Mercury Sable

Mercury Sable
Mercury Sable
2008 Mercury Sable
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production December 1985–April 29, 2005
June 2007–May 21, 2009
Predecessor Mercury Marquis (1986)
Mercury Montego (2008)
Successor Mercury Milan (2005)
Class Mid-size (1985–2005)
Full-size (2008–2009)

The Mercury Sable is a mid-size (model years 1986–2005) or full-size (2008–2009) upscale sedan car model created by the Ford Motor Company and sold under the Mercury brand. It served as a rebadged variant of the Ford Taurus, with a few cosmetic changes.

The Sable was a milestone design for both Mercury and the entire American automotive industry, as well as a very influential vehicle in the marketplace, with Mercury assembling 2,112,374 cars during its first 20 years of production through 2005.[1] The Sable's design was so futuristic, that it was called by the press "The car that came from the moon".[2] An important feature of the Sable's design was its front "lightbar", a low-wattage lamp between the front headlamps. This later became mainstream for Mercury's line-up, and was copied by many automakers in the early nineties.[3][4][5]

The Sable was refreshed in 1992 and received its first complete redesign in 1996. The 1996 model remained the basis for the vehicle up through the 2005 model year. A major sheet metal and interior redesign occurred in 2000, softening some of the controversial design vestiges of the 1996 model which the Taurus also endured. Minor styling changes in 2004 further refined the car.

The Sable station wagon ended production in 2004 and sedan production ended on April 29, 2005.[6] The Ford Taurus remained in production through the 2007 model year, primarily for service as a fleet vehicle. Taurus production ended on October 27, 2006.[7]

At the Chicago Auto Show on February 7, 2007, Ford CEO Alan Mulally unveiled a refreshed version of the Mercury Montego sedan and announced that the new name of the car would be "Sable," due to customer recognition and dealer demand.

However, sales never met expectations and the full-size Sable ended production (permanently, this time) on May 21, 2009.[8] Its Taurus counterpart continued on and was redesigned. The Sable's second counterpart, the Ford Taurus X, ended production on February 27, 2009.


First generation (1986–1991)

First generation
1986 Sable GS
Also called Ford Taurus (Mexico)
Production 1986–1991
Assembly Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Body style 4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FF layout
Platform Ford D186 platform
Engine 2.5 L HSC I4
3.0 L Vulcan V6
3.8 L Essex V6
Transmission 3-speed ATX automatic
4-speed AXOD automatic
Wheelbase 106 in (2,700 mm)
Length 190.9 in (4,850 mm)
(1986–88 sedan)
192.2 in (4,880 mm)
(1989–1991 sedan)
193.2 in (4,910 mm)
(1989–1991 station wagon)
191.9 in (4,870 mm)
(1986–88 station wagon)
Width 70.8 in (1,800 mm)
Height 54.3 in (1,380 mm) (sedan)
55.1 in (1,400 mm) (station wagon)
Related Ford Taurus
Lincoln Continental
Designer Jack Telnack
Mercury Sable GS wagon

The Sable was a very important sedan for both Mercury and the American auto industry.

Ford had lagged in introducing mid-size front wheel drive cars to compete against General Motors' Chevrolet Citation and its best-selling Chevrolet Celebrity/Pontiac 6000/Oldsmobile Cutlass/Buick Century quartet as well as Chrysler's well-received K cars and Japanese offerings from Honda, Datsun/Nissan and Toyota.[2] The Mercury brand suffered even more from this delay. In 1983, Ford launched the redesigned Mercury Cougar to start a reinvigoration of the Mercury brand with new aerodynamic designs, and started development of the Sable.[9] Because of this design, the Sable was a resounding success and launched Mercury into a new design era, as well as influencing the other American automakers to follow suit and create more aerodynamic cars, thus ending the "boxy" cars of the 1970s and 1980s.[2]

