2005 Mercury Montego Review

2005 Mercury Montego - Waterfall Grille.


The Chicago-built Mercury Montego is an upscale version of the new Ford Five Hundred and is built on a Volvo platform. But never mind that because it's Mercury's first all-new sedan in nearly a decade.

The Montego basically exists to give Lincoln-Mercury dealers another car to sell. Mercury needs more models. Its sales last year totaled 193,534 vehicles -- off from 202,257 units in 2003.

Things looked grim a few years ago for Mercury, when it was unwilling, or unable, to discuss future plans. But the Mercury landscape appears to be brightening. Besides the Montego, it also recently got the compact Mariner, an upscale version of Ford's popular Escape sport-utility vehicle.

Scheduled new Mercurys include a Mazda6-derived mid-size Milan sedan for 2006 (Ford controls Mazda) and a mid-size crossover 2007 vehicle based on the new Chicago-built Ford Freestyle.

Cars accounted for most Mercury sales in 2004, although this Ford division also sells the Monterey minivan and Mountaineer sport-utility vehicle.

Mercury was created in 1939 to give Ford Motor a rival to General Motors' Pontiac and Oldsmobile autos and to fill the gap between Ford cars and Ford Motor's luxurious Lincolns.

The Lincoln-Mercury division was organized in 1947, and a last-minute change in Ford Motor postwar plans caused the 1949 Mercury -- the famous "James Dean'' model -- to share a body shell with Lincoln. Starting in 1952, body shells again were shared with Ford, and Mercurys have been similar to Fords since then -- but with that upscale twist and higher prices.

Don't look for significant mechanical differences between the Montego and Five Hundred full-size sedans, but the smoothly styled Montego looks more distinctive than the Five Hundred. Its stronger looking "waterfall'' grille with vertical bars gives it a more solid look, and it has different taillights, additional equipment and a more-upscale two-tone interior.

Both the Montego and Five Hundred (Sept. 13 AutoTimes) are made in Ford Motor's revamped Chicago Assembly Plant on the Far South Side, where the Ford Taurus and similar Mercury Sable were built for years. They're based on a modified platform from Ford-owned Volvo and thus provide a supple ride and sharp handling.

The Montego is easy to drive, even the first time behind the wheel. Steering is quick, with good feel. Though rather soft, the brake pedal has a nice progressive action for smooth stops. Anti-lock all-disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution are standard.

The Montego is more expensive than the Five Hundred, costing $24,345-$28,245, compared with $22,145-$27,845 for the Ford, but seems worth the extra money.

The Montego comes in Luxury form loaded with comfort and convenience features. An upscale Premier model adds such things as heated front seats and leather upholstery, which costs $250 for the Luxury version. The Premier has wider tires on 18-inch (vs. 17-inch) wheels for slightly better handling.

Both versions are offered with standard front-drive or an optional, sophisticated, Volvo-derived all-wheel-drive system. Traction control is offered, but no anti-skid system is available.

The front-drive 3,680-pound Montego has a six-speed automatic transmission or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with no fixed-ratio gears. The 3,930-pound all-wheel-drive version works only with the CVT. Both are new Ford transmissions.

An updated, refined version of Ford's proven 3-liter, dual-overhead-camshaft, 24-valve V-6 generates 203 horsepower. It provides lively acceleration in town and on highways, although those who haul heavy cargo might wish for at least an optional engine that's larger and has more power.

Fuel economy of the front-drive Montego is an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway with the six-speed automatic transmission and 20 and 27 with the CVT. The all-wheel-drive model delivers an estimated 19 and 26.

The 201-inch-long Montego features such impressive interior room that it has nearly limousine-style rear seat space. The trunk is cavernous.

The quiet interior provides room for five tall occupants, who sit in seats set inches higher than normal for a commanding view of surroundings, SUV-style. The interior has some hard plastics that detract from its quality look. But satin aluminum accents and chrome trim rings are used, and woodgrain appliques are in the higher-line Premier model.

The small, elegant gauges are sometimes difficult to read in bright sunlight, and sound system and climate controls should be larger, although they're easily reached. Not so for the door-mounted power outside mirror control, which can be a long reach for shorter arms. The steering wheel tilts, but doesn't telescope, although power-adjustable pedals are standard on the Premier model.

The console has a large covered bin. All doors have storage pockets with bottle holders, but the glovebox is small. A driver will find that the shift lever partially blocks the way of the two console cupholders.

There's a standard power driver's seat with decent lateral support, at least for a family sedan. A standard fold-flat front passenger seat and split-folding rear seatbacks enlarge cargo capacity.

A power sunroof is an $895 option for both Montego models. Luxury version buyers can get a power front passenger seat and AM/FM radio with an in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 changer for $795 --standard items in the Premier.

Safety features include a rear-obstacle detection system that's standard for the Premier and a $250 option for the Luxury model. A $595 Safety Package contains front torso side air bags and curtain side air bags designed to deploy in both side impacts and rollovers.

The Five Hundred is above-average, but the Montego is a classier ride.



Roomy. Comfortable. Nice ride and handling.

Small gauges sometimes hard to read in sunlight. Small radio and climate system controls. Shift lever partially blocks console cupholders.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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