2003 Mercury Marauder VT
Making the Big Merc what it should be, and then some
By John Kiewicz
Photography by the author
Motor Trend, September 2003
2003 Mercury Marauder VT
∑ Mustang/Camaro-beating acceleration
∑ Sports-car performance with room for entire family
∑ VT package for Grand Marquis and Crown Vic
∑ Blower whine gives away game
∑ Roller valvetrain a bit clackety
∑ Exhaust note just over the top
In the mid '90s, Chevrolet resurrected its legendary Impala SS nameplate in the form of an attitude-laden, LT1 V-8-powered, aggressive-looking muscle sedan. The short-lived '94-'96 Impala SS engendered an enthusiastic following that continues today.
Mercury picked up on the formula this year by offering the muscular Marauder. Oddly enough, it hasn't caught on like the Chevy did, despite having more horsepower, a tighter suspension, and a beefier wheel/tire package than the Impala SS. As soon as the Mercury hit the showrooms, sales flagged (we hear the program is unofficially cancelled). To have succeeded, we feel the Marauder needed to be more aggressive still: more punch, better brakes, and even more attitude. And that's where VT Competition comes in, filling our wish list in Costco-size portions.
The first step in VT's tuneup program is more power--as in a lot more. Buyers can choose from three engine-upgrade combinations: a Paxton-supercharged stock V-8, a naturally aspirated stroker V-8, or a stroked and blown V-8. Naturally, we tested the double-whammy package.
VT starts by removing and disassembling the stock 4.6-liter DOHC V-8. A forged-steel long-stroke crankshaft teams with Oliver billet rods attached to custom-machined JE forged pistons. A Paxton Novi 2000 centrifugal supercharger packs 12psi boost through an aluminum, suitcase-size front-mounted intercooler before it pressurizes the now-5.0-liter engine.
A free-breathing air inlet and Pro-M 80mm mass air meter improve flow on the intake side; the rest is handled by Random Technology's high-flow catalytic converters mated to a custom 2.5-inch stainless-steel dual-exhaust system. The result is a blaring, wicked sound, but one that may be a bit too raucous for a corporate exec taking clients to lunch.
VT's chassis dyno tests reveal 430 rear-wheel horsepower--an impressive 85-percent increase over the stock Marauder. The result moves the 4200-pound muscle sedan 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Stomping the brake pedal from 60 will halt the VT in just 129 feet, thanks to easy-to-modulate Baer Racing alloy calipers clamping two-piece, cross-drilled 14-inch rotors.
The Marauder was never intended to be a canyon racer, but VT attempts to up the handling game with a set of Budnik Fontana 19x9.0-inch forged-aluminum wheels wrapped in grippy Toyo Proxes T1-2 255/40ZR19 tires. The steering feels a bit sharper, but with no other suspension upgrades (such as stiffer springs and/or better dampers), the VT could only equal a stock Marauder in our 600-foot-slalom test. With the copious amounts of torque from VT's engine, the car proved a fishtailing monster through the slalom, as the rear tires belched plumes of smoke. It was fun, although hardly the quick way through the cones.
We hear that, in spite of pending demise, the Marauder has several patrons inside Ford working to save it. Even though the full-boogie VT treatment adds about $30 grand to the car's base price, we hope the Ford folks will give it a try before they make the final decision whether to shutter the Marauder production line. If nothing else, it would give them a hint at what the big black Merc can do.
'03 Marauder '03 Marauder VT
0-60 mph 7.7 5.1
1/4 mile firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Braking, 60-0 ft 137 129
Slalom, mph 59.5 59.9
(Right Photo)If you opt for VT Comp's stroker V-8 package without the supercharger, you'll still be grinning, as the 5.0-liter's 386 lb-ft of torque (a 51-percent increase) is probably what the car should've had from the factory in the first place.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....