The Taurus and Sable siblings used flush aerodynamic composite headlights. Ford was the first to produce and sell vehicles with such headlights in the U.S., when it introduced the Lincoln Mark VII in 1984. To do so, Ford (among other automakers) had to lobby the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to have them approved.[2] The Taurus and Sable were the first domestically produced, mainstream sedans to use the new lights. They also went beyond the Audi 5000, with which they were often compared, to adopt a grille-less "bottom breather" nose, first pioneered by the Citroën DS in the 1950s, and also used briefly on the Mustang.[2]

The Sable was unveiled along with the Taurus in a resounding fashion. For its aerodynamic shape, the launch was held in MGM Studios Soundstage 85, where Gone with the Wind was filmed. Ford workers came into the room, which was decorated in space-age decor, holding cups shaped like flying saucers and the Taurus and Sable were sitting behind a curtain, their outlines silhouetting. Then, with the flashing of strobe lights and a drum-roll, the curtain was pulled back and the two cars were revealed to the public.[2]

The bodyshell was smooth and aerodynamic. The Sable twin had a wraparound "lightbar" with two headlights and a low-wattage stretch in between. Aircraft-style doors were used to reduce wind noise, and the handles were recessed. The Sable also had large glass areas with slim pillars, and were flush with the body. The rear glass wrapped fully around, and the B-pillars were painted black to give the illusion that the front and rear glass were connected. The interior was available with bucket seats — very rare for most U.S. midsize sedans — and the dashboard wrapped around the driver and fed into the door panels to create more of a "cockpit" feel.[10]

The Sable was first introduced as a 1986 model in December 1985, to strong sales and fanfare. It came in two models, base GS and high-end LS. Initial Sable sales were strong, and the Sable sold around 300,000 units its first year.[2]

For the first year on the market, Sable buyers had the choice of a 90 hp (67 kW) HSC 4-cylinder mated to a three-speed automatic transaxle or a 140 hp (104 kW) Vulcan V6 with a four-speed automatic, with the latter having much higher sales. 4-cylinder Sable sales were so poor that the engine was dropped in 1987 (it remained an option for the Taurus until 1991). Ford's 3.8 L Essex V6 was added to the line-up in 1988. Although the power output was rated at the same 140 hp (104 kW) as the 3.0 L engine, this large V6 produced 215 ft·lbf (291 N·m) of torque, a welcome addition, especially in the heavier station wagons. However, the 3.8 suffered from premature head gasket failure, which was primarily a fault with Ford's supplier of gaskets, not with the engine itself. Some also attribute this to reduced under-hood cooling.[10] Unlike the Taurus, no manual transmission was offered in the Sable.

The Sable had just received small changes over the years, mostly in terms of equipment and cosmetics. In 1991, sales dipped to just over 100,000 units, so a new generation of Sable was launched.[10]

Sable In Mexico

This generation of the Sable wasn't sold in Mexico. It was sold with Mercury badges as the Ford Taurus up until 1995, especially with the second generation.


The Sable was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list on its release in 1986 and again in 1990 and 1991.[10]


Model Year Engine Power Torque Transmission
GS 1986 2.5 L CFI HSC I4 90 hp (67 kW) 130 ft·lbf (176 N·m) 3-speed ATX automatic
GS 1986–1991 3.0 L SFI Vulcan V6 140 hp (104 kW) 160 ft·lbf (217 N·m) 4-speed AXOD automatic (1986–90)
4-speed AXOD-E automatic (1991)
GS 1988–1991 3.8 L SFI Essex V6 140 hp (104 kW) 215 ft·lbf (291 N·m)

Second generation (1992–1995)

