Mercury Marauder: Shades of Darth Vader
The question was posed by a co-worker and generated by the new Mercury Marauder parked outside.
The remark boosted my respect for this big bad sedan.
Before, sure, I was impressed by the beautiful chrome dual exhaust, its melodious note and the outrageous performance of the supercharged 302-horsepower engine. But the car was just way too big.
After, however, the thought that I might be projecting some connection to the underworld made driving the Marauder delicious.
The Marauder name isn’t new to Mercury, of course, and has always been associated more or less with performance. But for this new 2003 version, the rear-wheel-drive Marauder maintains its muscle-car characteristics while benefiting from the tremendous advancements in automotive technology over the past 30 years.
The new Marauder is based on, of all things, the Grand Marquis. Its wheelbase is 114.7 inches long and overall length is 211.9 inches, about the same as a city block. Marauder’s frame, though, is 24 percent stiffer and its resistance to vertical bending is better by 20 percent.
Marauder also sports rack-and-pinion power steering with speed-sensitive variable assist and other improvements, resulting in a steering experience far removed from the insufferable sloppiness typical of colossal sedans.
The 4.6-liter V8 has 318 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm. Its teammate is a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. They move the vehicle quite quickly, considering its 4,165-pound weight.
Marauder’s interior is cavernous but its nearly all-black color scheme and small windows make it feel intimate. The black interior is interrupted only by attractive dot-matrix trim on the dashboard and equally attractive gauges — including a 6,250 redline tachometer — with white faces and bright orangey-red needles. Another great touch is an oil-pressure gauge and a voltmeter mounted in the center stack.
Auxiliary controls for the sound and climate-control systems are mounted on the steering wheel, a feature I always appreciate, but this one had no “back” button for the audio, only a “next” button. In other words, you can forward to the next track but not go back to a previous one. There’s a full complement of climate buttons on the wheel, taking up too much space to allow a “back” button, apparently. Bad judgment, I’d say, since I fiddle with the sound system more often than the climate control.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, power windows and door locks, sound system with CD and cassette players, side airbags, cruise control, foglights, heated power mirrors, and polished aluminum wheels. Traction control will be added later in the model year.
For the time being, Marauder is available only in black. A couple of other exterior colors will be added in the future, but black, the Darth Vader look, is the only way to go.
Base price of the test vehicle is increased by a $705 destination charge.
EPA rating is 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway. Premium fuel is recommended.
By Mary Lowry - HeraldNet