Like its Milan sedan sibling, the 2011 Mercury Mariner crossover will be one of the final vehicles sold under its brand name. Ford announced in 2010 it would shut down the Mercury brand, leaving it with just Lincoln and Ford nameplates to apply to its wide range of sedans, trucks, and crossovers.
The Mariner had received fairly extensive updates in the 2008 and 2009 model years. For 2008, Ford smoothed over the aging Mariner's looks and fitted a new interior that organized controls a bit more effectively, but cloaked them in too much grainy plastic.
In 2009, the Mariner adopted more significant powertrain updates. A new base engine was added and the V-6 option gained more power. For 2011, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 171 horsepower, and the output of the 3.0-liter V-6 reaches 240 hp. Both versions are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission.
A third powertrain is offered in the Mariner Hybrid, which is virtually identical to the award-winning. The technology in this version of the Mariner crossover couples a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a full system combining an electric motor system. The result: gas mileage that's EPA-rated at 34 mpg city and 31 highway, with acceleration similar to that in the stock four-cylinder.
Ride quality also improved with the 2008-2009 updates, but steering feel took a step back with the addition of electronic power steering in 2008.
Inside and out, the Mariner provides good passenger space and visibility, even if the general proportions give away the fact that its basic architecture dates back a decade. The Mariner's somewhat upright look translates into plenty of interior space. Four adults can fit for longer trips, and the seats fold down for a remarkably tall, boxy cargo space.
Safety scores for the Mariner crossover have been strong. Ford added standard electronic stability control in 2008, and other standard safety features include side and curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes.
Features like Ford's voice-controlled SYNC system have kept the Mariner somewhat up to speed. If you can find a Mariner at Mercury showrooms before the doors close for good, you'll likely be able to strike a sweet deal on a fairly nimble crossover with more than the usual dash of fuel economy.