Second generation
1993 Mercury Sable GS sedan
Production 1992–1995
Assembly Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Body style 4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FF layout
Platform Ford D186 platform
Engine 3.0 L Vulcan V6
3.8 L Essex V6
Transmission 4-speed AXOD-E/AX4S automatic
4-speed AX4N automatic
Wheelbase 106 in (2,700 mm)
Length 192.2 in (4,880 mm) (sedan)
193.2 in (4,910 mm) (wagon)
Width 71.2 in (1,810 mm)
Height 54.4 in (1,380 mm) (sedan)
55.5 in (1,410 mm) (wagon)
Related Ford Taurus
Lincoln Continental
Ford Windstar
Designer Jack Telnack
Second-generation Mercury Sable LS wagon

The Sable received its first significant cosmetic update in 1992, which modernized the interior and the front and rear fascias.[10] The operation cost Ford $650 million at the time. With the older model facing slumping sales, this new model brought sales back up again, with 410,000 examples sold during 1992, a number unheard of even today.[11] While the design was basically the same, every body panel on the sedan except for the doors was changed.;[12] on the station wagon all the sheet metal to the rear of the cowl was the same as that of the 1986-1995 Ford Taurus wagon. The interior was also redesigned, and included an optional passenger-side airbag, a first in its class.[12] The Taurus, sister car of the Sable, was the best-selling car in the United States for every year of this cosmetic update.[10]

The base "GS" and luxury "LS" trim levels were carried over from the previous generation. A front cloth bench seat were standard on GS sedans and wagons, although cloth bucket seats were available on GS sedans only. Higher-end cloth bucket seats were standard on LS sedans, but a bench seat was a no cost option. A front bench was standard on LS wagons, with bucket seats optional. Leather seating surfaces were available on all LS Sables.

In 1993, unpopular optional features such as the "InstaClear" heated windshield were eliminated.[12] For 3.0 L V6 engines, the drive belt system became a single-belt setup for 1993 (previously, the 3.0 L alternator had used a separate belt).[12] A passenger-side airbag became standard for 1993, and a redesigned drivers side airbag and steering wheel came in 1994. Also in 1994, some 3.0 L models began receiving the new AX4N transmission.

Also in 1993, Ford Canada hand-built 40 Mercury Sables powered by SHO V6 engines as part of their AIV (Aluminum Intensive Vehicle) program and released 20 to the public. Using aluminum suspension elements and aluminum body panels, held together with a spot welding process and adhesive joining process developed specifically for this vehicle, the end result was a car that was 400 pounds lighter than a SHO Taurus. In 1995 one of these vehicles finished 15th in the 1995 One Lap of America event.[13][14][15]

The wagon version was available with mostly the same options as the sedan versions.[12] Wagons had a maximum of 81.1 cubic feet (2.30 m3) of cargo area with the 60/40 split rear seat folded down.[16] They featured a 2-way liftgate (raise the entire liftgate or just the window), a roof rack with crossbar and tie-downs, an optional rear-facing third seat, a lockable under-floor compartment, and an optional fold-out picnic table. With both rear split seats in the upright position, standard cargo capacity was 45.7 cubic feet (1.29 m3).[12] Wagons that were equipped with the front bench seat and rear folding seat could seat eight people.

The last year of this updated Sable generation was 1995. For the 1995 model year, the rare LTS trim level was added. It featured leather bucket seats, Taurus LX-style alloy wheels, special cladding, and many leather wrapped interior trim parts.[12] The LTS trim had either the standard 3.0 L Vulcan V6 or the optional 3.8 L Essex V6.


Model Year Transmission Engine Power Torque
1992–1995 4-speed AXOD-E (AX4S) automatic
4-speed AX4N automatic (some 1994-95)
3.0 L SFI Vulcan V6 140 hp (104 kW) 160 ft·lbf (217 N·m)
LTS 1995
3.8 L Essex V6 140 hp (104 kW) 215 ft·lbf (291 N·m)

Third generation (1996–1999)

