2011 Mercury Milan Expert Review:Autoblog
At the LA Auto Show in November, Ford unveiled the updated 2010 Fusion and its hybrid stablemate to considerable fanfare. When we got the chance to drive the Fusion a month later we came away impressed, although some of you found the new, larger three-bar grille even more obnoxious than the original. Since visual appeal is highly subjective, it's fortunate that Ford hasn't killed off the Mercury brand just yet. For a relatively minimal investment, Ford can offer the same mechanical package in a more understated wrapper and the result is this: the 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid.
Under the skin and between the axles, it's indistinguishable from its Fusion counterpart. But up front, it's an entirely different story. The Milan is equipped with the standard vertical bar grille shared by the rest of the Mercury line-up, but there's more to making a Mercury than a bit of rhinoplasty and a new set of badges. Make the jump to find out what they are.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
At the front, the Milan's new nose is a bit more rounded than its predecessor, with the area surrounding the grille now standing out a bit from the bumper and flowing smoothly into the hood. Instead of the power dome found on the Fusion, the Milan has two chamfered edges that extend back to the base of the A-pillars. The new headlights actually appear closer to those found on the previous Fusion, with a taller, narrower stacked appearance compared to the 2009 Milan. At the rear, the shape of the tail-lights is basically the same, although the details of the cluster design are changed. The back bumper is more smoothly integrated, with less visual offset from the rest of the body.
Even with the major refresh for the 2010 model year, the basic profile of the Milan and Fusion hasn't really changed, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Because Americans have largely forsaken coupe and wagon body styles for cars over the past two decades, the Milan, like most other mainstream cars, is now only available in a four-door sedan.
The profile may not be the most exciting in the world, but it's clean and handsome. The proportions of the three-box shape and the relatively low roof profile give a sporty overall effect. Unfortunately, the same roof-line that keeps the Milan from looking top-heavy also means that, when equipped with the optional sliding sun-roof, rear seat head-room is significantly degraded for six-footers and up. However, leg-room remains plentiful in the back as well as the front.
In the command position, the Milan has the same interior as the Fusion -- again, a good thing in our experience. Even on the pre-production example we sampled, everything was tightly screwed together with nice soft-touch materials and logically laid out controls. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, covered in fabric made from 100% post-industrial recycled materials. Unlike many other cars in its class, the Milan's front seat lower cushions aren't excessively short and provide decent thigh support.
The steering wheel has a pleasantly thick leather-wrapped rim with switches for the audio system, cruise control, voice commands and the SmartGauge setup. We kept the SmartGauge in the hyper-miler special "Empower" mode most of the week because of two additional bits of information it shows in addition to the usual battery power flow and instantaneous mileage. One is the EV window, which appears on the power output gauge. Mounted to the left of the battery power flow, the gauge shows the total drivetrain power output and also shows a floating green window representing the power range where the car can operate in EV mode. If the current output is above this window, backing off the gas pedal can bring the power level down and when you get into the designated window, the engine shuts off. To the left of the power gauge is the accessory power gauge, which reflects the amount of power being consumed by accessories such as the headlights, heat and the window defogger.
Our first exposure to the Fusion Hybrid two months ago was in the spiritual home of the hybrid: Hollywood, CA. So. Cal. is the ideal environment for gas-electric vehicles and EVs, with its temperate weather and lots of stop-and-go driving. Back home in Michigan it's a very different situation. On the West Coast, it's not an unreasonable prospect to drive around the majority of the time without having to use such auxiliary systems as heat, window defoggers, wipers and even headlights. Someone serious about extracting every last ounce of power from a gallon of gas could do so comfortably in California.
This is not the case when temperatures dip down to 10 degrees. When the windows are frosted over and just breathing fogs the inside of the glass, there's no option outside of running the heat. When that happens on a cold dark morning, that accessory power gauge starts to climb and EV mode is all but impossible to achieve until the engine warms up. As a result, matching the 43 mpg we got driving in Hollywood is impossible. Once the engine and interior heat up, however, it's not hard to get the engine to shut off at cruising speeds up to 47 mph. Over a week of mostly city driving, we averaged a still impressive 29.4 mpg with the Milan -- about 2.4 mpg more than we got in similar conditions with the Camry hybrid a couple of weeks before -- but a far cry from our earlier result.
