There are some car makers which are not given the opportunity to react to market trends as they happen, but instead forced to follow the lead of their parent companies in terms of research and development. What this means for their product lineup is that it largely becomes a reflection of that of their partner, filled with variations on themes that were developed first hand somewhere else. While the upside of this relationship is that the secondary division rarely has to concern themselves with the budgetary concerns of running a full engineering department, they are also handcuffed in terms of forming a comprehensive long term strategy for their brand.
Mercury is an automobile manufacturer with very little freedom or leeway in terms of striking off in their own direction. There have been several occasions where this has not served their best interests, such as when dealing with the slow war of attrition that occurred between station wagons and minivans during the 1980s and 1990s. Ford's decision to continue producing wagons even in the face of decreasing sales thanks to the enormous popularity of vans - some of the best of which were produced by Ford - forced Mercury to move in lock step and sell wagons of its own. This was despite the fact that Mercury was in general tasked with producing up-market versions of Ford products, and the concept of a luxury wagon was not something that the North American public had much interest in anymore. One of the final nails in the Mercury wagon coffin was the disastrous re-design of the Taurus / Sable platform in 1996 that saw millions of customers turn away from the pair of vehicles and purchase something a little less radically styled.
The Sable would be toned down in the year 2000 in an attempt to re-capture some of the vehicle's previous glory, but the damage had been done and in the face of the incredible momentum of crossovers, SUV's and minivans, it was clear that wagons had had their day. While European sport wagons and economy hatchbacks would continue to fight the good fight, Mercury quietly retired their mid-size wagon line.
This is not to say that the Sable and its smaller and more economical wagon-mate the Tracer were not useful, competent vehicles. Their failure on the new car market was largely due to forces outside of their control, and these two vehicles represent the best used wagons available from Mercury.
1998 - 1999 Mercury Tracer Wagon
Twin to the Ford Escort, a brave little import fighter with a very long history, the 1998 - 1999 Mercury Tracer was intended to provide compact wagon buyers with a slightly more feature-laden vehicle that could stand up strong to the hatchbacks pouring out of Japan. While never matching the Escort in terms of sales, the Tracer was re-designed in 1997 in order to update the vehicle's chassis and improve not only its driving characteristics but also allow it to carry a heavier load with more confidence.
Also upgraded was the vehicle's drivetrain. A newer and better 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine takes its place between the Tracer's front fenders, bringing power levels up 25% when compared to the departing mill. With 110 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, the little wagon has a sizable amount of grunt, which is maximized by the inclusion of a 5-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. A 4-speed automatic is also provided as an option. The front-wheel drive wagon turns in very respectable fuel mileage, and most drivers should see 26 miles per gallon in the city and up to 34 miles per gallon on the highway.
All 1998 - 1999 Mercury Tracer wagons come exclusively in LS trim, the highest level available on its companion sedan, and this means that drivers are treated to such features as a tachometer, the choice of either a CD player or a cassette player as well as options like leather seats, air conditioning and a full range of power conveniences. This extra layer of equipment was intended to help distinguish the Tracer from the more working-class Escort wagon. Just under 30 cubic feet of cargo room add a dimension of utility to the wagon that also helps to elevate it above the compact sedans in its class, making it ideal for small families who aren't interested in moving up to something as large as a minivan.
The 1998 - 1999 Mercury Tracer wagon is efficient, inexpensive and stylish, moving it into the ranks of solid used wagons on today's sparsely populated compact market.
2000 - 2005 Mercury Sable Wagon
After becoming the laughing stock of the automobile industry in the wake of the design disaster that was the 1996 Ford Taurus / Mercury Sable, the stylists backpedaled as quickly as they could in order to re-introduce a more conservative edition of the car 4 years later. They also took the time to correct some of the more practical issues that had been created by the previous vehicle's dramatic looks, such as increasing the height of the rear roofline in order to provide greater cargo space. The more streamlined 2000 - 2005 Mercury Sable wagon was much less offensive on the eyes and fit in better with other vehicles on the market at the time.
The first few years of wagon production provide buyers with a choice between two 3.0-liter V-6 engines, with the first making 155 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque in the Sable GS and the second producing a healthier 200 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque in the Sable LS Premium. In 2002 the entry-level engine would receive a slight bump in output, but it was eliminated entirely in 2005 when only the Premium edition of the wagon remained on sale. All versions of the automobile use a 4-speed automatic transmission to send power to the front wheels.
The 2000 - 2005 Mercury Sable wagon is impressive when it comes time to load it up to the rafters with luggage, gear and other assorted family stuff. With the rear seats folded forward, it can accommodate 81 cubic feet of cargo, a number which shrinks by around 50 percent when the vehicle is carrying its maximum of 6 passengers. This allows the Sable wagon to challenge several mid-size SUVs in terms of hauling capability. The car's interior is also quite comfortable, with the option of ordering leather seats, a moon roof and automatic climate control matched with air conditioning for rear passengers.
A true workhorse that can easily meet the demands of families of all sizes, the 2000 - 2005 Mercury Sable wagon flies under the radar on the used wagon market as a viable and well-design option.