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STRATEGY

Drives: It's No Ferrari, But the Frills Are Cheap

The Mercury Milan succeeds by being pretty on the inside.
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2006 Mercury Milan

Sticker price
$18,995 base, $25,200 for the Milan Premier edition I tested.

Vital stats
Three-liter 221-hp V-6; 17-inch aluminum wheels; 21/29 mpg.

Nice touches
It's got an ample 15.8 cubic feet of trunk space, a nifty storage compartment in the center of the dashboard, and a cool Cheshire Cat-looking grille.

Drawbacks
The Milan's exterior doesn't escape the general blandness of the category.

Second Opinion
"Satin aluminum trim isn't enough to distinguish the Milan from the Fusion," says Gary Vasilash, editor in chief of Automotive Design & Production magazine.

Back in the Renaissance days, a young man obsessed with the inner workings of machines and the human body headed to Milan. Leonardo da Vinci spent his time there dissecting cadavers to see how muscles functioned and sketching helicopter prototypes, but he never cracked the code on the automobile. I think he would have appreciated the inner workings of the Mercury Milan--and not just because it's got a motor, which didn't exist back then. Its smooth, crisp interior has round metallic gauges and trim, a decent six-speaker sound system that plays MP3s, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and adjustable leather seats that are nearly as comfy as those in high-end imports.

Mercury says the Milan, its first midsize sedan in a decade, rises above its "plain vanilla" competitors (the type found in rental lots--the Ford Fusion, say), and I agree. But the Milan won't end up in a Versace ad anytime soon. In fact, it was right at home in South Philadelphia, where I drove it to an Eagles tailgate. I'd pony up the extra three grand for the V-6 engine. The extra 41 horsies are worth it, since, even after the upgrade, the Milan only goes 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Still, I'm sure Da Vinci would have been satisfied, as I was, taking the Milan for a spin to Pat's for cheese steaks, which also weren't around back then.




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