2009 Mercury Mariner Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 20, 2008

The 2009 Mercury Mariner is an attractive and capable compact SUV, now with vastly improved performance.

Editors from TheCarConnection.com have driven the new 2009 Mercury Mariner. Our team has also read the range of reviews for the Mariner to develop this complete review. This comprehensive research enables TheCarConnection.com the ability to deliver expert opinions that will help shoppers make a smart decision if they're considering compact SUVs.

The Mercury Mariner is a solid and stylish five-passenger, compact SUV that has been completely updated for 2009.

Although the 2009 Mercury Mariner is a carlike, crossover SUV, it's styled more like a traditional, upright SUV, enriched with a tasteful chrome grille and accents. Unlike some SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, there's no mistaking the Mariner's design intent; it's an SUV from any angle. Inside, materials and appointments were extensively upgraded for 2008, including matte-metallic accents and a two-tiered instrument panel. The blue-green instrument lighting is extremely easy to read.

Both of the engines for the 2009 Mercury Mariner have been overhauled to deliver better fuel economy and more power. The standard engine on the Mariner is a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder that now produces 171 horsepower. If you're looking for more power, the significantly enhanced 3.0-liter V-6 makes 240 horsepower, up 40 hp from 2008. It's easy to feel this 20 percent power increase. A responsive and fuel-efficient six-speed automatic is newly offered with either engine (standard with the V-6).

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Mercury estimates that both the four- and six-cylinder Mariner models are each at least one second quicker to 60 mph than 2008 models. With the four-cylinder and standard five-speed manual, mileage is 22/28 mpg city/highway, or a still-respectable 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway with the V-6 and six-speed automatic. If maximum economy is your goal, the Mariner is also offered with a sophisticated single-mode hybrid powertrain that we've driven and like.

Four-wheel drive (an on-demand system) is available with either engine, but don't be confused by the 4WD badge. The Mariner is not designed for off-road use, but feel free to tackle gravel driveways with abandon.

The 2009 Mercury Mariner also rides and handles much better than the previous version. The suspension has been completely retuned; new struts, shock absorbers, and sway bars have significantly refined the ride.

The 2009 Mercury Mariner hasn't been afflicted by the super-size phenomena. It provides ample room for four adults, but driving with three across the rear bench seat is best left for shorter trips. The front seats are comfortable, and the view out the little SUV is well above sedan-roof height. The rear seats are livable, but the bottom cushions are a bit short for adults. Total passenger volume is 99.4 cubic feet, smaller than some other compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V.

Not all is perfect inside the Mariner. TheCarConnection.com's experts find that folding the rear seats is a convoluted task. The rear cushions fold forward on hinges at their leading edge. The three headrests must be removed. Then one latch per seatback must be released. The result is a flat load floor offering up 66.3 cubic feet of cargo area, but there's no storage for the headrests.

The 2009 Mercury Mariner gets high marks for safety. Four front airbags are standard, as are side-curtain airbags that extend into the second row. The Mariner earns five stars for frontal and side-impact NHTSA crash tests and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control are also standard.

In terms of new features, the 2009 Mercury Mariner is at the leading edge, offering the SYNC interface system that Ford developed with Microsoft. Even more important than its iPod interface is its ability to provide hands-free operation of Bluetooth cell phones. Sirius Travel Link, another option, provides navigation plus real-time traffic, weather, and fuel prices among other features, and can be easily controlled by voice commands. Some Mariner trim levels include LED-powered ambient lighting. The only feature Mariner lacks is a factory-fitted rear-seat DVD player.

If style is really (and we mean really) your thing, check out the black-and-white Voga package.


2009 Mercury Mariner


If you want a small SUV with full-fledged SUV styling, then the 2009 Mercury Mariner is one of the last remaining options.

A lot has changed on the Mercury Mariner when compared to last year's model, but one aspect left largely untouched is the styling. Both inside and out, the 2009 Mercury Mariner looks nearly identical to its 2008 sibling.

According to Edmunds the 2009 Mercury Mariner is a "compact SUV [that] is available in four trim levels: I4, V6, Premier I4 and Premier V6." Externally, these vehicles are all identical, though Edmunds notes that the Mercury Mariner "isn't exactly the freshest face on the block, sharing as it does a nine-year-old platform with its Ford Escape sibling." Car and Driver also mentions that "the design is old," pointing out that 2009 Mercury Mariners are "square-jawed and trucklike compared to their relatively effete competition." Despite the vehicle's aged design, reviewers at Cars.com appreciate the external styling treatment, claiming that "the Mariner is a congenial-looking rig" with its standard "16-inch alloy wheels."

