San Francisco: No,
we didn't place the wrong picture here. When you've got a sagging brand
like Mercury, what do you do? If you're an executive with Ford Motor
Company, you take the hot-selling Ford Escape, change a couple of things
around, and rechristen it the Mercury Mariner. The new Mariner looks,
drives, feels and even smells an awful lot like the Escape, yet - aw,
heck - that's the whole story.
Mercury tried to put a
new spin on the popular compact sport utility, and in some ways it
succeeded. The cabin seems slightly more upscale and opulent than the
cheaper Escape thanks to softer materials and a muted, earth-tone color
palette. It's no Lincoln, but it's better than the Ford - exactly like
what you'd expect a Mercury to be.
From the outside
though, you get the feeling Mercury's designers weren't even trying.
The Mariner looks so
much like the Escape you could park them side-by-side and have a hard
time figuring out which was which. They've got the same profile and the
same basic body structure, making them the automotive equivalent of the
Olsen twins. Who can tell the difference? Who cares?
On the bright side,
Mercury started with a rather handsome SUV - if there is such a thing -
and added some styling touches that only make it better. It has a
revamped grille with satin aluminum trim, a slightly different headlight
and fog light setup, and chrome trim on the taillights to fit in with
the Mercury family.
From the driver's seat,
the Mariner feels exactly like the V6 Escape, and that's a good thing.
It has the same independent suspension, the same 3.0-liter V6, and the
same four-speed automatic transmission.
Just like the Escape,
the Mariner drives like a nice midsize sedan. It's built on a car
platform to optimize on-road handling and comfort, and it even corners
pretty well. On the downside, it's clearly not designed for heavy-duty,
off-road driving like some of its competitors, including the Jeep
Liberty and Nissan Xterra.
Other than the subtle
styling changes, what really sets the Mariner apart from the Escape is
the way it's packaged with equipment. The base model, called the
Convenience version ($21,405), has all the luxury basics, like power
mirrors, power windows and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, and a
leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Step up to the Luxury
package ($22,905), and you get a V6 engine, power driver's seat,
six-disc CD changer, alarm, automatic headlamps, and a few other
goodies. The top-of-the-line package, called Premier ($24,655), add
16-inch wheels, heated mirrors, an upgraded stereo, automatic headlamps,
and power heated seats. Options include four-wheel drive (which adds
nearly $2,000, depending on the package), a reverse sensing system, and
side curtain air bags.
Compared to a
well-equipped Escape, that's not a bad deal at all. People who want an
entry-level SUV will have to go with the Escape, but those looking for
more options and better equipment should drive both the Escape and the
Mariner to see which suits their needs - and budget - best.
Why buy it? This is the
Mercury Mariner, a slightly revamped version of the popular Ford Escape
SUV, which looks and drives almost exactly like its cheaper cousin.
The one area where the
Mariner is a serious improvement over the Escape is in the interior,
where better materials and a more pleasing color palette make it feel
slightly more upscale.
So if you are looking
for a well-equipped, compact SUV, you'd be smart to stop at a Mercury
dealership to drive a Mariner. It has all the Ford Escape's best
attributes - smooth ride, quiet cabin and tough style - in a slightly
different package. By
Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Mercury Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Mariner is an Escape in wolf's clothing
2005 Mercury Mariner Premier 4WD
The 2005 Mercury Mariner Premier 4WD
Mercury Internet Media
2005 - 04
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