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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
February 19, 2003
Vehicle Overview A new frame, suspension and steering system are the major changes in the 2003 model year for Mercurys full-size Grand Marquis sedan. The new model was unveiled in February 2002 at the Chicago Auto Show and a week later at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.
The Grand Marquis and the similar Ford Crown Victoria rank as the only six-passenger rear-wheel-drive sedans with V-8 engines and traditional body-on-frame construction in the United States. Two versions of the Grand Marquis are available: GS and LS. The LS comes in Premium, Ultimate and LSE trim levels. About 65 percent of Grand Marquis sales are LS editions, which offer leather seating at no extra charge.
The Grand Marquis is Mercurys top-selling model with sales that also exceed those of the Crown Victoria. Both sedans are produced in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Mercury also offers a new high-performance Marauder sedan that's based on the Grand Marquis.
Styling changes for 2003 affect the grille, front fascia, headlamps, integrated cornering lamps and taillamp lenses. Lightweight hydroformed steel sections are used for the front rails of the new full-perimeter frame. A redesigned front suspension uses new monotube shock absorbers. Side-impact airbags are newly available, and variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering with a speed-dependent variable-assist feature replaces the previous recirculating-ball design. A new dual-rate brake booster automatically supplies full braking power in a panic stop.
Except for the fresh grille and restyled lights, the appearance of the Grand Marquis has not changed markedly. The wheels, deck-lid emblem and rear appliqué are new for 2003. Standard tires measure 16 inches in diameter. The LS Premium and Ultimate models get nine-spoke alloy wheels. The five-passenger LSE sedan comes with a Handling Package, while the LS Ultimate and LSE both feature a load-leveling air suspension at the rear. A door-mounted keyless-entry keypad is installed on all models except the base GS sedan.
Torsional rigidity with the new frame has increased by 24 percent, while vertical-bending resistance has grown by 20 percent. A new Gripper front stabilizer bar is installed.
For 2003, the headrests and seat fabric have been modified, and the drivers seat adjustment length has increased by 1.5 inches. The door trim has been redesigned, and the cupholders are new. Mercury claims that the Grand Marquis trunk is the largest in its class with a capacity of 20.6 cubic feet. It has a 26.6-inch liftover height, and trunk organizer is standard.
Standard equipment includes a cassette/CD stereo system, eight-way power drivers seat with power lumbar support, air conditioning, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. A GS Convenience option group includes power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, remote keyless entry and available leather upholstery. The LS Premium sedan gets cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a power front passenger seat with power lumbar support. A wood and leather steering wheel and electronic instruments go into the LS Ultimate. The LSE sedan seats five passengers rather than six and includes leather seating surfaces, a front center console and a floor-mounted gearshift lever.
Under the Hood
In standard form, the 4.6-liter single-overhead-cam V-8 engine develops 224 horsepower. A more potent, 239-hp version of that engine goes into the LE sedan and has a dual exhaust system. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The standard rear-axle ratio aims toward frugal fuel economy, while the LSE gets a different ratio for improved acceleration from a standstill.
The standard antilock brakes incorporate all-speed traction control. Electronic brake-force distribution comes as standard equipment, and a panic assist feature is now available. Dual-stage front airbags are also standard, and side-impact airbags are optional.