What's New for 2008
For 2008, a keyless entry keypad is standard on the Mercury Milan, and there are a number of new options. Among these are a reverse parking sensor, the Mercury "Sync" multimedia system (which integrates devices such as cell phones and MP3 players into the vehicle's controls) and upgraded interior ambient lighting. The Sync system and the ambient lighting, however, will be introduced later in the model year.
In our land of plenty, an abundance of similar choices is a way of life. Buying something as mundane as bottled water can be beguiling and the decision may come down to which bottles have the most eye-catching design. In the automotive world, one can face the same quandary -- witness the 2008 Mercury Milan. A twin of the Ford Fusion midsize sedan, the Milan is a bit fancier inside and out. But is the actual content -- the water, you might say -- any different?
Not really. As expected, the Mercury Milan has the same strengths and weaknesses as its blue oval relative. Along with the Ford, it's based on a larger version of the Mazda 6 platform, so the Milan combines the 6's athleticism with more passenger room than its Japanese cousin. It also boasts the availability of all-wheel drive -- a major advantage for those who live in inclement parts of the country where negotiating slippery roads is a way of life.
Unfortunately, those people will have to live without stability control, as this key safety feature is not offered on the Milan. And although decent performers, neither the base four-cylinder nor the optional V6 can challenge the top rivals in terms of all-out acceleration and refinement.
Overall, we think the 2008 Mercury Milan has the looks, comfort and features to merit consideration from midsize family sedan shoppers. All-star sedans like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry are still better choices -- but they also cost more. When compared to more similarly priced competitors like the Chevy Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Hyundai Sonata and Saturn Aura, the Milan ranks quite well. And that's something Mercury, despite its rebottled content, can be proud of.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mercury Milan midsize sedan is offered in two trim levels: base and Premier. The base Milan features 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio jack, cruise control, full power accessories, keyless entry, a six-way power driver seat and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat.
The Milan Premier adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, leather seating, an in-dash CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated side mirrors with approach lamps. Some of the Premier's features are optional on the base Milan.
Option highlights include a voice-activated navigation system, an upgraded audio system, satellite radio, a sunroof, a rear spoiler, heated front seats and wood-grain interior trim. Available later in the model year will be an interior ambient lighting scheme (that allows one to switch among seven colors for the footwells and console-mounted cupholders) and Mercury's Sync multimedia integration system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Mercury Milan's base 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine makes 160 horsepower and can meet Partial-Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) certification in California. It's paired to a standard five-speed manual transmission, and a five-speed automatic is optional. A 221-hp 3.0-liter V6 is optional on both the base and Premier trims. It comes with one transmission, a six-speed automatic. This transmission operates fine, but its shifter annoyingly limits drivers to just two forward-gear gates ("D" and "L"). Front-wheel drive is standard on all Milans, but V6 buyers can opt for all-wheel drive.
For a roomy midsize sedan, the Milan posts solid fuel economy numbers. A 2008 Milan with the four-cylinder and automatic rates 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, while the V6 version rates 18/26 mpg. The V6 with AWD earns one mpg less in each category.
Antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard on all Milans. V6 models also have traction control. One glaring omission is stability control, which isn't available on any Milan. A reverse parking sensor is optional.
In National Highway Transportation Safety Administration frontal-impact crash tests, the 2008 Mercury Milan earned four stars (out of five) for driver and front-passenger protection. In side-impact testing, the midsize sedan earned five stars for front-occupant protection and four stars for rear occupants. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset and side-impact tests, the Milan received "Good" ratings -- the highest possible.
Interior Design and Special Features
Mercury's designers crafted the Milan's two-tone cabin to appeal to young professionals with an allegiance to Ikea-style furnishings. Satin metallic accents are standard, with faux mahogany wood-grain trim optional. Most controls are simple to use, though some have too many small buttons and the standard "brick" stereo faceplate with its tiny green readouts is seriously outdated. A standard analog clock mounted high in the center stack adds a touch of class.
Within the Milan is plenty of room for all passengers. A pair of adults will be content in the backseat and storage space is adequate. An unexpected measure of utility is provided by the Milan's 15.8-cubic-foot trunk, split-folding rear seat and fold-down front-passenger seat, which all allow bulky items to be transported inside the car.
This year's new feature, "Mercury Sync," allows the integration of personal devices into the Milan's center stack controls and display. With Sync, drivers and passengers can operate their cell phones, PDAs, USB storage devices, iPods or other MP3 players using voice commands. Furthermore, one's cell phone address book is also wirelessly and automatically transferred to the Sync as well.
With responsive steering, a composed suspension and a quiet ride, the 2008 Mercury Milan is one of the sportier and more luxurious vehicles in the midsize sedan segment. It demonstrates a willingness to corner and change directions at speed with enthusiasm. Ride quality is firm but acceptable, especially considering the above-average handling. Wind and road noise are well muted at freeway speeds, and the transmissions offer crisp gearchanges up or down.
The only real disappointment is under the hood, as neither engine offers much off-the-line grunt and both get a little noisy at higher rpm. More horsepower and an automatic transmission with manual-shift capability would certainly make the car even more attractive to driving enthusiasts, but thanks to its communicative steering and well-planted demeanor, it's still an enjoyable car to drive by family sedan standards.