The cars we loved.
When good cars are axed, it often makes me sad, even if they are not the most exciting. The Mercury Milan was one of those cars. Never mind that the Mercury brand was slowly fading, the real reason the Mercury Milan was left out in the cold was because of the Ford Fusion’s success, a car that it shared its basic underpinnings with. As a Mercury, the Milan was intended to be a slightly more upscale version of the Fusion. It had its own look, but performed similarly to the highly regarded Fusion. Unfortunately, where the Fusion had become somewhat brash and exciting, the Milan was just a conservative take on the Fusion’s exciting lines. Buyers would have to move on to the similar Lincoln MKZ for more luxury, performance and style.
After the Mystique and long running Sable were canceled, the Milan, whose size was somewhere in-between, would fill the gap in by 2006. Ford sold the Mercury Milan in a few other markets outside the US. Oddly enough the Milan had become Ford’s top selling car among Latino customers shortly after its introduction. “The Milan is designed for the young, savvy individualist whose personal style is shaped by fashion, new technologies, and the discovery of new and different ideas. “ Those were the words of Mercury’s product manager, suggesting that the Milan might be a more exciting alternative to the Fusion. In reality, Mercury product planners were unable to cash in on the European aspirations that come with being named Milan. There was a version of the Milan that was little more than a one-off dealer special aimed at the Latino market called the Volga. It featured 18 inch wheels and some small refinements to the standard Milan’s appearance. Most buyers would never see so interesting a variation on the streets.
Adding to insult, the four-cylinder versions of the Milan often cost as much as the V6 Fusion. With so many similarities, the differences amounted to plastic trim and a somewhat more lush interior for the Milan, not enough to justify the price premium over the Fusion for many buyers. The Hybrid Milan went well over the $30,000 barrier.
It was not for lack of trying. The Fusion had become a hard act to follow. Always in the spot light with its chrome Cylon Raider face, it had become the poster car for what was good at Ford. The Fusion became a big seller at Ford, while upping the ante in value and performance arena among mid-sized family sedans. The Milan was actually better in many respects. Its interior was more appointed while its ride quality was improved. All of these attributes were lost on many customers. The Milan, like the Fusion had similar powertrain options in the form of the Duratec four and six cylinder engine. There were six model trims. The base cars had four-cylinder mills ranging from 2.3 (160hp) to 2.5L (175hp). Higher end models used V6 versions of that produced as much as 240 hp. AWD was often coupled with V6 powered cars as was a six speed automatic transmission. A 5-speed manual was available (but seldom chosen) for the four-cylinder cars.
Also like the Fusion, the Milan had a considerable amount of technology, including a gas/electric hybrid that used a continuously variable automatic transmission. Aside from small electrical assist motors that aided the four-cylinder gasoline engine, the Hybrid seemed rather conventional. The instrument panel was perhaps its most interesting feature. The Smartgauge display system was a color LED display would slide out from the speedometer with readings for battery strength and other vehicle functions. The Fusion Hybrid had a similar display. Even the conventional digital/analogue display was elegant looking with its soft blue-black lit readings.
Attention to detail went beyond the dash display. The Milan, scored exceptionally well in safety and reliability rankings. It also performed well in all of its variations with 0 to 60 times ranging from 8.7 seconds for the hybrid to the low 7 second range for a loaded V6 powered Premier. Despite all these things, the Milan, like the Mercury brand in general, never caught the public’s imagination. All of its best qualities were available in the lower priced Fusion and Ford seemed to be moving it somewhat upscale with each passing model year. A thorough refreshing in 2010 upgraded the appearance of the front, back and interior of the car. The look was improved, resembling a Buick from the front with an even more impressive interior. Still, the Milan was over shadowed by the lower priced Fusion.
The Mercury was seen as stodgy compared to the Ford. Some say that front wheel drive may have held the Milan back from fully exploiting its full performance potential. There was the option of AWD, but it was more geared for stability and traction than performance. Besides, its been proven that front wheel drive is not the handicap to performance that it once was. The Milan being sold in the same lots as the Grand Marquis probably did not help cultivate an image of inspired performance either. The average age of its buyers was 58, not much lower than the Gran Marquis. When the plug was pulled on Mercury, Milan production quietly folded to make way for more Fusions. Now that the gap left by Mercury has been filed by the likes of the new larger Taurus and reinvigorated Fusion, Mercury is likely to be remembered for a time when Cougars, Marauders and XR4Ti’s stood out from other Fords.