Mercury launches Mystique as midsize sedan with global scope
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Mystique, Mercury's new sedan, scooted through heavy traffic on a northbound freeway leading into San Francisco, holding its own in the fast lane. Despite a speed-limit clip, the accelerator signaled more power in reserve, while inside the cozy passenger compartment noise from wind and traffic was muffled to a minimum.
Front bucket seats, deeply contoured with firm side bolsters, fit snugly against a backside weary from so many transcontinental air miles already logged that day.
The steering wheel, small in diameter and sporty in design, felt good to the touch and required minimum effort to turn when whipping into an adjacent lane.
Then came the stop-and-go trek up Van Ness Avenue to Lombard Street as I beat a path for the on-ramp of the Golden Gate Bridge, all the while marshalling the nimble assets of my sedan to zip up the long hill toward Pacific Heights, beat out lesser sedans on the straightaways or stop skillfully in scant time when traffic lights demanded.
After the fling across that bridge, the steep and narrow spaghetti-bowl streets of Sausalito failed to phase this car, nor did the twisted circuits over the crest from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. The way Mystique grabbed those severe switchbacks coming down the western slope, I felt like I was in some exotic sports car, certainly not a mundane little Mercury.
For the next hour I played with Mystique on the coastal road leading north toward Bodega Bay, all the while pushing it hard, trying to detect a weak point here and there.
But I could find none, as Mystique, like Mercury's promotional messages proclaim, is a world-class act.
It comes to market by a circuitous route.
Mystique and its Contour counterpart at Ford borrow the chassis of Mondeo, Europe's best-seller that's produced at a Ford plant in Belgium.
Mystique, like Contour, wears smooth sheetmetal styling which forms those nicely rounded corners, as both cars were designed by development teams based in Europe and North America and linked by sophisticated satellite communications to Ford's Cray 90 supercomputer housed at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
The smaller of Mystique's two powerplants -- the so-called "Zetec" 4-cylinder model -- comes together in Chihuahua, Mexico, while the light-weight "Duratec" V6, produced in Ford's Cleveland, O., engine plant, is also used for Contour in North American and Mondeo in Europe.
A quick-to-shift 5-speed manual transmission, standard equipment for the Zetec 4-cylinder engine, is produced in Europe for all three cars, while the Vetec's automatic 4-speed transmission with electronic shift controls was designed and built in the United States.
Mystique shares about 90 percent of its content with Contour and Mondeo, although modifications in exterior styling and interior seating for Mystique and Contour were made to reflect North American consumer preferences.
Is Mystique a domestic product or an import?
With Ford's international production web, distinctions between domestics and imports now blur to a fuzzy haze.
That's because no other automaker has attempted such a complex global manufacturing and marketing strategy.
Ford's world-wide effort adds up to three names, two engines and five body styles manufactured in three countries on two continents to produce 800,000 annual units destined for 59 global markets.
With a formal front grille that's an obvious variation from Contour's Mustang-like prow, Mystique carries a higher content of conveniences on the inside and consists of only two trim levels to Contour's three.
When Mystique was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show last February, Keith Magee, general manager of the Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company, forecast that the new car would be positioned midway between Mercury's now-discontinued compact Tracer and the popular midsize Sable.
Although Mystique bears a midsize classification, it maneuvers with the spunky feel of a fine imported compact.
Clearly, its mission is to burst the import bubble.
From my experience, Mystique and its Ford equivalent are the first cars produced by a domestic manufacturer which simulate the responsive performance attitude and contain the same type of interior fittings as the Japanese compacts.
Mystique's active personality begins with a rigid frame and an extended wheelbase which contribute to the smooth ride quality.
It packs an independent subframe-mounted MacPherson strut front suspension with anti-roll bar attached by drop links directly to the struts, plus Ford's new Quadralink independent rear suspension that incorporates a form of passive rear wheel steering. Apply large R-rated tires and the ultimate result is a vehicle which exhibits highly predictable driving characteristics when cornering, braking or accelerating.
Safety elements range from a safety cell body structure to high tensile boron steel door braces, dual airbags, anti-submarine front seats and child-proof rear door locks.
In the power department, Mystique's base engine consists of the iron-block Zetec in-line-4 plant with dual overhead cam configuration, four valves per cylinder and sequential fuel injection. Horsepower runs to 125, and fuel economy figures reach as high as 34 miles per gallon for highway cruising.
Mystique's optional all-aluminum 2.5-liter twin-cam Duratec V6 produces 170 hp.
This remarkable engine, one of the smallest and lightest of all V6 plants, requires only routine maintenance such as fluids and filters for its first 100,000 miles, according to Magee. That means no high-priced tune-ups.
Specify the V6 engine and Mystique earns disc brakes for all wheels, a condition necessary for the optional anti-lock braking system and traction control.
The cab-forward interior features the twin front seats separated by a console, plus a 3-person rear bench with split-folding seatback and trunk pass-through. Mystique GS includes a number of comfort and convenience items, but the LS goes further with power controls and luxury trimmings.
Base price figures make this newest Mercury appear all the better against competitors, with Mystique GS listing for $13,855 plus a $495 dealer delivery fee.
1995 MERCURY MYSTIQUE
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 MERCURY MYSTIQUE Specs
| Model Options:
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||DOHC 2.0-L I-4 16v
DOHC 2.5-L V6 24v
All: Opt. ABS/TCS
| Gas Mileage:
||V6: 21/29 mpg
||$ 14,400 to $ 19,000