Third generation
1996–1997 Mercury Sable sedan
Production 1996–1999
Assembly Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Body style 4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FF layout
Platform Ford D186 platform
Engine 3.0 L Vulcan V6
3.0 L Duratec V6
Transmission 4-speed AX4N automatic
Wheelbase 108.5 in (2,760 mm)
Length 199.7 in (5,070 mm) (sedan)
199.1 in (5,060 mm) (station wagon)
Width 73 in (1,900 mm)
Height 55.4 in (1,410 mm) (sedan)
57.6 in (1,460 mm) (station wagon)
Related Ford Taurus
Lincoln Continental
Ford Windstar

The 1996 model year saw the first complete redesign for the Sable. Ford hoped the radical redesign would lead to the same success it had had with the 1986 Sable. This generation shared the same dashbard as the Ford Taurus, unlike the previous two generations, which had completely different dashboards from the Taurus. The controversial oval theme was not well received by the press and the public, and is ultimately blamed as the reason for a substantial dip in sales.[17] For this generation, the Sable tried to move slightly upmarket, and as a result, prices rose considerably, also driving away potential buyers.[10] The 1996 Sable was the first model to share sheetmetal with the Taurus. Differences from the Taurus included different front and rear fascias, and the elimination of the rear quarter window.[18] Although the Sable used a less oval based styling, sales still fell.[17]

This generation shared the same dashbard as the Ford Taurus, unlike the previous two generations, which had completely different dashboards.

The 1996 model could be equipped with the brand-new 200 hp (149 kW) 3.0 L DOHC Duratec 30 V6 as an option.[19] Trim lines stayed the same, with GS as the entry level model and LS as the most luxurious model. The LTS was eliminated.[19] Although all 1998 models had the option of the DOHC Duratec engine, it was only available on the LS for 1999.

1998–1999 Mercury Sable LS wagon

In an effort to reverse the declining sales of the Sable, Mercury did major cost cutting for the 1997 model.[18] They carried this further for 1998, by giving it a front end facelift, and cutting the price up to $2,000 in 1999.[19] Mercury also continued to cut costs, eliminating some options for 1999.[18] In late 1999, four-wheel disc brakes were eliminated on ABS equipped sedans; station wagons retained four-wheel disc brakes.


Model Year Engine Power Torque Transmission
1996–1998 3.0 L SFI Vulcan V6 145 hp (108 kW) 170 ft·lbf (244 N·m) 4-speed AX4S automatic
4-speed AX4N automatic
3.0 L DOHC Duratec 30 V6 200 hp (149 kW) 200 ft·lbf (264 N·m)
LS 1996–1999
GS 1996–1999 3.0 L SFI Vulcan V6 145 hp (108 kW) 170 ft·lbf (244 N·m)
3.0 L DOHC Duratec 30 V6 200 hp (149 kW) 200 ft·lbf (264 N·m)

Fourth generation (2000–2005)

Fourth generation
2000–2003 Mercury Sable GS sedan
Production 2000–2005
Assembly Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Body style 4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FF layout
Platform Ford D186 platform
Engine 3.0 L Vulcan V6
3.0 L Duratec V6
Transmission 4-speed AX4N automatic
Wheelbase 108.5 in (2,760 mm)
Length 199.8 in (5,070 mm) (sedan)
197.8 in (5,020 mm) (station wagon)
Width 73 in (1,900 mm)
Height 55.5 in (1,410 mm) (sedan)
57.8 in (1,470 mm) (station wagon)
Related Ford Taurus
Lincoln Continental
2000–2003 Mercury Sable LS wagon

The Sable received another redesign in 2000, which minimized some of the oval design elements from the 1996 model, replacing them with more conventional styling.[20] The redesign also featured a taller roof over the rear-passenger space, to increase passenger headroom that had been sacrificed by the tapered 1996 design.[20] The taller and roomier trunk also served to make the vehicle more functional.[10] The interior was completely changed for a much more conservative design.[20] Certain elements of the interior were retained from the 1996 model, such as the integrated control console, which combined the sound system and climate controls into one panel; but the shape of that panel was changed from the controversial oval to a more conventional and conservative trapezoid. The suspension was also softened to appeal to a broader, non-sporting audience.[10] Side airbags and traction control were added as options on all models.[10]