Compared to the Toyota, the Milan also has an extra 1.4 cu-ft of trunk space to net 12 cu-ft. The Milan also has excellent dynamic capabilities for a mainstream mid-size sedan. Even with the low rolling resistance tires on the hybrid, the car never feels squirrelly like the Honda Civic hybrid and the steering of the Milan is well weighted and provides good feedback.
The day after our tester arrived, four inches of fresh snow blanketed our Michigan outpost, so we went to a nearby empty parking lot to sample the electronic stability control. The Continental-supplied brake system performed admirably in the fresh snow, allowing the Milan to track wherever the wheel was pointed with the combination of engine and brake control seamlessly adjusting the torque at each corner. There was no annoying beeping (do you hear that Toyota?) or kick-back in the steering. The flashing warning lamp was the only indication that the ESC was active.
Overall, Ford's hybrid system is more than just an admirable effort. It has the smoothest operation of any of the systems that have passed through the AutoblogGreen Garage, and drivers will have a hard time detecting the transitions between the engine running and the switch to EV mode. Cruising on the highway with the radio off, the Milan is remarkably free of wind or road noise and Ford offers a choice of flashy or subdued faces on an excellent mid-size hybrid sedan, so what's not to like? Aside from wishing an automaker would offer a station wagon this size, we really have only one complaint, the price.
The Milan hybrid starts at $27,500 and our test example totaled out at $33,735, including the nav system, up-level Sony audio, moon-roof, blind spot detection and rear camera. The navigation and telematics is easily the best we've tried from any automaker, but the base price of the hybrid is certainly steep and clearly a function of Ford being reluctant to sell the car at a loss in these difficult times. It's about $1,000 more than a Camry hybrid, although it comes standard with 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog-lights and satellite radio, which combined add $1,500 to the Toyota.
Ford recently crossed the 60,000 hybrid sales threshold, which means that the company's eligibility for federal tax credits is soon being phased out. If you pick up a Fusion or Milan before the end of March 2009, the IRS will give you $3,400 back, after which the credit is cut in half for the next six months. After October it goes to just $850 and in April 2010 it's gone altogether. Toyotas and Hondas are no longer eligible for those tax credits.
As good as the 2010 Mercury Milan hybrid is, it makes the case that Ford VP Derrick Kuzak outlined last year when announcing EcoBoost. When the cost of various fuel saving technologies is factored in, the payback period for hybrids are by far the longest, with diesels being shorter and then technology like EcoBoost being the shortest. If it were our money, the Fusion/Milan we want would be powered by the combination of a 1.6L EcoBoost four with dual-clutch transmission and start/stop that we saw in the Lincoln Concept C at this year's Detroit Auto Show. That powertrain would virtually match the 40-mpg fuel consumption potential of this hybrid at a considerably lower cost and no reduction in trunk space. Ford could probably offer that car in the low $20k range, virtually matching the VW Jetta TDI in price. But that car doesn't exist. Yet.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Refined midsize sedan.
Like every Mercury, the newly designed 2010 Mercury Milan intends to be a more refined, up-market restatement of its Ford sister car, in this case, the Ford Fusion. Where base models of the Ford are thrifty and flintily efficient, the Milan offers more than a hint of luxury and style, and at bargain prices.
From outside, the Mercury Milan features a unique, toothy grille that growls with aggression. The sleek nose and canted headlight-surrounds express a dynamic, sporting character, and the car's flanks have a similarly attractive muscularity. In the homogenized world of low-priced mid-size sedans, the clean world-car looks of the Mercury Milan stand as a thoroughly convincing American alternative to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and other midsize sedans from Japan.
The Milan interior is similarly striking. Featuring what Mercury calls a more technical look, the dashboard and interior are highlighted with stylish satin aluminum metal trim. Attractive black pebble grain covers the dash surfaces, which are fully equipped with added-value comforts and conveniences. Leather seating is standard in most models, another testament to Mercury's upscale aspirations.
