2005 Mercury Mariner
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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
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
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 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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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.