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Thread: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    new SUV review: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    In theory, a hybrid SUV is a wonderful concept. Decent gas mileage (as much as low 30s around town) without sacrificing the roominess, versatility -- and power -- that make SUVs so appealing.

    My Mercury Mariner hybrid SUV test vehicle delivered on the roominess and the versatility -- just like its Ford Escape cousin. But unfortunately, the Mariner's "real world" mileage was disappointing (empty tank from full in about 280 miles) and the power/performance even more so.

    Maybe there was something wrong with my tester, but it often struggled to maintain speeds above 50 mph; lots of engine noise, with the tachometer needle edging to redline (and surging to 3,500 RPM and higher) during normal highway-style driving. This despite the "tag team" resources of a 155 hp gas engine supplemented by the extra power of twin electric motors and a DC electric battery pack. In theory, acceleration ought to have been better than what you'd get with the gas-only, four-banger version of the Mariner -- and comparable to the performance of the non-hybrid 200-hp 3 liter V-6 that's available optionally in this vehicle -- but without the bigger engine's hunger for fuel.

    Part of the problem may be the Mariner hybrid's standard Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), a new type of automatic transmission that increases efficiency by allowing the engine to rev to its peak powerband (and hold it there) during acceleration -- as opposed to the regular automatic transmission's process of upshifting through a series of forward gears, with engine revs rising (and falling) as you go. Nonetheless, several passengers asked whether there was a problem with the Mariner as we ascended grades and the engine surged to near-redline and stayed there, making quite a racket as it did -- even though we were only running around 55-65 mph. It was disconcerting to see the the tach needle constantly running to the high end of the scale. Even if this was not actually hurting anything, it gives the impression the engine's working extremely (and unusually) hard to do its job. Potential buyers could be scared off by that during a test drive.

    To be fair to the Mariner, I live in a rural mountainous area at an altitude of nearly 4,000 ft. "Normal" driving for me frequently includes going up and down these mountains, changing elevation by as much as 2,500 ft in less than a few miles. Not ideal driving for a hybrid -- any hybrid. These vehicles are designed to deliver optimal performance at lower altitudes and more importantly, lower average speeds -- certainly not while climbing steep grades. Almost all of my driving is basically "highway" driving -- open roads at speeds higher than 45 mph, where hybrids are least efficient. This type of use means the Mariner's hybrid powertrain rarely gets to work in pure electric mode, so it's burning fuel almost all the time -- and "max power" is being demanded much more often than it would be in an urban/suburban setting.

    Add to that the weight the Mariner hybrid must cart around. With the extra bulk of its hybrid motors and electric battery pack -- plus the standard all-wheel-drive system -- it weighs some 450 lbs. more than the non-hybrid, V-6/FWD Mariner (3,787 lbs. vs. 3,328 lbs.). With two or three passengers onboard, the Mariner's hybrid powertrain -- a 2.3 liter, 155-hp gas engine supplemented by a pair of small electric motors -- labors sweatily under the yoke of more than 4,000 lbs. That's only a few hundred pounds off the curb weight of a mid-sized, V-8-powered SUV such as Ford's Explorer.

    This probably explains why my tester's tank ran dry in roughly 300 miles -- substantially less than the 495 mile range "estimated" by the EPA. Based on the Mariner hybrid's 15 gallon tank (which is slightly smaller than the non-hybrid Mariner's 16.5 gallon tank), that works out to approximately 20-23 mpg in "real world" highway driving mileage -- well below the 29 mpg touted by the EPA. In city driving, the Mariner hybrid's supposed to be good for as much as 33 mpg -- and may well be. But I can't really speak to that as most of my "loop" consisted of the previously mentioned highway-type driving.

    Maybe you'll do better.

    In fact, you almost certainly would -- provided you live (and drive) in an area where low-speed, stop-and-go motoring at speeds under 50 mph is the rule rather than the exception. Here, the Mariner hybrid would deliver the goods -- SUV roominess (65 cubic feet with the second row seats folded flat) and versatility (including the ability to pull small trailers) with the fuel economy (and low emissions) of a much smaller vehicle. Its standard AWD system would keep you moving in bad weather, too -- and without saddling you with the typical 15 mpg performance of a conventional 4x4 SUV.

    But if you live in the boonies, as I do, this vehicle is probably not for you - and could even end up costing you as much in monthly fuel bills as a regular, gas-only Mariner, with much higher up-front costs and not-so-spectacular performance thrown in for good measure.

