- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2005

Expectations of the family four-door sedan have changed. Not only must it be more versatile, it must evoke more spirited emotion. It was imperative the Mercury Montego be more than just another replacement, it must provide owners with an experience that would keep them returning year after year.

Mercury gave the Montego a more refined feel that raises the bar in comfort and ability. This is not only characterized by the feel and touch of components within the passenger compartment, but also in the handling and ride of the vehicle. Designers added a slightly higher seating position to enhance visibility.

Getting power to the wheels uses either of two systems that gives the car a whole different character. The base Montego uses the front-wheel drive that is considered the mainstay of sedans. However, Mercury has broadened the car’s abilities considerably through a four-wheel-drive system that adds traction and stability.

All-wheel drive brings many benefits to a vehicle, the major one being stability in a variety of weather conditions. The popularity of all-wheel drive caught many companies off guard. Most have found that if they offer all-wheel drive they must add more production to keep up with the increased demand. This is a problem Mercury would be quite happy to have.

This new sedan also brings a whole new application of the continuously variable transmission (CVT). That becomes even more attractive when we look at gasoline prices in the United States taking their steep climb. A CVT uses two variable-size pulleys and a drive belt running between them to transfer power from engine to drive wheels.

CVTs never actually shifts gears. The ratios change as the two pulleys vary their size according to demand. One gets larger as the other gets smaller, virtually making a seamless transition of power. Driving a vehicle equipped with a CVT for the first time can be a bit unsettling. There is no sensation of gears shifting.

I would like to see a little more driver control available so that I could decide how quickly the ratio is changing up or down.

Essentially, I would like to see a manual mode as in more traditional automatic transmissions.

The exterior design of the Montego is certainly contemporary. The car sits more upright, gaining more visibility for driver and passengers. The view from all seats is quite good. The interior is a remarkable change from the typical domestic automobile. Mercury has produced a nice mixture of function and luxury with an interior that is both comfortable and inviting. Though there are a few hard plastic bits I would like to see replaced, the general feeling of the interior is one of quality.

Equipped with plenty of features, the Montego makes a worthy addition to the sedan category. Mercury listened to its customers and kept a close watch on what owners of other vehicles want in a car, adding a good performing sedan that is comfortable and will surely be easy to live with. For Mercury, it is a very important vehicle in its lineup.

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