2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

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$28,150

starting MSRP

2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

1 trim

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2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid review: Our expert's take

By Jim Mateja


Treat the accelerator pedal like an eggshell. Apply only light pressure. Creep from the light, don’t go any faster than 25 m.p.h. and coast whenever possible.

Take care, and the real-time mileage reading in the dash reaches 60 m.p.g. in a compact SUV, the reward for coaxing the gas/electric hybrid to run in battery mode.

Just be prepared to divide your attention between the mileage meter and the line of cars behind wondering why you are tiptoeing along the road.

We tested the compact 2008 Mercury Mariner hybrid powered by a 2.3-liter, 133-horsepower 4-cylinder teamed with a 22 h.p. electric motor. The nickel-metal-hydride battery packtakes some strain off the gas engine. The 4 delivers more than adequate power with a battery boost when passing or merging.

The Mariner hybrid is offered in front- or all-wheel-drive; FWD is new for 2008. The front-drive hybrid is rated at 34 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway, versus 20/26 with the 4-cylinder gas engine. With AWD, the rating is 29 m.p.g. city/27 m.p.g. highway for the hybrid, versus 19/24 with AWD and gas.

While Toyota chose to offer hybrid cars first with the compact Prius, Ford opted to start with its compact Mariner and Ford Escape sport-utility vehicles. It will hybridize its midsize Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans for 2009.

When the Mariner hybrid arrived for testing, gas had slipped to less than the magic $3 a gallon level, and fewer people were talking about trading in their petrol burner for a pair of Rollerblades.

Still, high gas prices gave Mariner sales a 36 percent boost in the first six months of this year. But Toyota sold 94,500 Priuses in the first half of this year, up from 48,100 a year earlier, and Ford sold about 2,600 Mariner hybrids, up from 1,400. Ford statistician George Pipas says Ford is selling every hybrid it can build based on the limited availability of electrical systems.

That considering you have to make a concerted effort to max out the mileage. The schematic in the dash shows when in gas or battery mode or both and how treating the pedal like an eggshell and coasting pays mileage dividends.

The hybrid starts in battery mode (gas mode in cold weather) and, by moving ever so slowly, you can keep the batteries at work longer.

At about 25 m.p.h. the gas engine takes over and presides at cruising speed. Give the pedal an energetic kick to pass or merge, and the batteries are on hand for an assist. Moving from battery to gas mode is relatively seemless. The telltale is that battery mode is whisper quiet, gas mode isn’t.

Ride is pleasant. You don’t get jostled in the cabin. Seats are well cushioned, but side bolsters are small.

The Mariner hybrid comes with traction control to prevent slipping when taking off from the light on snow- or rain-soaked pavement, but it doesn’t have stability control to minimize lateral wandering. That won’t arrive until the 2009 model year, though the hybrid could use it now.

If you have to turn the steering wheel sharply to one side, such as in an avoidance maneuver, or to pull out quickly to pass, the vehicle lurches sharply to that side. Not a confidence builder. Stability control is offered in the regular Mariner now, not the hybrid.

The Mariner hybrid gets a modest design freshening for 2008. Plastic lower body cladding is gone. Head and taillights are new, and the waterfall grille is larger.

The compact SUV seats five and has adequate stowage space for luggage or gear. Nice touches include rear hatch and window glass that open separately; a deep stowage compartment under the center armrest; second-row seat backs that fold flat to increase cargo capacity — one the headrests are removed; power plugs in the dash and the back of the center console; and cell-phone/iPod holders in the top of the center console.

As with all hybrids, high mileage is the attraction, but high price from the premium for battery power is what forces some consumers to check out equally mileage maximizing gas driven mini cars.

The FWD Mariner hybrid tested starts at $25,765, or about $1,500 more than the regular Mariner powered by a 3-liter, 200-h.p. V-6 and about $2,500 more than a gas-only, 4-cylinder Mariner. That $2,500 premium would buy 833 gallons of gas at $3 per.

Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, AM/FM stereo with in-dash CD and MP3 player, power driver’s seat/locks/windows/mirrors, anti-lock brakes and side-curtain air bags.

Options include what Ford calls the moon and tune package that combines a power moonroof and a satellite radio for $995, a 110-volt power outlet in the center console for a computer at $180 and a premium package at $3,395 with heated, leather seats, heated power mirrors, navigation system, roof rack and cargo hold shade.

The hybrid comes with green leaf badges on the hatch lid and fenders, the only evidence this is something other than a regular Mariner.

Many of those who accept the added cost premium to show they are making a contribution to energy independence would welcome a vehicle that looks as well as acts different than the gas version.

Success of Mariner and its companion Escape hybrid is important because they pave the way for the higher volume hybrid Fusion and Milan sedans. And they are vital because the government is about to boost corporate average fuel economy regulations, requiring automakers’ fleet to get more m.p.g.

2008 Mercury Mariner hybrid

Wheelbase: 103.1 inches

Length: 175.2 inches

Engine: 2.3-liter, 133-h.p. 4-cylinder and 22-h.p. electric motor

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic

Fuel economy: 34 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway

Price as tested: $30,335*

THE STICKER

$25,765 Base

$3,395 Premium package with power heated mirrors, navigation system, leather seats, roof rack and cargo shade

$995 Power moonroof and satellite radio

$180 110-volt electric outlet

* Add $665 for freight.

PLUSES

High-mileage hybrid.

4WD available.

Pleasant styling, good cabin room, very good cargo space.

MINUSES

Premium price tag.

Lacks stability control.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.4
  • Interior design 4.4
  • Performance 4.3
  • Value for the money 4.4
  • Exterior styling 4.5
  • Reliability 4.6

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Very reliable

The Hybrid system is great I use the car for work it has gone though many snow storms and rain storms even an ice storm. It's always worked very well

3.0

Aweful

I'm driving my father's truck and it's terrible at take off. If you try to avoid getting into an accident, just get hit. The electric system has to charge before you can give it good gas. The suspension is loose fitting.Gas mileage has only been 24 Miles tops. I rarely see this model on the road.

4.9

Lots of driver space. Comfortable car

I am 6'1 and while I am not a big guy I feel cramped In most cars . The mariner gives me the most space I have ever had in the driver seat. I still feel relaxed after a long drive. It has a stylish look and the hybrid is great on gas and still provides space and convenience for family.

See all 12 consumer reviews

Compare the competitors

2006

Ford Escape Hybrid

$26,900

starting MSRP

2008

Ford Escape

$19,140

starting MSRP

2006

Mercury Mariner

$21,380

starting MSRP

See all 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid articles