    The '06 Mariner hybrid's base price of $29,225 (which also includes AC, keyless entry and most power options) is roughly $4,000 more than the base price of the similarly equipped, non-hybrid Mariner with V-6 engine and AWD ($25,035). And some six grand more than the non-hybrid Mariner with four-cylinder engine and AWD ($23,130).

    It would take many years to make up such a large difference in up front costs via lower over-the-road fuel costs -- even under the best of circumstances.

    If you live/drive as I do, the odds are you never will.

    The EPA fuel economy rating for the regular V-6 Mariner with AWD -- 23 mpg/highway -- is about exactly what my Mariner hybrid tester returned in "real world" driving. Of course, the hybrid does produce a lot less harmful pollution than the regular Mariner (especially the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide). And that may be very important to environmentally conscious potential buyers. But they should have no illusions about the financial aspects of this deal.

    Four grand extra is a lot to pay to save the planet -- even for the seriously Green among us.

    END


  2. #2
    DennisWG
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    Re: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    But, how long do the battrey packs last, andhow much do they cost to replace? I checked with a local Toyota dealer, and for a Prius they quoted me price of 4,000.00 and a warranty of 80,000 miles.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    Quote Originally Posted by DennisWG
    But, how long do the battrey packs last, andhow much do they cost to replace? I checked with a local Toyota dealer, and for a Prius they quoted me price of 4,000.00 and a warranty of 80,000 miles.
    The answer is... no one really knows (yet). It'll take several years of service for these vehicles to get to the point where battery pack (or cell) replacement becomes an issue. The manufacturers claim that the price for replacement packs will go down significantly due to economies of scale (mass production) but, again, we won't know until we get there!

  4. #4
    jillsuncle
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    Re: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    You buy a Hybrid and you want performance - mutually exclusive argument. Hybrids are not cheap.

    Get a V6 Escape, don't drive like a maniac unless you want to and use all that extra money to buy gas. A great winter car that actually fits in a parking space and hauls a whole lot of stuff.

    Wait until the Research and Development costs of a hybrids come down and you will be a lot better off. By then they will be as fast as fossil fueled cars. Never be the first on you block to do anything speculative. Buy a Kenmore.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    Quote Originally Posted by jillsuncle
    You buy a Hybrid and you want performance - mutually exclusive argument. Hybrids are not cheap.

    Get a V6 Escape, don't drive like a maniac unless you want to and use all that extra money to buy gas. A great winter car that actually fits in a parking space and hauls a whole lot of stuff.

    Wait until the Research and Development costs of a hybrids come down and you will be a lot better off. By then they will be as fast as fossil fueled cars. Never be the first on you block to do anything speculative. Buy a Kenmore.
    This is sense - and I agree completely. Hybrids may salve your conscience, but they're generally not the wise ticket, money-wise....

  6. #6
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    Re: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    Eric:

    Hybrids are hype. I know an environmentalist who drives a 2005 Prius. She gets 38 mpg in all around driving. That rots considering that the car looks like a bizarre science experiment and drives like kitty puke. On the highway, it is less. I can get as high as 30 in my mid-sized Saturn., so a hybrid offers little advantages.

    As far as the greenhouse gas thing goes, if you burn more fuel, the more C02 you will emit, so technically, a 6 cyl gas engine getting 23 mpg will produce the same C02 as a hybrid getting 23 mpg. Hybrids have a way to go before they will be a cost effective way of driving. Diesels on the otherhand, offer both adequate performance and great mileage. The Detroit Free press tested a Chrysler 300C and got 37.7 mpg in city driving with 20 % interstate driving. I want that car.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    Eric:

    Hybrids are hype. I know an environmentalist who drives a 2005 Prius. She gets 38 mpg in all around driving. That rots considering that the car looks like a bizarre science experiment and drives like kitty puke. On the highway, it is less. I can get as high as 30 in my mid-sized Saturn., so a hybrid offers little advantages.

    As far as the greenhouse gas thing goes, if you burn more fuel, the more C02 you will emit, so technically, a 6 cyl gas engine getting 23 mpg will produce the same C02 as a hybrid getting 23 mpg. Hybrids have a way to go before they will be a cost effective way of driving. Diesels on the otherhand, offer both adequate performance and great mileage. The Detroit Free press tested a Chrysler 300C and got 37.7 mpg in city driving with 20 % interstate driving. I want that car.
    Amen - you're absolutely right!

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