Route guidance works very well with the system, giving street names in the voice prompts for turn directions. In addition, the graphics showing upcoming turns are rich, giving good guidance for even the most complex interchanges.
We mentioned the Bluetooth phone system above, which offers unparalleled pairing, making a phone's contact list available through voice command. More impressive, if you have multiple numbers for a single person, Sync will ask which number you want to call, using proper labels for home, mobile, and work.
The Milan Hybrid's stereo benefits from both the navigation system and Sync. CDs can be ripped to the navigation system's hard drive. With Sync, you can plug just about any MP3 player into the car's USB port, then use voice command to request specific artists and albums. That same functionality extends to USB flash drives plugged into the port and to the hard drive. In our testing, the system is remarkably accurate, correctly interpreting even complex artist names.
Voice command works for Sirius satellite radio, as well, letting you ask for channels by name or number. The CD player can read MP3s, but lacks the advanced-browsing features offered by the hard drive and USB port. The system also works with Bluetooth streaming devices, although that source, similar to the auxiliary input, doesn't allow music search or browsing.
The Sony audio system isn't quite as refined as the THX system used in Lincoln models, but it was much better than we expected. Each door has a woofer; tweeters are mounted in the A-pillars; and surround-sound speakers sit in the rear deck. The audio from those speakers is augmented by a center channel and a subwoofer. The resulting sound is well-balanced, offering good, but restrained, bass, and clear highs. It's not the best system we've heard, but it won't mangle the music you love.
Cabin tech features that help the driver are a rear-view camera and a blind-spot warning system. The rear-view camera shows static lines indicating distance, and a sonar sensor adds additional warnings to help the driver avoid hitting objects.
The blind-spot warning system monitors the lanes off each rear quarter of the car, lighting a small amber dot in the appropriate side-view mirror if it detects a another car. Strangely, the system gave more warning in the passenger-side than in the driver-side mirror, only turning on the warning light in the driver-side if a car was actually in the blind spot. The passenger-side lit up as cars approached the blind spot. We would have liked a slightly larger warning light, but overall the system worked fine.
Under the hood
Ford's hybrid system is similar to Toyota's Synergy hybrid system, although Ford claims it was developed independently. As realized in the 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid, it seems that Ford has brought it up to a new level of efficiency and power.
Like the Toyota system, the Mercury Milan Hybrid has a nickel metal hydride battery pack that stores electricity generated by the brakes and the gas engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder in this case. The electricity is used to power a 106 horsepower motor, which is used to get the car going from a start and drive it at low-to-moderate speeds.
The transmission is also similar to that used by Toyota, a virtual, continuously variable transmission that gives the driver limited options for control--merely drive, low, and reverse. But we have no complaints about the capability of the transmission to step down its ratios when we wanted power.
This system lets the Milan Hybrid get an EPA-rated 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg highway. In our testing--a mix of city and freeway driving--we topped out at 36.7 mpg, so you might have to put some effort in to reach 40 mpg. The car impressed us in its readiness to switch over to electric drive, especially on a flat road cruising at above 40 mph.
The power train drives the car's front wheels. As mentioned above, the Milan Hybrid is no sports car. The electronic power steering offers the right amount of resistance, but the car leans heavily in turns. Traction control and an electronic stability program come standard.
The 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid goes for a base price of $27,500. The base car will have the excellent hybrid power train, very cool instrument panel, and Sync. Our car included navigation, for $1,775, and a package that brought in the Sony audio system, blind-spot detection, and rear-view camera, for $3,735. Add a $725 destination charge, and our car's total came up to $33,735.
The Milan Hybrid is outstanding in every category. For performance, the power train is satisfyingly responsive while drinking minimal gas. The only drawback in this category is the wallowy handling, and that's a minor issue in a car built for destination driving. Sync and Sirius Travel Link keep the Milan Hybrid out ahead of the competition for cabin tech, and the addition of the blind-spot system makes it even better. For the design category, the car's banal exterior hurts it a little, but the instrument panel and intuitive touch-screen design keep its rating high. Especially given its price, the Milan Hybrid is a spectacular car.