Used 2003 Mercury Sable Review

Edmunds expert review

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

What's new for 2003

Not much has changed for Mercury's 2003 Sable. All cars feature a new cupholder design, and the LS Premium trim level offers a no-charge leather trim. Mercury claims that "customers who appreciate understated sophistication will want to know more about the Platinum Edition," which includes aluminum wheels with a center cap ornament and interior trim pieces, perforated leather and a fender badge. Power windows, locks, tilt steering and floor mats are standard across the board, and two new colors brighten up the Sable.

Vehicle overview

Introduction: 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?

We do find the Sable to be a decent value in the midsize sedan and wagon 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 respectable choices as far as domestic midsize cars go. In terms of driving dynamics and refinement, the Sable is outgunned by its Japanese and European competition. It does have an advantage in price, however. Furthermore, you can get a Sable wagon if you desire -- no such choice exists with the Accord or Camry. Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The Sable is available as a sedan or station wagon and can be ordered in GS, GS Plus and LS Premium trim levels. Six-passenger seating comes standard except on the LS Premium trim, which offers it as a no-cost option. The GS includes such standards as power mirrors, windows and locks. Options include ABS, five-passenger seating with a floor-mounted shifter and alloy wheels. Step up to the GS Plus to get a CD player and power driver's seat and adjustable pedals. The top-of-the-line LS Premium gets fog lamps, automatic climate control and cruise control as standard equipment. Options like a Mach audio system, leather seating and a sunroof are only available on the LS Premium, as is a new Platinum Edition package with special trim pieces. Powertrains and Performance: For 2003, the Sable's 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 that comes with the LS Premium makes 200 horsepower while the base engine that powers the GS and GS plus makes do with 157 horsepower. Regardless of engine choice, the Sable comes standard with a four-speed automatic transmission. Safety: The Sable has earned a good reputation for safety, thanks to its solid performances in crash testing. Both the sedan and wagon earn a five-star rating for frontal crash testing and four stars for side impact 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. Side airbags are optional for front occupants. Other safety goodies include power-adjustable gas and brake pedals and available traction control. Oddly enough, rear disc brakes only exist on the wagon and not the sedan.

Interior Design and Special Features: 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, thereby allowing easy access to the controls on the lower part of the dashboard. The Sable wagon also has a stowable third-row reverse-facing seat. Deployed, the Sable can carry two additional people, though the seat's small size limits the choice primarily to small children. Driving Impressions: The Sable is a respectable performer when it comes to ride, handling and acceleration. The 200-hp V6 is, of course, the more desirable powerplant for those who have the need for speed. The engine features a wide power band with plenty of low-end torque. When it reaches the upper end of the tachometer, however, the engine isn't nearly as smooth as some other V6s in this class. On the road, the Sable transmits usable feedback to the wheel, letting the driver know what is happening with the tires. The suspension is compliant, making for a comfortable ride and easy long-distance drives.

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.