The interior of the Mercury Mariner doesn't seem to offend in any of the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Cars.com reports that "the dashboard's contemporary shapes and angled surfaces look interesting enough, but there's a tactile severity that permeates the whole interior." Edmunds sees it in a positive light, praising the "upscale ambiance" inside the Mercury Mariner. ConsumerGuide reviewers like that "the climate controls are simple to use," but on the downside, they note that "the available navigation system absorbs most audio functions," and the end result is that "some simple adjustments are needlessly complicated" on the Mercury Mariner.

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2009 Mercury Mariner


A host of performance upgrades make the 2009 Mercury Mariner a more appealing choice for the discerning driver.

One of the biggest complaints TheCarConnection.com noticed about previous versions of the Mercury Mariner is that they were woefully underpowered and generally didn't perform very well. The 2009 Mercury Mariner is vastly improved in this area, with the twin benefits of better acceleration and increased fuel efficiency.

The 2009 Mercury Mariner lineup comes with two available engines. Car and Driver says, for 2009, the "base engine, an inline-four, [grows] from 2.3 liters to 2.5" and that "power increases from 153 horsepower to 171," while at the same time "a power upgrade―to the tune of 40 horsepower, for a total of 240―also has been bestowed on the 3.0-liter V-6." Initial reviews of these two new powerplants are glowing, with ConsumerGuide reporting that the four-cylinder "provides better than expected acceleration, even with AWD." Car and Driver adds that the power increase for the Mercury Mariner "chops 1.7 seconds from its 0-to-60 time, which now stands at 10.4 seconds." Motor Trend notes a similar improvement for the V-6-powered 2009 Mercury Mariner, which offers "a 0-60-mph time that Ford claims is a substantial 1.7 sec quicker than the 2008 model." Cars.com also observes that "the revamped V-6 launches you swiftly, coming on strong particularly in the 40-60 mph range."

One reason for the improved performance of both engines, aside from the obvious power boost, is the new transmission that puts the power to the wheels. Edmunds says "both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission," and reviewers just can't get enough of it. ConsumerGuide states that "the transmission shifts smoothly and kicks down quickly for more power," while Cars.com adds that "its highway responsiveness is just as good—and it has shorter gears for quicker passing-lane bursts, with none of the old drivetrain's droning exhaust." The Mercury Mariner can also tow a respectable amount with its new engine/transmission combination, and Edmunds reports that, "properly equipped, the V6 Mariner can tow up to 3,500 pounds."

As mentioned earlier, the extra power in the 2009 Mercury Mariner comes at no extra cost in terms of fuel consumption. In fact, fuel economy is "2 mpg better on the highway" for the V-6 (compared to last year), according to Cars.com. For the front-wheel-drive versions, the EPA estimates that the four-cylinder will get 20 mpg city and 28 on the highway, while the V-6 offers 2 mpg less than the four-cylinder.

Other aspects of the 2009 Mercury Mariner's performance have improved as well, with the notable exception of braking. Cars.com says "the suspension has been retuned for better handling, with a newly incorporated rear stabilizer bar." ConsumerGuide definitely notices the difference, remarking that handling is "a surprise given the age of Mariner's basic platform" and noting that "body lean in turns is well controlled, though the steering feels overboosted and vague." Unfortunately, the 2009 Mercury Mariner can't quite hold its own in the stopping department. Edmunds reviewers report "its rear brakes were downgraded to inferior drums in 2008," and for the 2009 model, it still holds true, so "the best stopping distance [they] could manage from 60 mpg was 154 feet—at least 25 feet longer than average, and frankly unacceptable."

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2009 Mercury Mariner

Comfort & Quality

With all the improvements made for the 2009 Mercury Mariner, it's disappointing that Ford didn't see fit to upgrade the materials.

The 2009 Mercury Mariner might aim for the upscale market, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the interior falls well short of any pretense of luxury. However, the Mercury Mariner does manage to redeem itself somewhat in the area of passenger comfort.

Cars.com reviewers have mixed reactions to the "five-seat Mariner's" front seats, which they say "have decent adjustment range, though the power driver's seat doesn't include a power recliner—you have to angle it forward and backward manually." Other than that minor issue, reviewers are impressed with what Edmunds calls the "comfortable interior," and they go on to say the "front seats are nicely shaped and supportive." Reviewers are very split on rear seat comfort, as ConsumerGuide attests that "knee clearance and foot space are well above the class norm" and "the supportive and well-countered seat is wide enough for short-trip three-adult comfort." On the negative side, Edmunds states that "the rear seat is as flat as a day-old soda and offers neither a recline function nor fore/aft adjustability." Cars.com agrees, noting "the seats have durable cushions, but the ones in back are a bit low to the ground, so tall passengers should expect to become familiar with their knees." In short, you'll have to visit your local Mercury dealer to see if the rear seat of the 2009 Mercury Mariner is the right fit for you.

