top was still screwed on.

This car has a quiet, quality ride. The interior noise level is low, and with a 3-liter V-6 Vulcan engine that produces 200 horsepower, acceleration is very smooth, quiet and powerful.

This eye-catcher features power in other areas, too, such as power seats, windows and remote door locks all the niceties one expects to find on a luxury sedan. My only regret is that the week flew by too quickly and I didn't get a chance to show John all the other terrific features of this beauty.

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