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Thread: 2009 Mercury Mariner

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2009 Mercury Mariner

    When the dinosaurs fell extinct some 65 million years ago, the world they left behind was inherited by much smaller creatures able to survive in a harsher, colder climate - and on much less food.

    Kind of like the Mercury Mariner.

    Expeditions, Explorers and Mountaineers are on the road to extinction - doomed by $90 fill-ups at 16 miles per gallon and a tailspinning economy. But compact SUVs like the Mariner may just be able to stay alive a little while longer - because they still have more room and usefulness than a standard passenger car, along with the rugged looks of a real-deal 4x4 - without killing you on operating costs.


    The Mariner is a compact , light-duty SUV, twin of the Ford Escape, in nicer (and pricier) Mercury duds. It is available with front-wheel-drive or AWD, four or six-cylinder engines - and starts at $23,310. Top of the line V-6 Premier models with AWD run $27,175. (A hybrid version of the Mariner is also available. It has a sticker price of $29,750 for the FWD version and $31,500 for one with AWD.)


    Mercury has made a number of important improvements to the Mariner for '09 - including significantly more power from both engines, a new six-speed automatic (standard with either engine) and standard steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo system, even on base models. Also new is a price uptick of about $1,500 or so vs. the '08 versions. Part of this is due to inflation, but unlike some other 2009 models that are literally identical to the '08s - the updated/improved '09 Merc at least gives you something in return for the extra dough.


    Unlike the suck-a-saurus large SUVs that are dying off all around us, the Mariner offers two reasonably fuel-efficient powerplants.

    The standard engine is 2.5 liter four, now rated at 171 hp. This is a bump upward in both displacement and power (compared with the previous 2.3 liter, 153 hp four) you can feel immediately, right where it counts - under your right foot. Previous four-cylinder Mariners (and Ford Escapes) were underpowered, truly comfortable only in city-type driving at speed under 60 mph. The '09 Mariner equipped with the four cylinder engine has sufficient power for everything except pulling a trailer up steep inclines. (For that, you'd want the optional V-6.)

    The best part, though, is that the 20-ish bump in horsepower comes without any gas-guzzler penalty. The new, larger four cylinder engine actually gets better highway mileage: 28 mpg with FWD - vs. 24 mpg with the old 2.3 liter engine. City mileage remains the same at 20 mpg.

    The optional 3 liter V-6, meanwhile, gets an even more impressive 40 horsepower bump - up to 240 hp from 200 previously. That makes it one of the more powerful six-cylinder engines available in a compact SUV - instead of one of the weakest, as was the case previously.

    Like the four, the six's bigger muscles come without any loss of gas mileage. The V-6 '09 Mariner rates 18 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway (with FWD; AWD versions use slightly more gas, 17 city, 24 highway). The previous Mariner with the barely adequate 200 hp V-6 got 18 city, 23 highway (FWD versions).

    Credit for the improved power output without an increase in gas consumption is mostly due to the new, six-speed automatic transmission that is standard with either engine. The additional gearing provides a significant efficiency gain over the previous four-speed automatic.

    This transmission also improves the feel of the Mariner as it accelerates. There's less RPM drop between gear changes, for example - and the up and downshifts feel crisp and tight where previously they often felt strained, late or sluggish.

    The full-time AWD system is optional with either engine and like most such systems in vehicles of this type is not a heavy-duty system designed for severe off-road work or heavy-duty use. It's mainly there to give the Mariner better grip on paved roads when it rains or snows. Like other such systems, under normal driving, most of the engine's power goes through the front wheels; as they begin to slip/lose traction (as on slick roads) an increasing amount of available power is automatically transferred to the rear wheels.

    Max tow rating is the same as before - 3,500 lbs. (Class II) with the V-6 engine. However, the extra 40 hp make towing that same weight a lot more comfortable, especially when climbing steep grades.


    The Mariner's more SUV-like in the ride and handling department than some of the newer, light-duty SUVs/crossovers - such as the Nissan Rogue and the (recently updated) Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V - all of which have a sportier, more car-like feel to them.

    But this may be applying an irrelevant standard. After all, if you're looking for a sporty handling vehicle, should you be shopping for a small SUV in the first place?

    What the Mariner does extremely well is feel solid, quiet and nicely weighted - like a real-deal 'ute in normal driving, with lots of cushion between you and the road - but without the godawful gas bills of a real (truck-based) SUV.

    Visibility is good all around - another strong point compared with the slope-roofed/swept back designs of some others in this segment. And the Mariner's relatively compact dimensions and light steering make it easy to maneuver into today's downsized parking spots on the first try.