Cargo space is respectable on the 2009 Mercury Mariner, but unlocking the Mercury Mariner's full potential in this regard can be a hassle. Cars.com points out that while the Mercury Mariner "offers a competitive 66.3 cubic feet of storage space" when the seats are folded, "the rear seats aren't adjustable, and folding them down is a frustrating three-step process: Remove the head restraints, flip the seat cushions forward and the seat down." Edmunds agrees "it's a pain to fold the rear seat down," but even when they're in place the "cargo volume stands at a useful 29 cubic feet." According to ConsumerGuide, the "cabin small-item storage is plentiful" as well and "includes several console bins, as well as pockets in all four doors."

The biggest complaints in this category arise from the poor overall quality found on the 2009 Mercury Mariner. ConsumerGuide says the Mercury Mariner's "interior is awash in hard, hollow plastics" and "the overall ambiance is low-buck," while their "extended-use test vehicle has some misaligned trim on the front-passenger door." Cars.com also rips into the Mercury Mariner's overall quality, claiming "the plastics look and feel cheap, with uneven gaps along some surfaces." The only positive sentiment comes from Edmunds, where reviewers declare that "fit and finish is good inside the 2009 Mercury Mariner," though this represents a very clear minority opinion.

Fortunately, despite its evident manufacturing quality flaws, the Mercury Mariner offers a subdued driving environment. Cars.com credits "last year's sound-deadening improvements" for making it "possible to enjoy instrumental music without cranking the stereo" when driving at highway speeds. ConsumerGuide adds that "wind and road noise are also present but are not objectionably loud."

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2009 Mercury Mariner


The 2009 Mercury Mariner has a few safety drawbacks: drum brakes in the rear, and a lower-than-typical rollover rating.

Many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com mention that the 2009 Mercury Mariner rides on an underlying design that’s at least nine years old, but it manages to perform well in crash tests.

Both the IIHS and NHTSA award the Mercury Mariner their highest possible marks in every impact category. In NHTSA tests, the 2009 Mercury Mariner earns a five-star rating in both frontal impact tests, as well as both of the side impact tests. The IIHS also gives the Mercury Mariner its highest possible rating, "good," in both the frontal offset and side impact tests. Furthermore, the IIHS names the 2009 Mercury Mariner a Top Safety Pick, citing the Mercury Mariner's "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and standard electronic stability control."

In addition to an electronic stability control system, the Mercury Mariner comes with all the safety features expected on SUVs. ConsumerGuide reports that "available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags and front side airbags." Edmunds also notes that "a rollover sensor" for the curtain airbags is standard, but on the downside, they point out that the Mercury Mariner's "rear brakes were downgraded to inferior drums in 2009, and the '09 Mariner continues to bear this badge of shame." TheCarConnection.com’s editors remark that drum brakes bring added weight and inferior high-speed braking ability, but they cost less.

One other thing to point out is that the Mercury Mariner is one of just a few small sport-utility vehicles to be rated three stars for rollover from NHTSA, pointing to its higher chance to roll over than lower or wider vehicles.

Some SUVs are notorious for their poor visibility, but the compact Mercury Mariner doesn't suffer from this common SUV criticism. In fact, ConsumerGuide proclaims that the Mercury Mariner offers "fine all-around visibility," thanks to its commanding driving position and large windows.

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2009 Mercury Mariner


Yes, the 2009 Mercury Mariner can be equipped with a ton of features, but no, they don't come cheap.

The 2009 Mercury Mariner offers some cool, cutting-edge technological features, but unfortunately most are available only as expensive options.

The Mercury Mariner is available in two trim levels, but Car and Driver contends there are "no meaningful differences between models." This isn't entirely true, however; Edmunds states that standard features on the base models include "full power accessories, air-conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a four-speaker CD stereo...and keyless entry," while the Mercury Mariner Premier models add "rear parking sensors, ambient interior lighting, leather/Alcantara upholstery, a power drive seat...[and] Sync." SYNC, which Edmunds says is "Ford's exclusive...multimedia integration system," wins high praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and Edmunds goes on to say that "the alluring Sync system gives [the 2009 Mercury Mariner] a technological edge over its compact SUV rivals."

SYNC is one of the many options available for the base Mercury Mariner; others include "dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, a moonroof, upgraded leather and a navigation system," according to Cars.com. For the Mercury Mariner Premier, Edmunds piles on more options, such as "17-inch wheels, step bars, a moonroof, [and] an upgraded seven-speaker stereo system." For those looking to bundle options, ConsumerGuide reports that the Mercury Mariner is available with an Amenities package that groups a "rear-obstacle-detection system [and] dual-zone automatic climate controls," while the Sun and Sync package for the 2009 Mercury Mariner base adds a "power sunroof, iPod adapter, wireless cell phone link, [and] voice recognition."

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