A family looking for an upscale, practical, functional minivan that has room and style.
Comparable models in this class:
Chevrolet Venture, Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Windstar, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Mazda MPV, Nissan Quest, Oldsmobile Silhouette, Pontiac Montana, Toyota Sienna
Mercury has dropped its Villager minivan and replaced it with the larger Monterey.
"Monterey leads the product renaissance at Mercury and re-energizes our brand with exclusive features and safety characteristics not available on other minivans," said Darryl Hazel, president of Lincoln-Mercury. "Monterey's stylish, modern design also positions it well for the growing upper end of the minivan segment."
Monterey is a cousin to the new Ford Freestar, which was formerly the Windstar. The Windstar was so thoroughly reworked that Ford gave it a new name.
The Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest all have unique features that makes the minivan segment very competitive, and the Monterey was developed with that in mind. It offers a safety canopy air bag system for all three rows of seats, heated and cooled front seats and a third seat that not only folds into the floor but flips around like a couch for tailgating.
Compared to Ford, Mercury is perceived as an upscale brand. Monterey is available in Convenience, Luxury and Premium trim levels. The Convenience model starts at $29,995, including destination.
The test vehicle was a preproduction Premier model whose price was $35,795. Standard equipment included alloy wheels, roof rails, side airbags and safety canopy, AdvanceTrac vehicle stability system, anti-lock brakes, traction control, front and rear parking sensors, heated and cooled leather seats, adjustable pedals, power sliding doors and three-zone heating and cooling.
A power liftgate will be available later in the year.
The 4.2-liter engine is the largest in the minivan segment, but its 201 horsepower output is somewhat less than most powerful in the class. This engine generates 263 pound-feet of torque, and that gives it decent midrange throttle response. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds. While this engine is not the smoothest, Ford has done a good job of isolating engine vibration from the vehicle. Noise level is moderate.
This engine is rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. According to the on-board computer, I averaged 15.2 mpg in city driving.
Many of the Monterey's styling cues reflect the Mountaineer SUV. Inside, the cabin is a comfortable, well-appointed place. The fit, finish and quality of materials is like a luxury SUV. The instrument panel has chrome-trimmed gauges and a nicely textured surface. Faux wood trim lends a feeling of warmth.
A storage bin sits between the front seats, but its width is restricted by the placement of the emergency brake handle. A foot-operated brake would enable the center console to be nearly twice as wide.
Once you use power sliding side doors, it's clear why they are so popular. Loading kids in and out is a breeze, and you can even open both sides at once.
Following the lead of Toyota and Honda, the Mercury's third seat tumbles into the floor to create a flat load space, and the headrests don't have to be removed. For tailgating, the third seat pivots backward to face outward. The seat is counterbalanced so folding it can be done easily.
The second-row bucket seats are a little close to the front seats, inhibiting legroom for adults. Because they're buckets, they are easy to fold for access to the third seat.
Monterey offers a comprehensive safety package with more than 30 safety features. These include a segment-exclusive side air bag and safety canopy system that includes a rollover sensor and provides protection for all three rows of passengers; AdvanceTrac stability control system with traction control and panic brake assist; occupant-sensing passenger front air bag; four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes; a reinforced structure designed for offset frontal impacts; three-point safety belts and head restraints at all seating positions; a low tire pressure warning system and available self-sealing tires.