The Car Connection Mercury Mariner Overview
Ford sold the nearly identical Escape for many years before adding the Mariner for 2005. Compared to the Escape, the Mariner is priced quite closely but has different styling details and fewer model variations.
From the time of its introduction, the base engine in the Mariner was a 153-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, but a 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 was optional. While the Escape was offered with a standard five-speed manual transmission in some trims, the Mariner could only be had with a four-speed automatic, with front- or all-wheel drive. Despite the somewhat rugged silhouette and cues, the Mariner was intended for on-road use, primarily.
For 2008, the Mercury Mariner was given a slightly smoother look, along with a significantly improved interior with a new seat design and all-new materials. The Mariner also received electric power steering in '08. Then for 2009, the Mariner got a second round of significant changes—this time mostly powertrain related. A new base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine made 171 horsepower, and the output of the 3.0-liter V-6 was upgraded to 240 hp; both engines were mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission and had improved refinement and fuel-efficiency altogether.
Also from 2006 on, the Mariner was also offered in Hybrid form. Also virtually identical to the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Mariner Hybrid employed a full hybrid system combining an electric motor system with a special version of the four-cylinder engine. A 2.5-liter four was phased in with the other powertrain changes for '09. As such, the Mariner Hybrid can achieve up to 34 mpg city and 31 highway, acceleration that's about the same as the base four-cylinder.
The Mercury Mariner rides on an aged platform, yet its appeal is still strong. Thank Ford and Mercury for being cautious with styling and preserving a more traditional look in these compact utes. That boxy look transforms to a lot of interior space; four adults can fit for longer trips, and the seats fold down for a remarkably tall, boxy cargo space. The interior, while certainly not luxurious, is more charming than basic, and the retuned ride and handling that these models received over the past couple of years makes them less pitchy than in the past. Safety scores have also been good, with electronic stability control made standard from 2008 on.
Again despite the age of the Mariner's design, it's been kept ahead of the pack with regard to features—including Ford's excellent SYNC voice-command interface and many of the options offered in larger SUVs.