Used 2002 Mercury Sable Review

Edmunds expert review

Representing luxury on the cheap, Sable is a decent car suffering from an identity crisis.




What's new for 2002

Four new colors are added to the paint chart, while approach lighting and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass become standard equipment.

Vehicle overview

Back in 1986, the Sable was radical. With smooth, aerodynamic contours, a snazzy light bar in place of a grille, and what appeared to be a pillarless roof, it made a strong styling statement. Today's car is a shadow of its former self, reflecting parent Ford Motor Company's uncertainty about what "Mercury" means. Is it a luxurious Ford, a cut-rate Lincoln or something entirely different? Sable is none of these things, but it is a solid value in the mid-size marketplace.

Selecting the Mercury Sable over the Ford Taurus comes down to styling. Which set of headlights and taillights do you like best? Otherwise, the cars are essentially identical. And this isn't a bad thing, mind you, because these are solid choices as far as domestic mid-size cars go.

The Sable is available as a sedan or station wagon in GS or LS form. For 2002, Sable powertrains include a 3.0-liter Vulcan V6 and a 3.0-liter Duratec V6. The main difference between the two is the cylinder heads; the base Vulcan has two valves per cylinder, while the Duratec has four. The four-valve motor makes 200 horsepower while the base engine makes do with 157 horsepower. Both engines meet Low-Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards in California and 13 Northeastern states.

With the optional Duratec V6 putting the power down through the front wheels, the Sable is actually quite sporting. The engine features a wide power band with tons of low-end torque. Reaching the upper end of the tachometer, the engine emits a nasty growl and a notable amount of torque steer during upshifts.

We give the Sable high marks in the ride and handling department. On the road, the car transmits truly usable feedback to the wheel, letting the driver know what is happening with the tires. The Sable has a compliant suspension with excellent rebound shock valving for spirited canyon driving, yet without the harshness that can render a cross-country drive drudgery. Drive the Sable into a turn, prod the throttle and the car responds in a predictable manner. Yet on the highway, passengers are treated to a comfortably smooth ride.

The Sable has earned a good reputation for safety, thanks to its solid performances in crash testing. Mercury builds on that rep with an Advanced Restraints System (ARS). This system adapts airbag deployment depending upon impact severity, safety-belt usage and driver-seat position. The ARS includes safety-belt pre-tensioners and retractors. Head-and-chest side airbags are optional for front occupants. Other safety goodies include a standard emergency trunk release and available traction control.

Inside, the Sable has power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals. With the touch of a button, the brake and accelerator pedals can, together, be horizontally adjusted up to 3 inches toward the driver from the standard location to provide added driving comfort for a wider range of drivers. Audio and climate controls are grouped logically and are easy to use thanks to large, square buttons, arranged in a conventional grid. The flip/fold console in the six-passenger Sable folds down flat to the floor allowing easy access to the controls on the lower part of the dashboard.

We've always liked the functionally pleasing Sable and Taurus, but traditionally thought the dynamic and dependable Honda Accord and Toyota Camry outgunned them. Today, the gap is considerably narrower when comparing the Mercury and Ford to the Japanese family sedan benchmarks. Furthermore, you can get a Sable wagon if you desire -- no such choice exists with the Accord or Camry. Now if they just made the wagon's four-wheel disc brakes available on the sedan.






Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.