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2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

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San Francisco: The Mercury Mariner Hybrid looks almost exactly like the normal Mariner but is more environmentally friendly. The only noticeable difference is a Hybrid badge on the sides and rear of the SUV. Inside, unique gauges and an LCD screen set the hybrid Mariner apart from its gasoline-only counterpart. They feel very similar from the driver's seat, which is a good thing.

If you’ve noticed environmentalists have gotten a little more timid when they gripe about SUVs, this might be the reason why. Sport utility vehicles, long criticized for their gluttonous appetite for gas and dirty emissions, are turning greener thanks to hybrid technology. Among these Earth-friendly SUVs is a new hybrid version of the 2007 Mercury Mariner, which offers better fuel economy and cleaner emissions with virtually no drawbacks.

Just like the groundbreaking Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid cars, the Mariner Hybrid uses a small, four-cylinder engine in conjunction with an electric motor to deliver great gas mileage, low emissions and decent performance. It accelerates similar to the V6 Mariner, but it gets about 33 miles per gallon on the highway compared to the V6's 24 mpg.

Indeed, the differences between the hybrid Mariner and its conventional counterpart are subtle. From the outside, the only way you can tell the hybrid apart from any other Mariner is by looking for a few special badges and a small air vent, and even from the driver's seat it's easy to forget you're driving a hybrid because it feels so similar to the regular SUV.

The biggest difference is the transmission. Whereas most Mariners have a run-of-the-mill automatic transmission, the hybrid version uses a continuously variable transmission that never shifts. It constantly adjusts to find the perfect combination of performance and economy.

Like all hybrids, it uses big batteries and a powerful electric motor to supplement a relatively small gas-powered engine. The batteries recharge every time the vehicle brakes, so it never has to be plugged in.

In addition, the gas engine shuts down every time the vehicle stops to save more fuel and cut down on emissions. As soon as you lift your foot off the brake, it starts right back up.

The Mariner's hybrid system doesn't feel quite as refined as either the Prius or Civic Hybrid. It's difficult to tell when the engine starts and stops in both those cars because they run so smoothly and have been engineered to start up so effortlessly. In the Mariner Hybrid, though, the engine rumbles and shakes a little when it starts back up, making the start and stop of the engine quite obvious at each red light.

Inside, the Mariner's gauges aren't quite as polished and flashy as either the Prius or Civic Hybrid. It has a small LCD screen on the dash, probably the smallest one available in a car today, that doubles as an efficiency gauge and a navigation system.

Other than having much better gas mileage and a different transmission, the hybrid Mariner is virtually identical to the standard version. That means it has a comfortable interior, decent cargo capacity and a smooth ride, all factors that have made the Mariner and its Ford cousin, the Escape, a hot seller.

The biggest disappointment is that the hybrid technology is not available on lower-end equipment packages. While a traditional Mariner starts at $22,870, the hybrid model is $27,895. Compared to the base Mariner, that kind of a price premium quickly eats up any money you could save at the pump.

What was tested? The 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid Four-wheel Drive with a base price of $27,895. Options: Premium package ($3,795), power moon roof ($585). Price as tested including a $615 delivery charge: $32,275.

Why buy it? It has everything that makes the Mercury Mariner a good SUV - comfort, maneuverability and versatility - along with eco-friendly hybrid technology.

Why avoid it? It costs several thousand dollars more than a regular, non-hybrid Mariner, so it's not likely to save much money on gas unless oil prices skyrocket. On the other hand, $5,025 is a small price to pay for feeling good about taking care of the environment.  By Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©AutoWire.Net
Column Name: Mariner Hybrid marks a sea change in SUV efficiency
Topic: The 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Word Count:  760
Photo Caption:  The 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Photo Credits:  Mercury Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 42

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Publisher - Editor:   Tony Leopardo
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