1998 Mercury Villager Wgn Reviews and Ratings

Wagon Nautica

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1998 Mercury Villager Wgn
Kevin Ransom

Introduction
Among minivans, handling and ride quality are at least as important as cargo capacity. Granted,

cargo capacity is important. But these days, auto makers know better than to deliver a minivan with

an old-fashioned, truck-like ride. They know minivan buyers want commodious space accompanied with

the smooth ride and performance of a sedan.

Mercury's Villager is a byproduct of that knowledge. Since the introduction of the 1993 model, the

Villager has offered a smooth, quiet ride with the responsiveness of a sedan.

Now in its sixth year without a major redesign, the Villager has been a successful product. Many

safety features were added last year, including dual air bags, childproof sliding-door locks, optional

anti-lock brakes (ABS) and optional integrated child safety seats.

New colors were added this year, along with an optional Gold Sport appearance package that features

gold accents on the wheels, grille and lift gate ornament.

Villager comes in three trim levels, the base GS, mid-line LS and top-of-the-line Nautica.

Our Nautica test vehicle had a sticker price of $27,385, including the $580 delivery charge. The

price was boosted to $30,130 by the following options: a $30 cargo net, a $100 anti-theft system; a

$250 trailer-tow package; an $865 Supersound AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo; and a preferred equipment package

that is priced at $2,870, but discounted to $1,500. That package includes a six-way power driver's seat,

flip-open lift gate window, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, leather seats, autolamp on/off delay

system, flip-open lift gate window, heated outside mirrors, dual illuminated visor mirrors, power

windows/locks/outside mirrors, electronic automatic temperature control, keyless entry and electronic

instrument cluster.

Mercury's Villager and Nissan's Quest are a joint venture between the two companies. They are

produced at Ford's Avon Lake, Ohio, assembly plant using Ford-supplied components, but they were designed

by Nissan and are powered by a Nissan engine and drivetrain.

We drove the Mercury Villager, but nearly everything we say about it applies to the Nissan Quest. The Quest offers the same quality level as the Villager; a unique grille, taillamps, lower fascias, and wheels distinguish the Nissan from the Mercury. Walkaround
The seafaring theme of the Nautica trim-package emblem suggests that this sport-luxury model is

targeting the upscale, yacht club market: Nautica's trim package comes complete with a jaunty yellow

sailboat logo that appears on the rear gate and on each seat back. Our Nautica test model was painted

a handsome metallic Cabernet Red. The blue-gray fascias and underside body cladding were trimmed by a

yellow stripe and a yellow "Nautica" nameplate.

Most minivan buyers are parents, so the operation of the sliding door and rear tailgate is an important concern. The side door, which comes with a childproof lock, slides open very easily with just one hand.

Opening the rear tailgate is also a one-handed operation--if you use the keyless remote control to unlock all the doors. (The rear gate can also be unlocked manually with the key.) When fully opened, the tailgate offers enough head clearance for a six-footer, a nice feature because few of us like to bang our heads. Interior
The Villager Nautica's standard equipment includes power rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel

anti-lock brakes, power door locks, childproof sliding-door lock, tilt steering wheel, flip-out side

rear windows, rear defogger, tinted windows and courtesy dome lamps.

Villager's designers have provided a range of seating configurations. Passengers can choose from

13 different seating-and-cargo combinations.

Behind the front captain's chairs are two more captain's chairs. The rearmost bench seat affords

enough room for three, although it's a tight squeeze entering the rear-seat area. This arrangement

permits comfortable seating for seven.

All the captain's chairs are quite comfortable. Our Nautica was equipped with very comfortable power

front seats, with six adjustments for the driver, four for the passenger.

The seat backs on the second-row captain's chairs and third-row bench seat can be folded down for

loading cargo. For even more cargo space, the second-row captain's chairs can be removed entirely. Another

space-enhancing option would be to tilt the rear-bench seat cushion upward and slide the seat forward by

as much as 50 inches. All of these functions can be performed with an easy flip of a lever. And in the case

of the removable second-row captain's chairs, it can be done with just one hand.

