Full 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid Review
What's New for 2011
This will be the last year for the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, since the Mercury nameplate will disappear after 2011. The Mariner Hybrid itself is pretty much unchanged other than the addition of HD radio to the optional navigation system.
Though always meant to be more upscale cousins to their Ford counterparts, most Mercury models of the past three decades have been little more than Fords with different grilles, taillights and badges. The problem with this approach has been that there's been little reason for people to buy a Mercury instead of a Ford. Tellingly, the Mercury brand has been discontinued due to a lack of sales, with 2011 being its last model year for cars.
Not surprisingly, the 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is essentially a 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid. As such, it shares its progenitor's strengths and weaknesses. Among the former are impressive fuel economy (32 mpg for the combined rating) and the availability of some high-end features not seen on most rivals, such as the Sync voice-activated multimedia system and a nifty automated parallel parking assist system.
Downsides to the Mariner Hybrid include less agile handling than its non-hybrid sibling, disappointing braking performance and an interior that's lacking some convenience features. Furthermore, the Mariner Hybrid costs significantly more than a conventionally powered Mariner, though manufacturer incentives might lessen that blow.
Since other competing models (besides the Escape Hybrid) are few and far between, you might also consider regular crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, all of which are better vehicles overall and still get respectable fuel economy. The clean-diesel Volkswagen Jetta TDI wagon would be another good pick, as would a Toyota Prius, as long as you don't need all-wheel drive.
In the final analysis, we think the Mariner Hybrid works pretty well for what it's supposed to be ? a small crossover SUV that delivers high fuel economy and available all-wheel drive. But we definitely suggest checking out these alternatives before settling for the Mariner in its final year.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is a compact crossover SUV available with either front- or all-wheel drive. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, outside mirror with an integrated blind-spot mirror, cruise control, full power accessories, power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood-grain interior trim, MyKey parental settings, the Sync electronics interface and a four-speaker audio system with CD player, auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio and steering-wheel controls.
The Leather package adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver's adjustable lumbar support and ambient lighting. Order the Hybrid Premium package and you get the Leather package plus rear parking sensors, heated side mirrors, hybrid system graphics, a seven-speaker stereo (includes CD/DVD player and 10 gigabytes of music storage) and a navigation system (with HD radio, real-time traffic and Sirius Travel Link). The navigation system and seven-speaker stereo can be had together as a separate package. Stand-alone options include a sunroof, remote engine start and the Auto Park parallel parking system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine as well as an electric motor/generator; combined they produce 177 horsepower. Power is sent through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that provides seamless transitions between gas and electric modes. All-wheel-drive (AWD) models come with an additional electric motor to power the rear wheels when further acceleration or traction is needed.
The 0-60-mph acceleration of the Mariner Hybrid is estimated at about 9 seconds, making it comparable to the quicker four-cylinder gas entries in this segment. The EPA estimates for fuel economy put the front-wheel-drive Mariner Hybrid at the top of the crossover SUV category with 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. The AWD version is rated at 30/27/29 mpg.
The 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags with rollover sensors. Also standard is the new MyKey feature, which allows parents to program limits for the vehicle's speed and stereo volume.
In government crash testing, the 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid scored a perfect five out of five stars for all occupants in both frontal and side impacts. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Mariner Hybrid its highest ranking of "Good" for frontal offset and side crash protection. Though we haven't performed instrumented testing on a 2011 Escape/Mariner Hybrid, we expect braking from 60 mph to be poor and probably a bit longer than the disappointing 138-foot distance of a V6 Limited Escape we tested recently.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mariner Hybrid's cabin is a pleasantly functional space, thanks in part to a huge center console with removable bins. Satin-finish metallic accents and available leather upholstery add a premium sheen. However, the Mariner is starting to feel its age in terms of comfort and space. Up front, the seating position feels upright and trucklike and there's no telescoping steering wheel, making the driver feel as if he is hovering above the controls.
The rear seat is as flat as a pirate ship's plank and offers neither a recline function nor fore/aft adjustability. What's more, folding the seatback down is a royal pain, requiring the headrests to be removed and the bottom cushions to be tumbled forward, a consequence of offering a flat load floor. Cargo volume stands at a useful 29 cubic feet with the rear seat in place and 66 cubic feet when that seat is folded down -- not bad given the Mariner's relatively compact footprint.
Many drivers interested in hybrid vehicles expect diminished performance compared to their conventionally powered counterparts, but the 2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid should satisfy most drivers. Under hard acceleration, the Mariner Hybrid feels sprightly, though the engine can get rather noisy when you're asking for full power.
The ride quality is fine for vehicles in this class, but the 300 additional pounds from the hybrid powertrain and batteries tend to add some body roll and reduce some of the crossover's agility. Though braking distances are poor, the brake pedal has a solid feel to it once the driver gets used to its slightly touchy action.