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You're excused if you don't recall the original full-size Mercury Marauder "fastbacks" of the 1960s. Not as hard-edged as their full-sized competition of the early '60s nor as lean or brutally quick as their pony-car and midsize "muscle car" rivals later in the decade, the sporty Marauder sedans and personal luxury coupes sold in relatively small numbers.
The Mercury Marauder offered big-block power, an upscale interior and a persona that projected elegant, refined performance. But by the time it was retired after the 1970 model year, the big Marauder was out of fashion and had simply run its course. Only after a mid-'90s resurrection of the big, bad full-size muscle car genre by the Chevrolet Impala SS did Mercury try its luck nearly a decade later by bringing out its roomy and powerful Marauder.
Based on the full-size body-on-frame Grand Marquis sedan, the Marauder debuted with an upgraded engine, bigger wheels and tires, a sport-tuned suspension, bucket seats, special interior trim and an exterior paint job in "any color you want as long as it's black."
Though there was considerable initial interest in the car, performance enthusiasts never quite fell in love. In particular, although the Marauder's performance was respectable -- it could hit 60 mph in the 7-second range -- it didn't have the tire-spinning grunt off the line that marked a true muscle car. After two years of slow sales, Mercury shelved the Marauder name once again.
Most Recent Mercury Marauder
The Grand Marquis-based Mercury Marauder was produced for 2003 and '04. Initially sold only in black (blue, silver and red became available later), the car had a definite undercover cop car look to it thanks to the blacked-out grille, dark-tinted headlights and taillights, large five-spoke chrome wheels and dual chrome exhaust tips. Inside, Mercury replaced the more traditional big-car column shifter with a sportier floor-mounted selector along with bucket seats and a center console.
Adding an old-school touch was a pair of Auto Meter gauges for oil pressure and volts, while new-school power-adjustable pedals allowed most anybody to get comfortable behind the wheel. Leather upholstery was standard fare, and was wrapped around big, soft power front buckets that reminded some folks of first-class airline seats. Although they featured pronounced side bolsters, we found the padding a bit too soft to provide serious lateral support when putting the Marauder through its paces.
The Mercury Marauder was motivated by a 4.6-liter DOHC V8 with 302 horsepower and 318 pound-feet of torque. The engine -- the same one used in the Ford Mustang Cobra before it received a supercharger -- was connected to a beefed-up four-speed automatic and a limited-slip rear differential. The Marauder's excessive weight precluded neck-snapping performance off the line, but once the four-cam V8 hit its stride, the big Merc really pulled with authority. Driven sedately, the automatic changed gears seamlessly, but with your foot in it upshifts occurred quickly, with a satisfying shove to your backside.
As with Ford's other 2003 full-size sedans, the Mercury Marauder benefited from a major update that year, including a new frame and redesigned front suspension. For the Marauder, Mercury also added a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels.
In our experience putting the Marauder through twists and turns, fast sweepers and steady freeway cruises, we were impressed with how well this 2-ton-plus car performed. Although it provided a soft, comfortable ride under normal conditions, the Marauder also handled spirited driving with ease. Body roll was minimal with a neutral attitude, and the steering was light yet direct, with its variable-assist feature offering more weight with increasing speed.
A lack of off-the-line snap was the car's major fault. Though we never were able to perform instrumented testing, other published reports at the time pegged the car's 0-60-mph time in the mid 7-second range. Put simply, there was just too much weight and not enough low-end torque.
Still, the Mercury Marauder's lack of success as a new model pretty much guarantees rarity as a used model. We can recommend it without reservation for a used car shopper in search of a traditional full-size sedan with lots of room and V8 power, topped off with a healthy dose of attitude and uniquely American style.