New Car/Review

1998 Mercury Grand Marquis LS

by Carey Russ

mercury

SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide


The Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford Motor Company is in the midst of change. It recently moved its headquarters from Dearborn, Michigan to Irvine, California in order to get a new outlook on the world. New products, aimed for younger buyers and exemplified by the Cougar coupe, are being introduced. But the old-line Mercury owners are not being forgotten. The Grand Marquis is the Mercury car designed for them and anyone else desiring spaciousness and traditional comfort in a car, not a sport-utility vehicle. Those buyers are very important to Mercury. The Grand Marquis is Mercury's best- selling car, and has one of the highest customer loyalty ratings in its market segment. It has been significantly improved for the 1998 model year.

The 1998 Grand Marquis is one of the last of the once-common full-sized front-engined, rear-wheel drive, body-on-frame sedans. Two trim levels, GS and LS, are offered. Just like the cars from heyday of the genre in the 1950s and 1960s, the Grand Marquis has plenty of interior room and trunk space, and a V8 engine. But the V8 is a modern overhead cam design, and for this year the chassis features a new and unusual Watt's linkage rear suspension for improved ride and handling.

Many years ago, I learned how to drive in a one of the Grand Marquis's direct forebears. The new Mercury Grand Marquis LS that I just spent a week with was similar in size and general design to its ancestor, but that was about it. While having the space and power of the classic American sedan, the 1998 Grand Marquis is every inch a modern car.

APPEARANCE: Changes to the front of the 1998 Grand Marquis are subtle, highlighted by a larger grille, new headlights, and a redesigned bumper. The long, sculpted hood has also been mildly restyled. The front restyling, although handsome, is not immediately apparent. The rear of the car, however, is very different from that of last year. The new trunk lid has a slight ducktail spoiler, and bold new taillights and bright chrome trim give a distinctive look. Mercury's new Grand Marquis shows a definite resemblance to the its close cousin, the Lincoln Town Car. It is less flamboyant than the Town Car, but still a substantial automobile with the look of classic American luxury. The LS model is enhanced with pinstriping on the sides. The cross-spoke alloy wheels that are part of the handling package are an interesting choice.

COMFORT: "Spaciousness" is the operative word inside of the Grand Marquis. The wide interior has semi-contoured bench seats front and rear. Very few sedans made today have real room for six adult passengers. The Grand Marquis is one of the few, although the center front position is best used for short distances as it straddles the split in the front split bench seat. But a steering column-mounted shift lever, relatively flat floor, and good width make it quite possible. Interior design is classic upper-middle class American sedan with leather upholstery and woodgrain and chrome trim on the doors and instrument panel. My test car had the optional "Ultimate Package" of comfort, safety, and convenience items including interior amenities such as electronic instrumentation, 6-way power split front seat adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic air conditioning, and a premium AM/FM/cassette stereo. The digital instrumentation was far better than the old "video game" style used by other manufacturers in the past and presented all data very legibly. The air conditioning was very good, even in triple-digit heat. The trunk is wide and deep, with plenty of room.

SAFETY: Both 1998 Mercury Grand Marquis models have 4-wheel disc brakes for secure stopping. Antilock brakes and all-speed traction control are available.

ROADABILITY: The Mercury Grand Marquis is in its element cruising on the highway. Credit the "Precision Trac" suspension, with its improved independent front suspension design and the innovative Watt's link location for the rear axle. With the "Handling Package", air springs replace the standard coils for automatic load leveling and ride comfort under all load and road conditions. The result is the classic soft ride of full-sized sedans of the past, but with much better control. Poor road surfaces are handled without excessive body motion.

PERFORMANCE: The Handling Package has performance benefits in addition to ride quality. A dual exhaust system and other changes increase the 4.6-liter single overhead cam V8's horsepower rating from 200 to 215. A numerically-higher axle ratio improves acceleration. So equipped, the Grand Marquis has plenty of power for merging, passing, and climbing hills. It can tow up to 2000 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS: The classic American sedan lives on in the form of the Mercury Grand Marquis.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price               $ 23,790
Price As Tested          $ 28,235
Engine Type              single overhead cam V8
Engine Size              4.6 liters / 280 cu. in.
Horsepower               215 @ 4500
Torque (lb-ft)           275 @ 3000
Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length       114.4 in. / 212.0 in.
Curb Weight              3917 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    18.2
Fuel Capacity            19.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular (87 octane)
Tires                    P225/60 R16 Goodyear Eagle LS
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / solid disc, antilock optional
Suspension, front/rear   independent short and long arm, air
                         springs / solid axle with 4-bar link, 
                         air springs, and Watt's linkage
Drivetrain               front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      N/A  /  N/A  /  14
0 to 60 mph                   9.0 sec (est)
Coefficient of Drag (cd)      0.37

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Handling package: 3.27:1 rear axle ratio,
  dual exhaust system, lacy spoke aluminum
  wheels, rear air suspension           $   535
Ultimate package: electronic instrumentation,
  dual 6-way power seats, leather-wrapped
  steering wheel, antilock brakes, traction
  control, automatic air conditioning, 
  premium sound system, electronic
  auto-dim mirror with compass          $ 2,400
CA etc emissions                        $   170
Destination charge                      $   605

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