We have a varied sampling this week, with a hybrid SUV, an aging retro cruiser and a somewhat-rare look at a full range of trim levels for two new sedans.
2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
I like the Mariner and Ford Escape Hybrids because they use hybridized four-cylinders instead of V-6 engines like the Toyota and Lexus hybrid SUVs. As for the Saturn Vue Green Line, it may be a four-cylinder, but the transmission is conventional and the engine doesn’t use the Atkinson cycle like the Fords do, so its mileage gains aren’t as great.
The Mariner’s running modifications make it as refined as it probably can be, but the system is clearly not to the level of the current Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid. It shows in the braking and — as Kelsey Mays pointed out in his full review — the air conditioning, which keeps the engine running. Specifically, the Prius uses an electric A/C compressor so the engine can stay off unless the high-voltage battery drains all the way down. I used the Mariner’s econ setting in stop-and-go traffic, and I absolutely roasted. I was cool in regular A/C mode, but this sacrifices the operation that is supposed to be a hybrid’s most efficient: stop-and-go, all-electric driving. Damn shame.
- Joe Wiesenfelder, senior editor
I really wanted to like the new Mercury Mariner Hybrid. I’ve always been a fan of compact SUVs, and the Mariner Hybrid gets great mileage, so I had high hopes that its design and drivability would stand up to its mpg ratings. Although I didn’t take much issue with the way it handled, the interior left a bit to be desired.
The Mariner Hybrid has a great interior … for a Jeep Wrangler. The materials seemed too industrial-looking, plastic and occasionally cheap for a car that’s supposed to be a step up from Ford in the luxury department. When I flipped open the sunglass holder, it felt so flimsy I was worried it was going to snap off in my hand. Also, folding the rear seats flat required far too many steps: remove the headrests, scramble to find a place to store them, slide and flip each of the seat bottoms forward, then fold the seat down. It should be one smooth motion, not four.
One thing I did like about the new Mariner was the seamless way it switched from electric to gasoline modes and back. In some earlier hybrids, you would experience a shudder or noticeable thunk when the car switched modes, but there were times in the Mariner when the only way I could tell the car had switched modes was looking at the gauges.
- Amanda Wegrzyn, Advice editor