The 2010 Milan provides an excellent array of powertrain choices. For those intent on green fuel efficiency, the Milan Hybrid has been rated by the EPA at a spectacular 41/36 mpg, City/Highway. For more power-hungry drivers, Milan's top-of-the-line 3.0-liter Duratec V6 delivers a forceful 240 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. And for those who want good fuel mileage without paying the Hybrid's hefty price premium, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder like the one in our test vehicle delivers 175 horsepower, 172 pound-feet of torque and more than enough acceleration to keep pace with the race. Further, EPA rates the four-cylinder at 22/31 mpg, sensational figures in any mid-size sedan. For perspective, the diminutive, notably fuel-stingy Mini Cooper S only gets 23/32 mpg.
Mercury Milan is a capacious, handsome and winsomely efficient design that can go toe to toe with any mid-size low-price family sedan in the world. Even its four-cylinder variant provides vigorous performance. And its handling, stability and list of features, including available all-wheel drive, put it very high on our list.
The 2010 Mercury Milan comes in four variants: Milan, Milan Premier, Milan Premier V6 AWD, and Milan Hybrid.
Milan ($21,180) comes standard with single-zone climate control with cabin air filter, cloth seats, six-way power driver seat and two-way manual passenger seat, leather-wrapped manual tilt/telescope wheel with cruise and audio controls, visors with illuminated mirrors, power windows with driver's one-touch up/down, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, remote decklid release, capless fuel filler, remote keyless entry and keyless entry code pad, Sirius satellite radio with six-month prepaid subscription, speed-sensitive front wipers, rear window defroster, heated power outside mirrors, six cupholders, instrument cluster with message center, two 12V power points. Milan comes standard with front-wheel drive, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission, 16-inch wheels.
Milan Premier ($24,320) upgrades with leather-trimmed heated seats with eight-way power driver seat and six-way power passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, SYNC voice-activated communications with entertainment system and S.O.S. post-crash 911 assist, automatic halogen headlamps, fog lamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient interior lighting. Premier comes standard with six-speed automatic transmission and 17-inch wheels.
Milan Premier is also available with 3.0-liter V6 and all-wheel drive ($27,800).
Milan Hybrid ($27,500) features a hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with 275-volt sealed battery, permanent magnet-electric motor, ECVT electronic constant-velocity automatic transmission, regenerative braking, and unique 17-inch wheels. The Hybrid comes with eco-friendly cloth seating, 6CD audio changer, LCD graphic instrument panel, reverse-sensing system, 110V power point, Hybrid badges.
Optional packages: Sun & SYNC Package with auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone and compass, power moonroof, SYNC voice-activated communication system; Driver's Vision Package with blind-spot information system, rearward camera in rearview mirror; Moon & Tune Package with moonroof, Sony audio with 12 speakers and 6CD changer.
Safety features that come standard on all Milan models include dual front and side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags with crash-severity sensing, seatbelt pretensioners, children's lower belt anchors and tethers, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, tire-pressure monitoring. Also available are a rearview camera, a reverse sensing system, and all-wheel drive.
Mercury Milan and Ford Fusion are intimately related, sharing their structure, overall appearance and much of their equipment. But in the styling language of Ford designers, the Mercury is intended to make a dramatically different impression than the Fusion. The Fusion's front fascia is understated, with an all-business grille like a three-blade razor. By contrast, the Milan displays a huge gleaming grin that leads directly up-market toward Lincoln luxury.
Milan and Fusion exhibit the same athletic, ready-to-pounce stance. And no wonder. Both are bona fide world cars, with well-polished over-the-road agility and more than enough performance to make that agility relevant.
The Milan, with its luxury keynotes, is more grandiosely American than the Fusion, its Euro sister, but it still has the crisp look and sporty stance that owe a debt to Ford's profitability designing, building and selling cars worldwide. The Milan's aggressive grille and racecar-like undergrille aren't just for show, either; this is a contemporary mid-size sedan that is meant to devour large portions of interstate and look great doing it.
On its left-rear flank is Ford's capless fuel filler, one of those ideas that's so bright it hurts. Why didn't someone think of this decades ago?.
Our Mercury Milan Premier test car with four-cylinder engine was neither the top of the Mercury line nor its bottom, yet its interior felt distinctly like a Mercury, delivering a little luxury at a bargain price.