    As mentioned earlier, the Mariner still looks like a real SUV - bucking the trend toward wagon-ish looking ovoid things like the Nissan Rogue, Suzuki SX4 and even the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

    This has some functional/practical advantages worth mentioning. The fairly upright, boxy shape, for example, adds both the impression - and the reality of - a roomy interior that is comfortable for four, perfectly serviceable for five in a pinch - and which can carry as much stuff as will fit into 66 cubic feet of available cargo capacity (29.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up).

    This isn't "best in class" - both the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have 8-10 more cubic feet of cargo space than the Mariner - but the Mariner is less expensive than both, by about $1,500 or so for the V-6 equipped versions. (Not only that, but you can rest assured there's more room for haggling on the Mercury than there is on either the Honda or Toyota - vehicles you can expect to pay full MSRP sticker on.)

    The interior of the '09 Mariner gets a new and much-improved center stack and (optional) GPS system, which does a great deal to modernize both the appearance and functionality of the little Merc. Also available is Ford's new Sync system - which integrates the audio and entertainment equipment with portable electronics such as MP3 players and cell phones/PDAs.

    I like the subtle styling tweaks - such as the satin accents used inside and out - to differentiate (and upmarket) the Mariner from its more Joe Sixpack cousin, the Ford Escape. They're subtle - and effective. The Mariner really does seem like a nicer, more ritzy ride than its functionally identical Ford cousin.

    In tuxedo black, it's almost elegant.

    Premier models get the neat-o Ambient lighting system that first appeared on the Mustang a few years back that lets you toggle between multiple backlighting (red, blue, yellow, green) for the instrument cluster and so on. Swanky Alcantara suede/leather upholstery is included with the Premier equipment , too.

    And that borderline luxury mien may be the Mariner's strongest suit, overall. It helps put the Mariner a notch above run-of-the-mill Toyotas, Hondas and so on.

    Mercury may not be Lincoln, but it's still a tick about plain old Ford.


    Ford (and Mercury's) biggest problem is not quality, per se. It is the public's perception that other makes - such as Toyota and Honda, Nissan and even Hyundai - are of higher quality. That hurts resale/residual values - which is something to consider if you're either planning to keep your next vehicle only 3-5 years or so.

    Or you lease.

    On the other hand, if you buy a vehicle for keeps, the perception that Ford/Mercury vehicles aren't as good as Toyotas and Hondas usually translates into the reality of a lower transaction price, since you're in a much better position to haggle.

    Yes, there are some "hard plastics" in the Mercury - but you'll find them in a RAV4 or CR-V, too. It's nothing bad; indeed, the use of plastics for dashes and various panels is common practice in all but expensive, high-end cars (which often substitute leather - for which you will pay dearly). The point is, there's nothing about the Mariner's interior (or exterior) that's cheesy or tacky looking.

    You may prefer the design/layout of some competitor model, but the Mariner isn't low rent.

    Some have criticized the Mariner's disc/drum brake system - vs. the more common four-wheel-disc systems found in many competitors. But there are up and downsides here to consider, too. On the upside, four-wheel-discs do generally provide better stopping power. But the downside is that four wheel disc brake systems are more easily damaged (for example, warped disc brake rotors caused by some knucklehead overtightening the lug nuts) and often cost more to fix. Rear drum brakes, as on the Mariner, are usually very durable. And it's hard to hurt cast iron brake drums - which can typically be reused several times before they must be replaced.

    ABS, traction and stability control, side-impact and full-row curtain air bags are standard equipment.

    I am not a fan of Mercury's (and Ford's) also-standard Belt Minder buzzer which hits you with an obnoxiously loud PING! PING!! PING!! if you dare to even put the thing in Drive without buckling up for safety. MYOB, sez me. Where's the "buzz off' button for this buzzer?


    The Mariner (and Escape) have been solid sellers for Ford - and if you spend some driving one, you'll understand how come. The Mariner is neither overly tinny (or tipsy) nor trying over-hard to imitate a sport sedan. It is perfectly comfortable being comfortable - and that works for me.

    The only major fault I could find with the Mariner is the ordeal you have to deal with in order to fold flat the rear seats. First, you have to fold up the lower cushions, then you remove the headrests, then you can drop the seatbacks flat. This was the common approach three or four years ago; today, there are several models on the market with much easier to use systems that let you fold away the second row without major disassembly - or loose parts lying around afterward.

    If you need to drop the back seats more than every once in awhile, you may find this problematic.


    The Mariner's newfound power is a major improvement - especially since it doesn't come with a reduction in fuel economy. And though it's no more a heavy-duty SUV than other car-based, light-duty utes such as Nissan's Rogue, the Toyota RAV4 or the Honda CR-V, the Mariner still looks rugged and SUV-like.

    And that may be the final, fleeting reminder of the Age That Once Was.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2007

    Re: 2009 Mercury Mariner

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