What's New for 2003
In an effort to generate interest in what seems to be a dying brand, Mercury takes a page out of a decade-old Chevrolet playbook and paints a Grand Marquis Amish-black, bolts on 18-inch wheels and stuffs a 300-horse V8 under the hood. The result is surprisingly appealing.
Model History/Marketing Philosophy: Mercury's "Marauder" nameplate first appeared on slantback versions of the 1964 Monterey, Montclair and Park Lane two- and four-door sedans, powered by a huge 425 cubic-inch V8 that made up to 427 gross horsepower. A new Marauder arrived in 1969 riding a shorter wheelbase and sporting a "tunnelback" rear window design. It came in standard and X-100 trim, with either a 390 cubic-inch V8 or a 429 big block V8 making 360 gross horsepower. The Marauder survived through 1970, but then died due to slow sales and disinterest in performance-tuned large cars.
For 2003, Mercury resurrects the Marauder as a tweaked and massaged version of the Grand Marquis sedan. This isn't the first time that a recipe calling for a big engine, fat wheels and black paint has revived interest in a relatively staid and conservative box-on-wheels. Anyone remember the 1994-96 Chevrolet Impala SS? The new Marauder caters to the same crowd of aging, "buy American," muscle-car aficionados as the Impala, and should easily perform the task of raising Mercury's brand awareness as the marque struggles to remake itself. Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The 2003 Marauder comes just one way: fully-loaded and painted jet black. The options list is limited to a moonroof, a trunk organizer and a six-disc CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance: The Marauder is powered by an all-aluminum DOHC 4.6-liter V8 making 300 horsepower 5,750 rpm and 310 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm. It breathes through a true dual exhaust system with chrome-plated pipes. A four-speed automatic transmission with a high-stall speed torque converter drives the rear wheels through a 3.55 rear axle with limited-slip differential. Massive 18-inch five-spoke wheels are shod with sticky BFGoodrich g-Force T/A tires (P235/50ZR18 in front and P245/55ZR18 in back).
Safety: With its basis on the Grand Marquis, the 4,165-pound Marauder is large and heavy. Federal crash testing of the Grand Marquis has resulted in a five-star rating for frontal impacts and four-star ratings for side impacts. The 2003 Marauder comes standard with four-wheel disc antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and panic assist (which applies the brakes full-force when a panic stop is detected). Also standard is the Personal Safety System (advanced restraint and airbag systems) and seat-mounted side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features: Inside, enthusiast drivers will appreciate the white-faced displays, which include a 140-mph speedometer, 7,000-rpm tachometer and full instrumentation with temperature, oil and voltage gauges. Bright trim replaces the fake wood found in the Grand Marquis, adding a touch of attitude. A floor shifter juts out of the center console for a sporty feel, while the five seating positions are upholstered in leather with the winged god Mercury's head embossed in the seatbacks. "Marauder" is embroidered into the floor mats to remind the driver this is a special car.
Driving Impressions/Opinions: The Marauder is a car with a lot to offer. Enthusiasts with families, who're seeking to have their cake and eat it, too, will no doubt appreciate the king-sized sedan's emphasis on both thrills and utility. Fast, handsome and practical, to boot, the Marauder is a ride that's clearly designed to be more than just a one-trick pony.