Mercury Milan Review

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery
mercury milan review

Milan is the fashion capital of Italy. Step off the tourist trail and it’s a combination of industrial parks and urban sprawl with only slightly more charm than Trenton, New Jersey. Still, you have got to give Ford’s beleaguered near-luxury division credit for naming their hecho-en-Mexico Fusion derivative after the home of Alfa Romeo, rather than resorting to the alphanumerics afflicting Lincoln’s take on the same model. But the question remains: is Mercury’s glammed-up Fusion a credible fashionista or an industrial waste?

The Milan's grill is the most striking difference between Mercury’s mid-market sedan and the car upon which it's based. While Ford decorated their front wheel-driver’s front room with Venetian blinds, Mercury opted for verticals. Less obviously, the Milan’s lower front fascia is more pronounced, the bright work less blingy, the wheels statelier and the rear lights look less… like an aftermarket afterthought.

Subtle as they are, the changes work. The Milan projects greater maturity and wealth than its FoMoCo donormobile. And compared to the redesigned Toyota Camry, whose front-end looks like a saggy-nosed boxer after years of cartilage pulverizing abuse, the Milan is elegantly beautiful.

Color has a Jekyll and Hyde effect on Milan’s mien. The more vibrant hues– Redfire Red, Ebony Black and Dark Blue Pearl– establish a welcome contrast to the crystalline headlight cluster and chrome accents, projecting the requisite eau de upmarket. Conversely, the bland non-color tones– Charcoal Beige, Dune Pearl, Light Tundra, Satellite Silver, Silver Frost or Tungsten Silver— create a pale and pasty pallet of pernicious pabulum.

The Milan’s interior is proof positive that Ford knows how to design and assemble a comfortable, graceful and ergonomic interior. OK, the panel gaps around the dash top cubby can be seen from outer space. And most of the luxury stuff that should be basic– automatic climate control, heated seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with secondary controls, etc.– is optional (bumping the Milan's price towards the Lincoln Fusion homonym). But there are some genuinely nice touches.

For example, the Milan’s center-mounted analog clock is so-not-plastic and the wood is. And kudos to Ford Mercury for the clever center storage bin that combines an MP3 jack, Nintendo-friendly power point and change holder.

The Milan’s elegant monochromatic gauges could use a touch of red, as in REDLINE. While it’s not a concern when driving a Milan equipped with a five-speed automatic, pistonheads opting for stick shift (available on the four cylinder engine) must rely on their ears to avoid triggering the engine’s self-preservation software.

As with the Fusion, the Milan comes in a choice of a 2.3-liter in-line four or a 3.0-liter Duratec V6. The four-cylinder mill produces a class appropriate power (160hp @ 6250rpm) and economy (23/31mpg). It revs effortlessly and remains suitably hushed at cruising speed.

Unfortunately, the manual transmission’s 3.31:1 first gear ratio is a little too much for an engine whose 150ft.-lbs. peak torque doesn’t arrive until 4250rpm. (Translation: unless you rev the engine and dump the clutch north of 3000rpm, you ain't going nowhere fast.)

The V6 Milan delivers an altogether different driving experience. Mated to a six-speed slushbox, the silken six-cylinder engine puts Toyota’s, Nissan’s and Honda’s mills to shame, redefining smooth, effortless, frugal and dependable power for the entire mid-size market.

Just kidding.

Don’t get me wrong: the Duratec is a fine engine. But discriminating buyers will notice that the Milan’s 221hp six banger quickly runs out of puff, especially compared to Honda Accord (244hp) Toyota Camry (268hp) and Nissan Altima (270hp). The Milan's mill is also a pretty thrashy unit, with a decidedly downmarket sonic signature.

While the Milan’s mechanical anemia should eliminate torque steer, it doesn’t. Under hard acceleration, the sedan's front end rises like a powerboat as the forward donuts scrabble for purchase. For less adrenal (read: older) buyers, it’s no biggie. These comfort-oriented customers will be well satisfied with the Milan’s sophisticated short and long arm (SLA) front and multi-link rear suspenders. So equipped, the magic carpet Milan surmounts highway irregularities with near-Camry refinement.

On the fun-to-drive side of things, the Milan carves corners with Accordian poise and precision. I'm not saying the mid-sized Merc begs to be whipped. But when your inner hooligan tempts your soul, the Milan has enough spring in its step to keep everyone heading in the right direction.

At the end of my test drive, I asked my handler why anyone would buy a Mercury Milan over a Ford Fusion. “Why eat with a plastic fork when you can dine with a silver spoon?” I reckon that depends on what and where you’re eating. And even if we accept the analogy, the Milan is, at best, a silver plated plastic fork.

Anyway, the bottom line: for around $600 over the Fusion SE, you can buy a few optional trim choices and a slightly nicer looking ride. And that’s about it. I don't know about you, but that doesn’t sound very glamorous to me.

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2 of 50 comments
  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Jun 26, 2007

    We didn't want to steal your thunder!

  • Blue adidas Blue adidas on Jun 27, 2007

    "I don’t understand Ford brand management. The Mercury brand should have options only specific to Mercury like a engine or drive train not chrome and plastic bits. Mercury is supposed to be their upmarket brand correct? " Huh? Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and VW share engine options among an array of models and brands. The Fusion and Milan clearly share many components and interior pieces, but there are significant sheetmetal differences and features (like LED tail-lamps) that make the Milan appropriately upmarket compared to the Fusion. I think it's a sharp looking ride, whereas I'm not impressed with the yawn styling of the Fusion.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?