What's New for 1996
Fresh off the drawing boards for 1996, and it seems the drawing boards were poorly lit. Styling is heavy-handed and homely, but definitely not dull. Otherwise, the new Sable is an excellent car, powered by new engines, suspended by new components and innovative in nearly every way. Longer and wider sedan and wagon bodystyles are offered in GS and LS trim.
One of the biggest automotive stories for 1996 is the total redesign of the Mercury Sable. Longer, wider and larger inside than the old Sable, the 1996 model sports radically modern, yet heavy-handed, styling. Three trim levels, G, GS and LS, are available as well as two body styles. Sedans and wagons are available in either GS or LS trim levels.
Mercury claims that the new Sable sports 87 percent greater torsional stiffness. Part of this increase is directly attributable to the fact that the entire side of the new Sable is a single stamped section of steel, except for the doors, of course. Glass area is up 28 percent, lending the Sable a lighter, more airy feel than its predecessor. MacPherson struts hold up the front of the new Sable, while a quadralink rear suspension, similar to that found on the 1995 Lincoln Continental, keeps the rear of the car in line. Standard tire size is P205/65 R15.
An improved Vulcan 3.0-liter V6 powers G and GS models, pumping out 145 horsepower. Order LS trim and get an all-aluminum twin-cam 3.0-liter Duratec V6 good for 200 healthy ponies. Rumors continue to fly that the Sable will get the Taurus SHO's Yamaha-built V8 with 240 horses. If the big engine appears in the Sable, it will be the first time a V8 has ever been offered. LS models run to 60 mph in about eight seconds.
Front disc and rear drum brakes are standard. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes are optional. Sporting the same steering rack as the Lincoln Continental, Ford says that steering feel and response is much improved over the old version.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, five-mph bumpers, rear seat heat ducts, split-fold rear seats and a battery saver system. Innovations on the 1996 Sable include an Integrated Control Panel, which combines stereo and climate controls in one easy-to-use pod. Stereo componentry has been relocated to the trunk. A patented three-way flip-fold console is available in cars equipped with six-passenger seating. In its upright position, the console is a seating position. Flip it down, and it's an armrest. Flip it once more, and it turns into a handy storage bin with cupholders and room for audio cassettes. Optional on Sable Wagon is an integrated child seat.
We must admit that we're a bit skeptical about the fishy-faced styling of the new car, but our initial shock has diminished to distinct distaste. Recently, photos ran of a Sable prototype that was pitched to the Chinese government after they complained about the frontal styling of the new car. The prototype had a raised hood, revised fascia, traditional rectangular headlamps and a chrome waterfall grille. The changes transformed the homely Sable into an Infiniti look-alike. Too bad the Chinese styling exercise didn't make it onto American production lines.
Preliminary reports indicate that the Sable is indeed a much improved sedan, ready to go head-to-head with the best in this class. Time, and a test drive, will tell.