Appearing at the height of the "horsepower race," the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser naturally had good performance. At close to two tons, though, it was no neck-snapper: 0-60 mph acceleration was around 10 seconds, and top speed approached 110 mph. Handling was about average for the era, ride unusually soft. In fact, Motor Trend magazine described its pair of 1957 Mercurys as "two of the smoothest and quietest riding cars we ever tested."
Surprisingly, the Cruiser tended to oversteer somewhat but, in typical Fifties fashion, if cornered poorly and wallowed a lot. Not surprising were the marked nosedive in panic stops and brakes that started to fade on the second hard application. By contrast, gas mileage was relatively good. MT reported 14.5 mpg at a steady 60 mph and averaged 14.2 mpg over 439 miles.
As the editors observed: "It is interesting that the 290 hp engine gave better fuel economy as well as better performance than the 312. This is best explained by the fact that this engine doesn't work as hard as the smaller one." Still, if you've ever driven a 1957 Ford, Thunderbird, or Lincoln, the Cruiser will disappoint. It's very much in the late-Fifties tradition of style over substance.
Even so, veteran tester Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated magazine liked the Cruiser from quad headlamps to dual exhausts. Calling it a "Space Age Design for Earth Travel," he reported that "[the car] I tested had all the roadability of a rubber-soled gazelle and could handle drifts and slides with the sureness of a competition sports car." Was "Uncle Tom" kidding? No, but perceptions do change and McCahill wasn't a tough critic.
Yet the more hard-nosed Art Railton of Popular Mechanics concurred: "The engineers have done wonders with the suspension. Greatly improved springing and damping have given the 1957 Mercury an amazingly comfortable ride on the boulevard, yet an amazingly firm suspension on the corners...A combination of factors...give control on the big bumps as well as on the undulating boulevard. You just can't bottom the car at high speed. Of course, the fatter [and smaller new] 14-inch tires help..."
Find out how Mercury updated the Turnpike Cruiser for 1958 on the next page.