What's New for 2000
The Mystique comes standard with an emergency glow-in-the-dark trunk release, designed to allow a child or adult trapped in the trunk to open it from the inside. Two new exterior colors debut.
Since its introduction in 1995, the Mystique has been Mercury's counterpart to the Ford Contour. Based on the same platform, the Mercury has differentiated itself by having different styling and trim packages. But for all intents and purposes, the Contour and Mystique were the same car.
The Contour and Mystique are still the same car for 2000, but there is an added difference: the Mystique is the only one to offer a four-cylinder engine. To avoid having the new Ford Focus steal sales away from the Contour, Ford has taken the Contour upscale, discontinuing the entry-level LX series. The remaining 2000 Contour comes only with a V6 engine.
Customers looking to purchase a more fuel-efficient (and less expensive) four-cylinder should check out the Mystique GS. The Zetec DOHC 16-valve four produces 125 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 130 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. The GS also comes with a rear spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lamps and special floor mats. While we still aren't sold on the exterior look, the Mystique GS has plenty to offer the small-sedan shopper. The body structure is stiff, and the ergonomically correct instrument panel features legible dials and controls. The interior still receives some gripes, however. It lacks some of the refinement found in competing cars and Mercury has never been able to solve the lack of room for rear-seat passengers.
The more upscale Mystique LS comes standard with the 24-valve Duratec V6 engine, which develops 170 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 165 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. Improvements over the LS include leather bucket seats, 15-inch alloy wheels, larger tires, a performance-tuned suspension, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and four-wheel disc brakes on manual transmission-equipped cars.
When we've been behind the wheel of V6-powered Mystiques, we've generally had a good time. The V6 is just one part of an equation that makes this car such an excellent purchase for the shallow-pocketed enthusiast. The real excitement of the Mystique's driving experience is the result of the car's excellent chassis, suspension and steering.
Since its introduction, the Contour/Mystique platform has won plenty of awards and has received great press from automotive critics. In 1998, Mercury gave the Mystique an exterior freshening to make the car more distinctive in the crowded family-sedan marketplace.
The Dodge Stratus and Chevrolet Malibu may offer greater interior volume, but for pure road-going thrills in a well thought-out package, the Mystique makes for a fun car at a great price.