- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Most everyone knows that Mercury falls under the shade of the blue oval of Ford Motor Co. Most of the Mercury models, which generally are based on models sold as Fords, offer more upscale packaging and most certainly a little different design.

This is the case with the new Mercury Monterey. Simply put, the Monterey adds many features, giving the Mercury buyer a little different slant on an extended-wheelbase minivan, a very good product.

The familiar and requisite Waterfall front grille announces this is, indeed, a Mercury. A large body-color front bumper and fascia incorporate fog lamps and a large intake opening. Round sensors, about the size of a quarter, for the park assist system are body colored and barely noticeable. The Monterey has a park assist system for both the front and the rear.

Under the hood there is a reliable and tested 4.2-liter V-6 engine that transfers its power to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. With 201 horsepower, the Mercury runs right with the competition.

However, with 263 foot-pounds of torque, it rates higher than just about every competitor. While American drivers like to hear horsepower numbers, it is in actuality the torque that gives impressive acceleration from stops.

The interior is a warm and inviting environment with wood-tone trim and plenty of leather. The test vehicle had not only heated seats, but ones that also cool during the summer. For folks who want to escape the winter storms and migrate southward, the combination of heated and cooling seats makes a great deal of sense.

It is nearly a law that minivans must have the ability to offer a multitude of seating and storage options. The Monterey offers three rows of seats and numerous seating positions. Climbing into the third-row seat of any vehicle isn’t the easiest thing for a big guy like me. But with the split captain-styled seats in the second row, it took little effort.

Folding seats are a feature every minivan has to make hauling cargo less frustrating. The Monterey has a third row that folds down into a floor well, providing nearly 70 cubic feet of storage.

You can nearly double the cargo space by folding the second-row seats down, a straightforward accomplishment with just one hand.

Safety features abound in the Monterey with front and side air bags that add a safety canopy system including a rollover sensor. Stability control helps the driver keep the vehicle under control.

Power sliding side doors are the price of entry in the up-level minivan market, and they are offered on the Monterey. The same can be said for the power rear lift gate, but you will have to wait until later in the year to have that feature on your Mercury.

Minivans are meant to get you and a slew of passengers from point A to point B. With the new Mercury Monterey not only will you enjoy getting to B, you will be happy to continue your journey to points C, D and onward.

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