2004–2005 Mercury Sable GS sedan

The 2002 Sable included extra equipment on every trim level, including a CD player and power driver's seat on the GS, and a power moonroof or leather interior on the LS. For 2004, the Sable received minor cosmetic changes to the front and rear fascias, most noticeably the grille was made fully chrome. Inside were a new instrument cluster and steering wheel.[20]

Due to the Mercury brand's discontinuation in Canada, the fourth generation Sable was never available in the Canadian market. Thus it was unique to the US and Mexico (as Ford).

The 2005 Mercury Montego and 2006 Milan were launched as replacements for the Sable.[20] Shortly after the Montego's introduction the Sable was discontinued, along with the Taurus wagon; the Taurus sedan continued to be produced, but primarily for the fleet market. The last Sable left the Atlanta plant on April 29, 2005.[11]


Model Year Engine Power Torque Transmission
GS 2000–2005 3.0 L SFI Vulcan V6 155 hp (116 kW) 185 ft·lbf (251 N·m) 4-speed AX4N automatic
3.0 L DOHC Duratec 30 V6 200 hp (149 kW) 195 ft·lbf (350 N·m)

Fifth generation (2008–2009)

Fifth generation
2008 Mercury Sable
Production 2008–2009
Assembly Chicago, Illinois
Predecessor Mercury Montego
Successor Ford Taurus (sixth generation)
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout Front engine, front-wheel drive / all-wheel drive
Platform Ford D3 platform
Engine 3.5 L Cyclone V6
Transmission 6-speed 6F automatic
Wheelbase 112.9 in (2,870 mm)
Length 202.1 in (5,130 mm)
Width 74.5 in (1,890 mm)
Height 61.5 in (1,560 mm)
Curb weight 3643 lb (FWD)
3814 lb (AWD)
Related Lincoln MKS
Volvo S60
Volvo XC90
Ford Taurus
Ford Taurus X
Ford Flex
Designer J Mays

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that Ford's scheme to make all its cars names start with the letter F was a bad move, as it made Ford's new cars easily forgettable.[21] Mulally wanted to revive some known and respected Ford nameplates for its new model line, the Sable being one of them. The new 2008 Sable went on sale in late July 2007, though remaining 2007 Montegos continued being sold as of August 2007. Mulally believed that with the new name, more customers would recognize the car, thus raising sales.[21]

Changes to the new Sable from the existing Montego included a new front end with Milan-inspired headlamps, as well as exterior satin-aluminum mirror and door-handle accents, and new LED taillights. Also new was the addition of the 3.5 L Cyclone engine from the Ford Edge, as well as the replacement of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a conventional one to counter criticism of the Montego being underpowered.[22] On Wednesday February 7, Ford confirmed the changes.[21][23]

When Ford redesigned the Taurus for the 2010 model year, the Sable was not continued; the additional engineering and advertising resources were concentrated on the Taurus. On May 21, 2009, the last Mercury Sable was produced.[8] After the 2011 model year, the Mercury brand was retired.


Model Year Engine Power Torque Transmission
2008–2009 3.5 L Cyclone V6 263 hp 265 ft·lbf 6-speed 6F automatic

Special editions

A few rare special editions of the Sable were made, all consisting of first generation models.

