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, attractive to young buyers. As it's only been on the market a couple of years, changes for 2007 are minimal.
Three Mariner trim levels are available: Convenience, featuring a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine; Luxury and Premier, both of which get a 3.0-liter V-6. A Safety Canopy side curtain airbag system and an automatic intelligent four-wheel-drive system are available. Ford says the four-wheel-drive system provides "neutral steer" characteristics.
A Moon and Tune Package for 2007 models includes a power moonroof, roof rack, satellite radio and in-dash six-CD changer. The highest trim level, the Premier, adds standard side-impact airbags and a reverse sensing system.
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For 2007, three new colors are offered: Dune Pearl Metallic, Light Sage Metallic and Tungsten Grey Metallic.
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, and the SUV's 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.
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.
Antilock brakes with brake assist are standard. Side-impact and side curtain airbags are optional.
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.
Updates for the 2007 Mariner Hybrid are minimal. Two new colors, Tungsten Grey and Light Sage Metallic, have been added. There's also an optional Safety Canopy system that has both side curtain and seat-mounted side-impact airbags.
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 says its fuel economy is an estimated 33 mpg in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway.
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.
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