The Villager affords 126 cubic feet of cargo space after the second-row seats are removed and the

rear-bench seat is folded upward. That's a lot less than the 162.9 cubic feet offered by the Chrysler

Town & Country LX, but if your only cargo is the human-child variety, the Villager offers more than

sufficient space.

Passengers can move comfortably from the front seat back to the rear, although the fold-down armrests

on the second-row captain's chairs limit the center-aisle pass-through space to about eight inches.

Driver's seat headroom was sufficient for me, measuring just under 6 feet. Visibility is good, though

there is a bit of a blind spot to the driver's right rear. Also, the front of the vehicle is so steeply

raked that the driver cannot see the front fenders, which requires some getting used to for parallel parking.

Passengers over 6 feet may be a bit cramped in the second or third rows. Rear-seat legroom is also a

bit limited for an adult--but then, the rear passengers in most loaded-minivan scenarios are children.

A flat cupholder pulls out and snaps down from the console side of the front passenger's seat. Even

better are the sturdy, integrated cupholders on the backs of each of the fold-down rear seats.

Built into the modular armrest to the left of the second-row captain's chair are switches that operate

the rear-seat climate control and stereo system, which comes complete with two headphone jacks--a very nice

touch, and one that was clearly designed to let the kids groove to their favorite tunes without jangling

their parents' nerves.

We also applaud the electronic information center on the smart-looking, digitized instrument panel.

With a simple push of a button you can ascertain fuel economy--both average and instant--and the number

of miles left before the fuel tank is empty. The system provides readouts in both the English and metric systems. Driving Impressions
While its cargo capacity is somewhat modest compared to the big Chryslers, the Villager compensates

with its velvety ride and serene comfort.

The Villager is powered by a 3.0-liter, electronically fuel-injected V6 engine that delivers 151

horsepower at 4,800 rpm. It's hitched to a four-speed, electronically controlled automatic overdrive

transmission.

That powertrain easily enabled the 3,800-lb. Villager to scoot in and out of freeway traffic. It

also delivered enough boost for two-lane passing situations. We were surprised and impressed by the

Villager's quiet cabin. It seemed as quiet as a sedan even at speeds greater than 70 mph.

When it comes to handling, the Villager firmly plants itself while negotiating hard corners--no small feat for a tall vehicle. The rack-and-pinion power steering offers precise control and the engineers have done a good job tuning the MacPherson strut front suspension and leaf-spring rear suspension with twin-tube gas charged shock absorbers. Summary
The Mercury Villager offers a roomy cabin with comfortable captain's chairs and seating for seven. The seats can be arranged in a variety of configurations to haul cargo. Luxury touches in the Nautica model include separate stereo and ventilation controls for rear-seat passengers, a real feature when carrying children. All doors can be operated with one hand, a blessing when carrying groceries and other parcels, while managing children.

Villager rides smoothly and insulates those inside from road noise and bumps. It handles like a sedan and provides plenty of power for driving through heavy traffic. Overall, the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest are good choices among minivans.

Model as tested
Nautica
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Avon Lake, Ohio
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
27385
Price as tested
30130
Options as tested
electronic temperature control, Supersound AM/FM/cassette/CD player, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control, flip-open lift gate window, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual illuminated visor mirrors

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.0-liter sohc V6
Transmissions
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
ABS, air conditioning, power rack-and-pinion steering, childproof sliding door lock, power heated outside mirrors, tilt steering wheel, flip-out side rear windows, rear defogger, Nautica trim package (leather seats, two-tone paint, power windows and locks, keyless entry, power front seats

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.0-liter sohc V6
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
151 @ 4800
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
17/23
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/drum
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P205/75R-15
Suspension, rear
Beam axle

Accomodations
Seating capacity
7
Head/hip/leg room, middle
39.7/59.0/36.3
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.4/56.8/39.9
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.3/49.6/36.7

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
126
Wheelbase
112.2
Length/width/height
190.2/73.8/65.6
Turning circle
39.9
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
2000
Track, front/rear
63.4/63.4
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
4003


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