Review: 2003 Mercury Marauder


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SEE ALSO Mercury Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    Mercury first used the Marauder name back in 1963. Although 
the name first referred to cars specially prepared for stock car 
racing and powered by a 410-horsepower 427 cubic inch V8, it was 
soon used for performance versions of street-legal Mercurys as 
well. Some of those even had the 427, but most were equipped with 
390-cubic inch V8s making anywhere from 250 to 330 horsepower. 
Use of the name lapsed between 1965 and 1969, when is was first 
resurrected. The 1969-70 Mercury Marauder was a giant-sized 
two-door ``tunnel-back'' hardtop designed to combine American-
style performance and luxury. A 360-horsepower, 429 cubic inch 
V8 motivated its 4,500-lb mass, but the end of the first muscle car 
era was fast approaching.
    Fast forward to 2003. The Marauder is back, again. And this one 
is the best by far. Based on the full-sized Grand Marquis sedan, 
today's Marauder combines the bad-boy spirit of a `Sixties muscle 
car with contemporary technology. It has the proper V8 in front, 
driving the rear wheels, but that V8 is a modern dual overhead cam 
unit and each of the four wheels is stopped by a large, vented disc 
brake. Unlike many of the old muscle cars, the 2003 Mercury 
Marauder is not adverse to stopping or cornering. I've been driving 
one for the past week, and haven't had a dull moment. It's a great 
highway cruiser that can entertain on a secondary road, too. The 
4.6-liter twin-cam V8 has all of the punch necessary, and the classic 
sound. The Marauder answers all the people who say ``they don't 
make them like they used to.'' Right - they make them better.

APPEARANCE: The Marauder has an undeniable presence. Drive 
one on the highway, and you'll be noticed, if covertly. Traffic 
around you might even slow. This perhaps has something to do 
with its similarity in shape to its cousin, the Ford Crown Victoria, 
the most popular police car in the country. And, with its 
monochrome black color scheme - the only one currently available - 
it has a very official look. But police cars are not usually outfitted 
with ultra-low profile tires - larger at the rear - and 18-inch forged 
alloy wheels. Nor do they sport smoked headlight covers and a 
blacked-out waterfall grille at the front and dual oversized exhaust 
tips at the rear for a subtle performance statement, with chrome 
trim around the side windows giving a luxury touch. 

COMFORT: Inside, the Marauder is an interesting mix of then and 
now. The wide, flat instrument panel comes as close as possible to 
1960s styling while meeting all current safety requirements, but a 
period ribbon-type speedometer is replaced by contemporary black-
on-silver analog gauges. ``Dot-matrix'' trim replaces the bright 
chrome of the old days as well. The oil pressure gauge and 
voltmeter are at the front of the console, where aftermarket gauges 
were commonly placed way back when. The shift lever is, properly, 
in the console. Space is not a problem, and leather seating and style 
say ``luxury''. The power-adjustable front seats are wide and flat, 
comfortable enough but lacking in side bolstering. Still, they are a 
considerable improvement over any `Sixties seats. The wide rear 
seat can hold three people easily. ``Cavernous'' is the best 
description of the trunk. Despite containing a full-sized spare tire at 
the front, over the rear axle, there are few if any car trunks with 
larger capacity. The optional trunk organizer, four covered 
compartments in the floor, adds convenience and holds small and 
medium-sized items securely.

SAFETY: No nostalgia in the safety department. The Marauder has 
four-wheel antilock vented disc brakes, front and side-impact air 
bags, and the ``Personal Safety System'' as standard equipment.

ROADABILITY: Thirty years of improvements in engineering, 
materials, and tire technology show. Although it's directly from the 
classic mold, with body-on-frame construction, and the engine in the 
front, driving the rear wheels through a solid axle, the Marauder far 
outshines any classic muscle car in the ride and handling department. 
The full perimeter frame uses both hydroformed steel and cast 
aluminum pieces in addition to regular steel for improved rigidity 
and crashworthiness and lighter weight. The independent short-and-
long arm front suspension uses Tokico monotube shock absorbers 
and a hefty 28mm ``Gripper'' front stabilizer bar system. Although a 
solid axle is used at the rear, upper and lower control arms and 
lateral Watt's linkage and air springs keep it very well-behaved, with 
no annoying and traction-destroying axle hop. Four-wheel vented 
antilock disc brakes stop the 4,200-lb Marauder very well, and the 
low-profile tires provide better traction and cornering force than any 
tires available 30 years ago. The rear tires are larger than the fronts 
to maximize the rear contact patch. The Marauder's ride is firm, but 
not uncomfortable. It handles remarkably well for its size, but its size 
shows in fast transitions. Refer to Physics 1A for the effects of mass 
and inertia....

PERFORMANCE: While the Marauder's 302 horsepower (at 5750 
rpm) is less than that of many classic-era muscle cars, those 302 
horses are more conservatively rated than in the old days. They 
could well be equivalent to 350 or more late-`60s ponies. In the late 
'60s, the Marauder's dual overhead cam, 32-valve fuel-injected 
engine would have been an exotic racing engine, far removed from 
the cast-iron pushrod overhead valve engines found in production 
cars of the day. Modern technology allows what then would have 
been a ``small block'' engine to make ``big block'' horsepower, 
although torque, at 318 lb-ft at 4300 rpm, is somewhat less than that 
of a large-displacement engine. Still, today's Marauder could 
probably beat any vintage street-legal example in a drag race, helped 
by good low-end torque, a fast-shifting four-speed automatic 
transmission, and acceleration-friendly axle ratio. The sound is 
absolutely right, a fine V8 rumble.

CONCLUSIONS: Yesterday and today successfully meet in 
Mercury's Marauder sports-luxury sedan.

SPECIFICATIONS
2003 Mercury Marauder

Base Price			$ 33,790
Price As Tested		        $ 35,045
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 32-valve aluminum 
                                 alloy V8
Engine Size			4.6 liters / 281 cu. in.
Horsepower			302 @ 5750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			318 @ 4300 rpm
Transmission			4-speed automatic 
Wheelbase / Length		114.7 in. / 212.0 in.
Curb Weight			4195 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        13.9
Fuel Capacity			19.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				F:P235/50 WR18 R:P245/55 WR18 
                                 BF Goodrich G-Force T/A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc,
                                 4-channel antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent short-and-long arm with 
                                 coil springs/
				 solid axle with Watt's linkage and air 
                                  springs
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 23 / 18
0 to 60 mph				est. 7.5 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)		0.36

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Trunk organizer			        $ 200
6-disc trunk-mounted CD changer	        $ 350
Destination and delivery		$ 705
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