New Car Review

1996 MERCURY GRAND MARQUIS

by Tom Hagin

Grand Marquis Photo

SEE ALSOL Mercury Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,975
     Price As Tested                                    $ 22,465
     Engine Type                             4.6 liter V8 w/EFI*
     Engine Size                                 281 cid/4605 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 4250 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               265 @ 3250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   114.4"/77.8"/211.8
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3796 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  20.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      215/70R15
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 85 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.36

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/25/20
     0-60 MPH                                        8.8 seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       16.8 seconds @ 85 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                        N/A
     * Electronic fuel injection

Full-sized four-door sedans have typified American motoring for over 50 years, but by 1997, new car buyers will have two choices among V8- powered, body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive American sedans: the Mercury Grand Marquis and its corporate twin, the Ford Crown Victoria. Favored among "mature" drivers, police services and those wishing heavy-duty towing capacity along with the virtues of a plush sedan, the 1996 Grand Marquis we road test this week remains virtually unchanged from last year's version.

OUTSIDE - Grand Marquis underwent major reconstruction back in 1992, giving it a slippery shape and flush glass to decrease wind noise and increase fuel mileage, and to enhance its body shell stiffness for improved drivability. The restyle did give a perceived impression of being a smaller vehicle than the one it replaced, but there is no mistaking that Grand Marquis is a large car - although its smoothly rounded contours carry its massive size quite well. A minor exterior redesign last year brought a new grille, tail lamps and front and rear bumper fascias. The large overhang behind the rear wheels shows that a cavernous trunk awaits massive amounts of luggage.

INSIDE - Things inside Grand Marquis have changed only slightly since last year, when a redesigned dashboard and new seating became available. The car comes in either GS or upscale LS trim, and both are offered with a full compliment of standard features. Items such as power windows, outside mirrors, (also heated) tilt steering column and an AM/FM cassette stereo are all no-charge, while optional packages include power door locks, carpeted floor mats and leather upholstery. Grand Marquis can carry six passengers with its front and rear bench seats, but over the long haul five is a more reasonable number since the center positions are less comfortable than those next to the doors. Things are roomy inside, though, with lots of headroom and legroom, and plenty of space in which to stretch. Automatic on/off headlights are standard, as is full instrumentation and a rear window defogger.

ON THE ROAD - Adhering to tradition, the Mercury is V8-powered, but unlike America's full-sized behemoths of the past, Grand Marquis uses a sophisticated 4.6 liter overhead camshaft engine. To enable the car to move at a brisk pace, efficiency replaces the massive cubic inches of days gone by. Based on Ford's modular V8 used in various states in many Ford and Lincoln-Mercury vehicles, it gives 190 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque in standard form. Buyers can opt for an engine upgrade which will bring an additional 20 horsepower and five more lb-ft of torque simply by adding dual exhaust. Gear-changing duties are handled by a four-speed automatic transmission, electronically-controlled with overdrive, which helped bring us a maximum of almost 27 highway miles per gallon, although that figure came with extremely frugal driving. Our 20 mpg overall average was more reasonable.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Grand Marquis' suspension is a mix of tradition and high tech. Full-frame construction is beefy and a throwback to the old days, while gas-pressurized shock absorbers and speed-sensitive, variable-assist steering add modern hardware to its handling. Its otherwise large car-like handling can be improved with an optional suspension upgrade, which adds larger tires and stabilizer bars, as well as alloy wheels, a revised rear axle ratio and a power steering fluid cooler. Ford builds its police cars this way, and the upgrades make the large car handle quite well, remaining flat in corners and all but eliminating understeer. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all Grand Marquis models, while its optional anti-lock braking system (ABS) also adds traction control to reduces wheelspin on slippery surfaces. This is a handy option to have on rear-drive vehicles.

SAFETY - Dual airbags are standard, as are three-point front safety belts with adjustable shoulder anchors. Side-impact protection meets 1997 Federal standards, while ABS and traction control are optional.

OPTIONS - ABS and traction control add $670, while the handling package is a $1,020 extra, or $600 with some packaged items deleted.

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