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Expert Reviews 1 of 8
By Jim Flammang
July 12, 2005
Vehicle Overview Mercury launched a brand-new compact sport utility vehicle for the 2005 model year. Named the Mariner, it's related to the popular Ford Escape but gets Mercury styling cues. The Mariner is intended to be an "affordable" model that can attract young buyers.
Three Mariner trim levels are available: Convenience, featuring a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine; and Luxury and Premier, which get a 3.0-liter V-6. A Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system and an automatic intelligent four-wheel-drive system are available. Ford claims the four-wheel-drive system provides "neutral steer" characteristics.
A Moon and Tune Package for 2006 models includes a power moonroof, roof rack, satellite radio and in-dash six-CD changer. Luxury models gain a six-way power driver's seat, and the Comfort Package now includes a perimeter alarm.
Related to Ford's Escape Hybrid, a new Mariner Hybrid model is available for 2006. (Skip to details on the:
Exterior Designers sought a kinship to the Mercury family with the Mariner. In the stacked-element front layout, a waterfall grille is matched with clear, rectangular projector headlights and integral fog lamps. A U-shaped air intake helps define the front fascia. Color-keyed bodyside cladding panels promise chip and ding protection, and European-style turn-signal repeater lamps are mounted on the fenders.
A keyless-entry keypad goes on the driver's door. Aluminum wheels hold 16-inch tires. The Mariner has a fully independent suspension. Built on a 103.2-inch wheelbase like the Ford Escape, the Mariner is 174.9 inches long overall.
Interior Woodgrain and metal accents highlight the two-tone interior. A floor-mounted gearshift lever with a satin-aluminum knob is installed.
Five occupants fit inside the Mariner. The folding rear seat has a 60/40-split design, with three integrated three-point seat belts. Cargo capacity is 29.3 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 66.3 cubic feet when the cushion is removed.
Premium leather seats in the Premier model have suede inserts and front-seat heating. A Reverse Sensing System is optional.
Under the Hood In the Convenience model, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine produces 153 horsepower. The 3.0-liter V-6 generates 200 hp and 193 pounds-feet of torque in Luxury and Premier models. Both engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Automatic intelligent four-wheel drive is available. A properly equipped V-6 Mariner can tow 3,500 pounds.
Safety Antilock brakes with brake assist are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are optional.
Driving Impressions Because the Mariner has its own styling touches, its Ford Escape foundation is largely hidden. Less sporty than the Escape, it maneuvers nicely and rides reasonably smoothly most of the time. Harsher pavement can roughen the ride, but control is seldom affected.
The easy-to-drive Mariner doesn't feel quite as confident as the Escape. Acceleration from a standstill with the V-6 is surprisingly spirited; unless you push carefully on the gas pedal, this SUV might take off faster than you expect. Automatic-transmission shifts are smooth and relaxed. Downshifts are prompt and smooth, but the V-6's higher-speed acceleration is on the tame side.
The Mariner's unusual gauges aren't the easiest to read at a glance. Despite thick rear pillars, visibility is good. Front-seat space is more than ample, and the backseat offers more room than some larger models; even the center rear seat is more than tolerable. For a carlike SUV, the Mariner emits some decidedly trucklike driveline noise during city driving. �
Mariner Hybrid Similar in size and structure to the Ford Escape Hybrid, the new Mariner Hybrid runs on a combination of electric power and its four-cylinder gasoline engine. Mercury claims its fuel economy is an estimated 33 mpg in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway and anticipates that it will "meet the cleanest emissions rating achievable by a fossil-fuel vehicle."
Initially planned as a 2007 model, the Mariner Hybrid is already available for online presale as a 2006 model. Only a few styling touches, such as an air vent built into the driver's side rear-quarter window to help maintain the temperature of the battery pack, differentiate the Hybrid from regular Mariners. Unique 16-inch, five-spoke wheels are mounted. Driving a continuously variable transmission, the gasoline engine is rated at 133 hp, and total powertrain output is 155 hp.
For a short period, the Mariner Hybrid can travel up to 25 mph on battery power alone. The gasoline engine automatically shuts off at stoplights, while coasting or in low-speed traffic. A battery indicator shows which way electrical current is flowing: to the battery during regenerative braking, or into the electric motor when it's needed to assist the gasoline engine. An optional Hybrid Energy display screen tracks energy flow between the powertrain systems. Back to top