Full 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid Review
What's New for 2009
Stability control is standard on the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid; however, last year's four-wheel disc brakes have been replaced by an inferior front disc/rear drum setup for 2009. Other newly standard features include satellite radio, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and Ford's Sync multimedia integration system. Also of note: The Mariner Hybrid's gas-powered engine has grown from 2.3 liters to 2.5, contributing to the bump in overall output from 153 horsepower to 177.
If your heart is set on a hybrid compact SUV, the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is as good as they come, at least for the time being. First off, it boasts the best fuel economy ratings of any SUV currently in production, an honor it shares with its Ford Escape Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid platform-mates. The four-cylinder Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid -- its only direct competitor -- doesn't come close to matching the Mariner Hybrid's fuel economy, although it's considerably cheaper. The Mariner Hybrid also provides reasonably peppy performance, particularly with its 24-hp bump for '09, and its 66 cubic feet of cargo volume are undeniably impressive. Moreover, we like that Mercury has seen fit to include the exclusive Sync system as standard equipment.
If you're open to non-SUV alternatives, however, the Mariner Hybrid loses some luster. Current hybrid cars are significantly more fuel-efficient -- and they're pretty capacious, too. The Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid, for example, offer enough trunk space for most consumers' needs (though not as much as their non-hybrid siblings), while the Toyota Prius' hatchback body style and foldable rear seats make it a cargo-carrying champ. Furthermore, the 2009 Mariner Hybrid starts at nearly $29,000 in front-wheel-drive trim ($30,500 for the all-wheel-drive version), which is considerably more than the base prices of the models just mentioned. And then there are the Mariner Hybrid's brakes, which have been downgraded to an anachronistic front disc/rear drum setup for 2009. For reference, the last Ford Escape we tested with these brakes recorded a dangerously long 154-foot stopping distance, and that was without the Hybrid's added weight.
In addition to the hybrid cars already noted, conventional four-cylinder compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4 offer decent fuel economy and are more appealing vehicles overall, and they can be had for thousands less than the Mercury's base price. Prospective buyers should think about how long they tend to keep their cars, because this will determine whether the Mariner Hybrid's miserly gas consumption will eventually make up for its higher initial cost. Also, the upcoming Saturn Vue Green Line Two-Mode Hybrid should be nearly as fuel-efficient as the Mariner Hybrid and much quicker to boot.
Nonetheless, the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is one of the only vehicles on the market to offer the versatility and favorable image of an SUV along with the green credentials and gas-sipping nature of a hybrid. In an era of rising gas prices and burgeoning environmental awareness, that certainly counts for something.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid compact hybrid SUV is available with either front-wheel drive or AWD. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, a power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Sync, satellite radio, an in-dash CD changer, an MP3 player input jack, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood-grain interior trim, cruise control, full power accessories and a trip computer.
The optional Hybrid Premium Package adds a roof rack, rear parking sensors, heated leather seats, an upgraded seven-speaker audio system, a DVD-based navigation system with a hybrid energy flow/fuel consumption display and a cargo cover. The Leather Trim Package tacks on leather upholstery and adjustable lumbar support. The navigation system can also be ordered à la carte, as can Hybrid-specific 16-inch aluminum wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter gasoline engine working in tandem with two electric motors (three on AWD models) for a combined output of 177 hp. In addition to its propulsion duties, the gasoline engine is used to recharge the Mariner Hybrid's battery pack. A regenerative braking system, which captures energy that would ordinarily be lost as heat, also contributes to the recharging effort. The Mariner Hybrid features a continuously variable transmission (CVT), although it's somewhat unusual in that it utilizes a planetary gearset instead of a conventional CVT's rotating belt.
The additional electric motor in AWD Mariner Hybrids is designed to provide extra power to the rear wheels when slippage is detected. Note, however, that this isn't a true AWD system, so buyers who require a serious snow vehicle may find the Mariner Hybrid inadequate for their purposes.
Turning to fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2009 FWD Mariner Hybrid at an excellent 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined, while the AWD version comes in at 29/27/28 mpg.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid includes antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags with a rollover sensor.
In government crash testing, the Mariner Hybrid received four stars for driver protection and five stars for passenger protection in frontal impacts, with a perfect five-star rating for side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the non-hybrid Mariner scored "Acceptable" (the second-highest score) in frontal-offset tests and "Good" (the highest possible) in side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Mariner Hybrid features a pleasantly designed interior, courtesy of the thorough update it received for '08. Faux aluminum trim is tastefully applied, while chrome accents and fake wood add an upscale feel. Front passengers are treated to pleasantly shaped and supportive seats; however, the rear seat is as flat as Kansas, and it neither reclines nor adjusts fore or aft. It's also annoyingly difficult to fold the rear seat down, as the headrests must be removed and the bottom cushions tipped forward before the seatbacks can be flipped down. There's a substantial 26.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, though, and once you've successfully folded them down, the above mentioned 66 cubic feet of total volume is yours to fill.
The newly available Sync system allows voice commands to your Bluetooth-compatible cell phone, the audio system and the navigation system. Further, the Sirius Satellite Link allows you to find current gas prices in the vicinity at the touch of a button.
Another new feature this year is the Economy setting for the air-conditioner, which allows the auto-shutoff feature for the gas engine when the A/C is on (such as when coming up to a red light or when driving in stop-and-go traffic). But unlike a few other hybrids out there, Ford's system won't allow the A/C compressor to run with the gas engine off, so you might have to endure an increase of a degree or two in cabin temperature while waiting at a light.
With an additional 24 hp, the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid does an excellent impression of a lively conventionally powered compact SUV. It also yields remarkably good gas mileage. However, braking performance frankly doesn't meet expectations for a 21st-century vehicle. Though we like the regular Mariner's composed handling characteristics, the Hybrid's additional pounds can make it feel rather ponderous by comparison. Ride quality is fine, thanks to tweaks made to the suspension this year.