2006 Mercury Mariner

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2005 Mercury Mariner

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

A nice step up from the similar Ford Escape sport-utility vehicle.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Quick with V6
  • Stylish interior
Cons:
  • Lazy with base engine
  • Road noise
  • Narrow rear door openings

The stylish Mariner is the first Mercury compact sport-utility vehicle and is a step up from the similar Ford Escape sport ute.

The 2005 Mariner is among the newest sport utilities. It's aimed at the growing number of SUV buyers who are opting for smaller, more car-like sport utes that deliver higher fuel economy and better maneuverability than midsize and larger sport-utilities.

For most of its history, which began in 1939, Ford Motor's Mercury division only offered cars, but it's fairly recently added the Monterey minivan and midsize Mountaineer sport-utility vehicle to appeal to truck-crazy Americans.

Related to Escape
As with those vehicles, the Mariner is an upscale version of a Ford model, which in this case is the popular Ford Escape. (The Mazda Tribute is a slightly sportier version of the Escape, so you can see that Ford likes to spread things around.)

It's no surprise that the Mariner is related to the Escape because virtually all Mercury autos have been upscale versions of Ford division cars. However, Mercurys always have been second-class citizens because they've been overshadowed by the larger number of Ford dealers and heavier advertising for Ford-badged models.

Keeping It Simple
The Escape is sold in a large number of trim levels, including a new gasoline-electric hybrid version. But Mercury keeps things simpler by only offering the Mariner in entry Convenience, midrange Luxury and top-line Premier trim levels, which all come only with gasoline engines.

Prices range from $21,405 to $26,405, compared to $19,405 to $26,555 for the gasoline-engine Escape. Mercury says the Mariner is for those "who want a little more" than offered by the Escape. In fact, the Mariner provides more standard items than the Escape, along with upgraded interior materials and a few special features such as an optional rear-object-detection system not available for the Escape.

All-Wheel Drive
But, as with the Escape, Mariners are sold with front- or all-wheel drive. The Mariner all-wheel-drive system has no low-range gearing for rugged off-road use, but it adds more on-road traction in bad weather; the system automatically transfers engine torque from front to rear as required by road conditions without any intervention by a driver.

All Mariners are well equipped. The Convenience version contains air conditioning, speed control, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, an AM/FM/CD sound system and power windows, mirrors and locks with keyless entry.

The Luxury trim level adds privacy glass, power driver's seat and a 6-disc CD changer. The Premier adds machined aluminum wheels with a custom look, heated mirrors, an upgraded sound system and power heated front seats with Preferred Suede.

Safety Extras
Safety features include optional seat-mounted front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags designed to deploy when sensors detect an impending rollover.

A 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops 153 horsepower motivates the Convenience version. That engine is OK for city driving, but makes the Mariner only moderately fast on highways, although steady high-speed highway cruising is no problem.

The Luxury and Premier trim levels are blessed with a smooth, potent 3.0-liter V6. It generates 200 horsepower and more torque than the 4-cylinder for quick acceleration in town and on expressways and highways.

Responsive Automatic Transmission
Both engines work with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission. Manual and automatic transmissions are offered for the Escape, but a manual gearbox wouldn't be in keeping with the Mariner's upscale image.

Frankly, the 4-cylinder engine doesn't fit the Mariner's image, either. All trim levels should have the V6, although the lowest-priced Mariner V6 lists at $22,905.

Car-like
My test Mariner Premier all-wheel-drive version was car-like, with quick steering that had acceptable road feel. Handling was sharp, and the firm, all-independent suspension provided a supple ride, although some bumps could be felt. Stopping power was good, as was brake pedal feel. All trim levels have all-disc brakes with an anti-lock system and a brake assist feature for surer emergency stops.

Visual Distinctions
Visually distinguishing the Mariner from the Escape—and Tribute—are different front-end styling with distinctive headlights and a signature Mercury grille that has vertical, satin-aluminum-finished elements. There's also color-keyed bodyside cladding and European-style turn signal repeater lights on the front fenders.

Taillights are shrouded with horizontal satin-aluminum-accent grilles. Also setting the Mariner apart are large chrome outside door handles that are easily grasped for quick entry, even when wearing winter gloves.

Roomy High Point Interior
The tailored interior allows comfortable space for four to five 6-footers. Occupants sit high, with an excellent view of surroundings. Highway speeds bring out some road noise, but the interior is otherwise quiet.

The interior is a high point of the Mariner. It looks striking, as if from an upscale foreign sports sedan, with premium materials and a two-tone color treatment. There are unique two-tone door panels and seats stitched with thick French seams.

Inside door handles are nicely shaped, and the cockpit is highlighted with wood grain, satin aluminum and chrome accents. The floor-mounted shifter even has a satin aluminum knob. Designers of the overly plain interior of the new Ford Five Hundred sedan could have taken lessons from Mariner interior designers.

Decent lateral support is provided by the front seats. And the easily read gauges have bright bezels and nicely contrasting dark gray faces. Satin aluminum and wood grain bezels on the center console and center dashboard contribute to the upscale interior theme.

Nicely Placed Controls
Controls are nicely placed. For instance, the audio controls are conveniently located above the climate controls, and power window switches and power mirror controls are strategically put on the driver's door.

This is a sport ute with only a moderately high step-in, but it's still no car and thus requires more effort to slide in and out. Grab rails on the inside windshield posts thus can assist senior citizens or children entering or leaving the vehicle. However, rear door openings are rather narrow.

Large Cargo Area
The cargo area has a low, wide opening and a hatch with a convenient flip-up glass panel. There's plenty of cargo room, and the entire split rear seat easily folds forward to significantly increase such space.

You get more than a touch of class with the Mariner. It's an attractive alternative to the Escape and Tribute—not to mention rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.

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BB04 - 4/19/2014 2:46:12 AM