Mercury's always sort of been a lost brand. Adrift in what was once Ford's seemingly ever-changing product strategy, Mercury's always lacked the same level of brand identity found at Lincoln or Ford. Maybe the best way to look at Mercury is to think of it as Diet Ford — a brand supposedly just like Ford, except with no calories and only the slightest hint of anything resembling taste. As was the standard operating procedure, anything in the Ford brand got itself an afterbirth at Mercury. Enter the Sable.
When the 1986 Ford Taurus debuted to wide acclaim, Mercury was around to create the ever-so-slightly more feminine version, with slight hints that it might contain more luxury. The first generation of the Sable offered a reasonable visual difference, namely a clear plastic grille-insert. Like the Taurus itself, sales were strong as people flocked to the modern-looking sedan.
As successful as the original Sable was, the dramatically redesigned second generation vehicle from 1992 was one of the most popular Mercury vehicles in the brand's history. The clear, back-lit grille was maintained from the gen-1 model but with the added benefit of swooping fenders (by early 1990s standards) and a remodeled greenhouse. Unfortunately, it was to be the last Sable to stir the emotions of the middle-class professional woman as the next generation was to end what was once a strong legacy of well-built mid-size sedans for Ford.
When Ford tried to strike gold again by creating an even newer, fresher look for the third generation Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable they struck out instead. The egg-like Sable lost the signature grille-insert and, with it, the spirit of the badge. The fourth-generation was somewhat more conservative, like the Taurus, but it was too late to save it. The stumbling Sable was replaced with the Mercury Montego and Milan, thus ending the badge. Until...
After Ford abandoned its silly "every car starts with F" alliteration debacle that led to the thankfully aborted "Five Hundred", incoming CEO Alan Mulally made the smart decision to bring back the Sable and Taurus nameplates, attaching them to the full-size Montego and 500, respectively. Unfortunately, while the Taurus sold fairly well, the Sable didn't. Now Ford's decided not to resurrect the less-famous Sable alongside the Taurus.
In honor of its death, we've decided to leave you with this — the most famous popular culture exchange ever about the Mercury Sable from the SNL-inspired film Coneheads starring Dan Akroyd:
Beldar Conehead: An owner's manual to a Ford Lincoln Mercury Sable.
Highmaster: Ford Lincoln Mercury Sable?
Beldar Conehead: A personal conveyance named after its inventor, an assassinated ruler, a character from Greco-Roman myth and a small furry mammal.