DEARBORN, Mich. -- A Milan, the stylish four-door luxury sedan in the 2008 collection of Mercury from the Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company, runs at a quick clip along the infield speed track at Dearborn Proving Ground, vehicle test facility for Ford Motor Company.
We find plenty of pedal power at our disposal, thanks to a beefy V6 engine aboard which ties to a six-speed electronic automatic transaxle with standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) or optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.
The ride quality of this Milan seems as smooth as glass, even at speed, and the vehicle feels quite stable in the fast lane.
In the cockpit of a cabin with seats for five, we notice it's incredibly quiet as the Ford-Mercury-Lincoln sound engineers obviously reached deep into the bin of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) tricks to insulate and isolate the passenger compartment from external discord and mechanical chatter.
This top edition -- Milan Premier -- puts some limo-like comforts aboard, although Mercury stages trim tiers for Milan with two choices for powertrains and lots of add-on appointments to tone up or dial down the car's price points.
Milan measures up as a mid-size sedan and fits in Mercury's line just below the flagship model Sable.
The vehicle shares DNA with the Fusion sedan from Ford and MKZ of Lincoln, as the architecture for all three cars comes from a FWD platform which traces in root form to a mid-size Mazda sedan.
For Milan, the architecture forges a stiff foundation for constructing a sedan of reasonable scale with easy-to-handle driving characteristics.
Milan wears expressive sheetmetal on the outside and comes with a passenger compartment big enough to carry five adults comfortably.
Crisp body styling incorporates Mercury design cues such as the bold vertical-bar grille, huge corner projector-beam headlights and satin aluminum finish on trim for the grille and lower fascia.
Flanks show slight bulges for fenders around large wheels with a chiseled character line etched into the leading edge of each front fender and drawn rearward in a gradual rise to the tail deck. And a high beltline pitched parallel to the character line gains a satin aluminum trim strip along the bottom edge of cabin windows.
On the tail, there are large red light-emitting diode (LED) lamps streaked by metal crossbars studding upper corners of the trunk deck.
This is a tall structure too. Doors run deep to make cabin entry and exit easy and seats are elevated so passengers sit in a higher position than in other sedans of comparable size.
Inside, Milan seems generous in scale with notable room for riders.
The layout is familiar -- two bucket seats in front flanking a multi-level console and a sculptured bench for three in back with seatbacks divided and foldable.
However, the design of the cabin is uncluttered and clean, and the materials and craftsmanship seem to be a cut above other cars in this price and size class.
Milan provides two tiers with a price-leader base model plus top-level Premier.
The base issue employs premium cloth covering seats in tones of Dark Charcoal, Medium Light Stone or Camel.
Premier goes with leather in Dark Charcoal with contrasting stitching in Light Stone, Camel with contrasting stitching in Medium Dark Parchment, or a two-tone scheme using Medium Light Stone inserts between Dark Charcoal bolsters and contrasting stitching in Light Stone.
Standard equipment on Milan ranges from 16-inch wheels with seven-spoke wheel covers and P205/60R tires to power controls for windows and door locks plus a remote keyless entry device, air conditioning, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, six-way power controls on the driver's seat, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), overhead console, dual 12-volt power points and a stereo audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3 player.
Milan Premier brings 17-inch aluminum wheels capped by P225/50R tires, the leather upholstery and electronic automatic climate system, automatic headlamps, an auto-dimming mirror with compass, foglamps and a premium audio system with six-disc CD/MP3 deck and six speakers.
And Mercury Sync, the voice-activated controller for mastery over in-vehicle phones, media players and USB storage devices, is also standard equipment for Milan Premier. Sync essentially works as an extension of a car's media player.
Issues of personal safety are addressed with strong structural elements and energy-absorbing crush zones front and rear plus a variety of safety systems aboard.
All versions of Milan contain dual-stage frontal air bags for front riders with smart sensors in place to track the severity of a frontal crash along with the driver's seat position in proximity to the steering wheel and whether seat belts are being used.
Side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags for front and back rows are also stock items.
Equipment promoting active safety includes a precise rack and pinion steering mechanism and standard four-wheel disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
The list of optional gear ranges from a traction control system (TCS) to heated front seats, a power moonroof, a deluxe Audiophile sound system with eight speakers and the subscription-based Sirius satellite radio service.
Two aluminum engines are available -- a 2.3-liter four-cylinder plant is standard or a 3.0-liter V6 is optional for Milan and Milan Premier.
The base four-in-line plant, rigged with intake variable cam timing (i-VCT) and electronic throttle control (ETC), produces 160 hp at 6250 rpm and torque tipping to 156 lb-ft at 4250 rpm.
It links to the standard five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic.
The V6, also with i-VCT and ETC, rises to 221 hp at 6250 rpm with 205 lb-ft of torque generated at 4800 rpm.
With the V6 there's a wide-ratio six-speed automatic transaxle to bolster performance and fuel economy scores.
Mercury charts all price points for Milan in the affordable column, beginning at $19,095.