After touring the auto-show circuit since early 2001, Mercury finally launched its 2003 Marauder in late summer 2002. At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2002, a Marauder Convertible concept that was adapted from the sedan was on display.
Based on the full-size rear-wheel-drive Mercury Grand Marquis sedan, the Marauder takes its name from a memorable high-performance model of the 1960s. Rather than serve as a mere trim level of the Grand Marquis, the Marauder is a separate model with its own distinct identity. Mercury bills the car as its rebel with a cause, which subtly suggests the black 1949 Mercury that appeared in the James Dean movie, Rebel Without a Cause.
Its fast, its black, and in my own words, its cool, said Ben Gilbert, vehicle line director for Mercury, during the 2001 Chicago preview. To a large degree, the Marauder is reminiscent of the Impala SS that Chevrolet offered in the early 1990s, which was based on the automakers full-size Caprice sedan. In addition to attracting sales, Mercurys development of the Marauder helps demonstrate that the brand plans to be around for some time.
The Marauders potent 4.6-liter V-8 engine is likely to attract performance enthusiasts and not simply full-size sedan fanciers. The Marauder is produced at a Ford of Canada plant at St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.
All Marauders are finished in black throughout, right down to their dark-tinted headlight and taillight bezels. It looks the part of a forbidding performance machine by exhibiting what Brand Manager Jennifer Monneagle called a little bit of a menacing and aggressive and individualistic character. Measuring 212 inches long overall, the Marauder rides a 114.7-inch wheelbase. Three-inch chrome exhaust tips bring up the rear, and the Marauder name is embossed in the back bumper. Additional body colors will be available later.
Five-spoke forged-aluminum wheels with 18-inch performance tires display a Mercury logo in the center, and Cibieé fog lamps are integrated into the front fascia. The Marauder gets a performance-tuned suspension with front springs that are adapted and slightly shortened from those on Fords police car. Rear air springs hail from the Lincoln Town Car limousine. The full perimeter frame has been enhanced and uses lightweight hydroformed steel for the front rails and a solid cast-aluminum number-two cross-member.
Although the Grand Marquis can seat six occupants, the Marauder is a five-passenger automobile. The instrument panel is designed with dot-matrix gray trim accents. White-faced gauges include a 7,000-rpm tachometer and a 140-mph speedometer with a red-lit Marauder graphic. The center console contains a leather-wrapped, floor-mounted gearshift lever. Auto Meter oil-pressure and voltage gauges sit ahead of the shifter.
The Marauders leather upholstery uses classic French seam stitching, and the seats have extra padding for improved thigh, lumbar and shoulder support. A modern version of the Mercury gods head is debossed into the front seatbacks. A 140-watt Alpine stereo with cassette and CD players is standard, and a six-CD changer is offered as an option for $350. The only other option is a $200 trunk organizer. A moonroof, traction control and heated seats will be offered as options later in the 2003 model year.
Under the Hood
The Marauders 4.6-liter V-8 engine develops 302 horsepower and 318 pounds-feet of torque. Adapted from police duty, the four-speed-automatic transmission drives a 3.55-to-1 rear axle with a limited-slip differential. Premium fuel is required.
Side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes that feature electronic brake-force distribution and panic assist are standard. Dual-stage front airbags deploy according to crash severity. Child-safety seat tether anchors are in the parcel tray behind each rear seating position.
The Marauder is a pleasure on the road, and it delivers a more satisfying ride than many high-performance machines. The cars taut suspension is evident, and the big sedan deals effectively with pavement imperfections while maintaining laudable control. Acceleration is strong, but it doesnt quite rank as exuberant partly because the muscular V-8 is pushing considerable weight. The automatic transmission reacts well and downshifts without notable annoyances.
Front and rear occupants have plenty of space, which is one of the bonuses of a full-size performance sedan. The 20.6-cubic-foot trunk is also a nice feature. Although the V-8s exhaust noise is noticeable during acceleration, the sound is rather subdued when the car is cruising.