In 1987, Mercury created a special edition of the Sable called the "LS Monochrome Edition", which as an option would color the bumpers, side trim, and wheels white.[24] It was only offered in 1987; the production quantity is not known and it is also unknown how many still exist.[24]

In 1989, Mercury created a "50th Anniversary" edition of the Sable, to celebrate Mercury's 50th Anniversary. Keeping with the name, only 50 were sold, combined between GS and LS models. This Sable was actually a test bed for creating a Luxury sports version of the Sable called the LTS, similar to that of the Ford Taurus SHO. It was meant to use the SHO's chassis, interior, and suspension, but not the engine.[25] After the launch of the SHO, and all the publicity and praise it got, Ford shelved the Sable LTS to focus on the SHO, and because they were afraid it would take sales away from the SHO. The Sable LTS remained in a "development hell" until mid-1994 when it was introduced as a high-end version of the Sable, but by then, it was just a highly optioned LS. An unknown number of these Sables still exist, but a pristine condition GS in this trim was sold on eBay in 2007.[25]

A special one-of-a-kind Sable convertible was created in 1988 for the Detroit SAE auto show. It was built from a sedan chassis and featured a completely custom two-door body with a custom folding top. However, it was shelved; the only one sat in a warehouse for years until it was given a VIN, titled, and driven. It was sold on eBay in 2006.[26]

In an article in Automotive News (circa 1990) an all aluminum body in white was made for a Sable. In an accompanying photo it is shown being held up by two middle aged women, leading to the belief it would weigh less than 600 lb (270 kg). Ford's Aluminum Intensive Vehicle (AIV) program built 20 aluminum-bodied Sables with high-performance Taurus SHO V6 engines.[27] This was an engineering exercise for constructing all aluminum unit bodies, as Jaguar has now.

Popular culture

In the movie Coneheads, the main character, Beldar, drives a 1992 Sable GS. The car is equipped with a removable sunroof to accommodate his "cone." At the end of the movie, the car is taken to planet Remulak, and the owner's guide given as a gift to the Conehead Highmaster. The car is described as "a personal conveyance named after its inventor, an assassinated ruler, a character from Greco-Roman myth and a small furry mammal." (Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, Mercury, and Sable, respectively).

American sales

Calendar Year American sales
1999[28] 101,120
2000 103,030
2001[29] 102,646
2002[30] 98,998
2003 61,342
2004[31] 42,737
2005 24,149
2006[32] 0
2007 21,121
2008[33] 16,187
2009[34] 6,256
2010[35] 37



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  4. ^ "Mitsubishi Eclipse at Consumer Guide". 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
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  13. ^ "SHO Sable". Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
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  15. ^ "1995 One Lap of America results". Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  16. ^ "1990-1995 Ford Taurus Review". Consumer Guide. Retrieved 2007-02-13. 
  17. ^ a b Walton, Mary (May 1997). Car: A Drama of The American Workplace. W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-04080-1. 
  18. ^ a b c "Taurus/Sable spotters guide (Generation 3 1996-1999)". Archived from the original on 2006-11-19. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  19. ^ a b c "1996-1999 Mercury Sable at Consumer Guide". Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "2000-2005 Mercury Sable". Consumer Guide. Retrieved 2007-02-13. 
  21. ^ a b c "2008 Ford Taurus features more power, style, and more standard safety features". Media. 7 February 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 2007-02-07. 
  22. ^ Siler, Steve, and Mike Dushane (February 2007). "Ford slaps a once-successful nameplate on its refreshed and reinvigorated Five Hundred". Car and Driver. Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
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  25. ^ a b "1989 50th Anniversary Mercury Sable". Retrieved 2007-03-18. [dead link]
  26. ^ "1988 Sable Convertible concept". Archived from the original on 2006-11-19. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  27. ^ "Ford's Super-Rare Taurus SHO-Powered Aluminum Super-Sable". 2010-04-26. 
  28. ^ "Ford Motor Company Sets New Full Year U.S. Sales Record". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  29. ^ "Ford Motor Company's December U.S. Sales Climb 8.2 Percent". Ford Motor Company. 
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  31. ^ "Ford Achieves First Car Sales Increase Since 1999". 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
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  34. ^ "FORD CAPS 2009 WITH 33 PERCENT SALES INCREASE, FIRST FULL-YEAR MARKET SHARE GAIN SINCE 1995 | Ford Motor Company Newsroom". 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  35. ^

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