The leather seating our Milan Premier was first class. The side bolsters and seat cushion lateral support were firmer than the Ford Fusion's. They hold the driver comfortably in place no matter how vigorous the maneuvering gets. Their leather seating panels were interspersed with breathable inserts in the center and back—good when the heat starts to climb.
The rear seats are really two semi-buckets flanked by a slab over the center hump to allow seating for three. Lateral support is minimal for the two primary back seats, while the center seat is for volunteers only. (Milan seats up to five.) On the plus side, the rear combines ample roominess for two with easy ingress and egress.
The black pebble grain dash was classy and rich looking. The instruments, distinguished from the Ford Fusion's by a clever faux three-dimensional appearance with a halo-like illumination of needles and dials, were attractive and effective in all but high daylight. In the latter, however, the speedometer numbers were hard to make out. Instrumentation was reasonably complete and included a water-temperature gauge. The message center below the speedometer can be configured to display average mpg, elapsed time, trip odometer for two different trips and fuel miles to empty. Switchgear is chrome trimmed, substantial and confidence inspiring.
The steering wheel contained cruise control and audio settings, and the adjusters were properly designed so that one doesn't inadvertently brush them while turning, accidentally re-selecting the audio. Excellent. And the optional Sony 12-speaker/six-CD audio with Sirius satellite was equally impressive.
Soft ambient lighting is available, providing cozy pale-blue illumination for the center console cupholders and other tasks that do not require turning on the interior lights.
The trunk offers a generous 11.8 cubic feet of stowage with low lift-over.
Concealed behind the Milan's surrounding interior panels is a full complement of front, side and curtain airbags. The car scored high marks in government crash-safety ratings: a maximum five stars for driver and passenger frontal crashes, five stars for front-seat side crashes, and four stars for rear-seat side crashes and vehicle rollover.
Our Milan Premier was a vigorous performer despite using the 2.5-liter Duratec four-cylinder instead of the more powerful 3.0-liter V6. In times past, the four-cylinder engine might have been chosen only because it was cheaper, obliging buyers to accept weak performance as an unhappy financial trade-off.
In the Milan, however, this smaller, 2.5-liter engine is a win/win. It costs less initially, provides entirely adequate performance, and delivers a stellar EPA-rated 31 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in town. Unless you're Parnelli Jones, there is no downside.
Throttle response from the 2.5-liter engine was immediate, linear and smooth, and its ample 172 foot-pounds of torque ensured good acceleration from any low speed. Engine noise was audible, though not unpleasantly so, during acceleration. At highway cruising speeds, however, engine noise, wind noise and outside racket were negligible. This is a very quiet sedan.
The Milan's handling suggests anything but a bargain-priced midsize sedan. Its electrical variable-assist power steering is crisp and just weighty enough to deliver good feedback. Cornered vigorously, the chassis is well damped, without being in the least harsh or stiff. In fact, driven hard, the Milan is more agile, with less body roll, than either the latest Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. First rate.
All Milan transmissions are six-speeds, whether manual (in the base model) or automatic. Our automatic shifted deftly, almost undetectably. However, when low range was selected manually or the transmission was asked to kick down for acceleration, it proved slow and disappointingly balky in doing so. Overall, we rate the automatic highly and think it is an excellent choice for either engine.
The ABS four-wheel disc brakes did their job unobtrusively and effectively. The pedal was easily modulated to adjust braking force, and when asked, it provided powerful stopping. In addition, the brake system does double duty, serving as the operative force in the car's on-demand electronic stability control and traction control.
The Mercury Milan is a comfortable, roomy, well-tuned and safe driving machine with spirited, sporting road manners. It delivers finesse and sophistication well beyond that of many of its Asian competitors. And with optional all-wheel drive, it will offer dependable all-season transportation.
Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Milan Premier.
Mercury Milan ($21,180), Premier ($24,320); Milan V6 Premier AWD ($27,800); Milan Hybrid ($27,500).
Options As Tested
Moon & Tune Package ($895) includes power moonroof, Sony 12-speaker audio, AM/FM/6CD/MP3; reverse sensing system ($295); floor mats ($75).
Mercury Milan Premier ($25,585).
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