- Richer look than Ford Escape
- New two-tier instrument panel
- Blue interior lighting
- Uninspiring driving character
- Not as refined as some competitors
- Lusterless engines
The 2008 Mercury Mariner is the nicest Ford Escape you can buy, but it remains a midpack performer in the crowded compact SUV/crossover class.
In today's world of luxury bathroom tissue dispensers, fancy olive oils, and signature-series eyeglasses, one would think a fancier version of a solid SUV might be a hot seller. The concept sure works for the Acura RDX, which is a very nicely revised version of the Honda CR-V. So what's up with the 2008 Mercury Mariner?
For Mercury, 2008 is the year its compact SUV got a significant freshening. This effort coincides with an update of the Mariner's sibling, the popular Ford Escape. The 2008 Mercury Mariner's conventional powertrains--a 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter V-6--are left unchanged and produce 153 and 200 horsepower, respectively. A five-speed manual is standard with the four-cylinder. A four-speed automatic is optional on the four and standard on the V-6. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional.
So what changed on the 2008 Mercury Mariner? Cumulatively, the updates add refinement to the Mariner while sprucing up the SUV's style in the process. A new hood and front fender design totally change this compact SUV's profile, making it look a bit more squared off. New taillamps revamp the view from the rear.
Some changes you can't see are truly transparent. One is the thicker windshield with an added noise-absorbing laminate. The second are the thicker side windows, also upgraded for noise abatement. To reduce sound levels even further, the doors have more sound insulation, the carpeting is thicker, and the headliner has an added acoustic barrier.
The 2008 Mercury Mariner interior is also significantly updated, with a completely new center stack, as well as revised seats and door panels. The new design puts the main display up near eye level, helping drivers keep their gaze higher and closer to the road. Digital readouts for the audio and climate control systems show up on top, but glare can inhibit visibility. Lighting for the entire gauge set is now blue; it's slick-looking and a true boon for those with color blindness (approximately 1 out of 100 males) that makes reading red LEDs all but impossible. The center console is also new and yawns widely enough to swallow a laptop. Room for passengers is generous for this size vehicle, but the 2008 Mariner is not the class leader in room or comfort.
TheCarConnection.com team spent most of its time behind the wheel of a V-6 Mariner and found its power to be more than acceptable, even with three passengers aboard. Merging onto quick-moving freeways was never an issue. However, while the engine was smooth enough, it sounded thrashy and not very refined when pushed hard. Like the engine, the ride was fine until you pushed this compact SUV a bit; then the chassis reacted with some bounciness and a general unwillingness to enjoy being driven with any verve.