The car was purchased in ’08 as an ’08 model. So far, my wife and I have totaled 29k miles on it. While we both drive the car regularly, it was meant as a replacement for my car and intended primarily for me. The main draw of shopping in the compact SUV (CUV) market was that we wanted a car with four wheel drive, similar room and utility of an SUV, but with better gas mileage and drivability.
The car was cross shopped with the Honda CRV, Hyundai Tucson, and Toyota Rav4, as well as the Mariner’s counterparts (Escape & Tribute). Our final price out the door was $24k with 4wd, V6, leather, moon roof, standard power options, and a premium sound system with 6 disc in-dash CD changer and mp3 input jack. Pros
The Mariner’s exterior looks were one of the main deciding factors in its favor over its competitors that we test drove. The ’08 Mariner received a face lift and one noticeable location was in the front where larger headlights and a much more prominent grille were added. As small of a detail as this sounds, it actually considerably helped the front end and overall look of the car by giving it a much more masculine truck-like
look of a full sized SUV. Noteworthy of the Grille was the fact that while the Escape and Tribute share much of the same platform as the Mariner, the prominent chrome grille and overall front end looked much classier on the Mariner, giving it a far more high-end look than accomplished by the Escape and Tribute (Tribute also has different headlights). This higher end Mercury touch also includes the rear bumper where a simple and sleek Mercury chrome bumper plate stretches across instead of the much cheaper looking plastic of the Escape rear bumper. Also helping this overall truck-like
look is the much larger tires (235/70 R16) that come on the standard 16” wheels (17” was an option) and fender flares. While this look may not be as important to some, I had always had a slight problem with typical compact SUVs such as a Rav4 in that they often tended to look as small as they were and shared more physical exterior characteristics with a car than a truck. This was in contrast with an SUV which shares most of its characteristics with a truck as opposed to a car. The Mariner, while still being a smaller sized SUV much like its competitors and driving very much like a car, comes across looking much more aggressive and deserving of four wheel drive. It may not be a true off road vehicle, but it certainly looks the part. The beefier tires have also helped in traction as well as the unfortunate “curb check”.
The Mariner gets high marks from my wife and I for traction and safety as we can personally attest through experience. We have driven it through both snow and rain and it excels in both. The four wheel anti-lock brakes work well and despite being disc brakes in the front and drums in the back, the Mariner stops extremely well, having a shorter stopping distance than our much lighter Jetta with four wheel disc brakes and anti-lock brakes. The AdvanceTrac with RSC (roll stability control) and Intelligent 4 Wheel Drive systems work very well. Driving on icy roads, we have come into situations where the car would have begun to slide with normal driving and braking. However, the car makes quick and intuitive adjustments that correct any problems before they occur. One word of advice is that when this engages the first time, it is surprising since the car takes control of the brakes and also makes a lot of noise. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening.
The interior has a nice treatment of updated “Ice Blue” gauges and interior light treatments. I’ve never quite seen this shade of blue in a car before, but it definitely stands out and seems modern.
The interior has some functional pros that have to be mentioned as well. The stereo and climate controls are very easy to use, the heads-up stereo display is a nice touch, and the mp3 input jack (although very common in a lot of cars now) is very useful. The driver's seat also has full power adjustments, both forward/reverse, up/down, and tilt. Cup holders in the front are large and simple, both pros in my book. Also, if you happen to have extra drinks, the rear drink holders are accessible to the front relatively easily as well due to placement. Storage space in the front can be found everywhere as well. The seats are very comfortable and the leather is actually quite soft. The rear seats provide a lot of room and easily seat three full grown adults. This is quite capable because there is no center drive shaft hump in the cabin that typically causes the center passenger in the rear to have to sit with either their legs to the side of the hump, or resting up on top of the hump. The floor is completely flat all the way across in the back.
The cargo area in the back is quite large and very functional as it is almost a perfect cube of space. With four adult passengers on a road trip, we have had no problem accommodating for all of us and our luggage in the back. The real beauty of the back, however, is only seen when folding the rear seats down. If you need extra cargo room for larger items, the rear seats can be folded over and down completely flat in two easy steps. This in turn makes for a huge flat rear cargo area. A testament to the size is that I’ve been able to fit an entire loveseat lengthwise straight in and close the rear hatch with no problem—the loveseat was not small either!
The ride and handling in this car is very good and on par with its competitors. Parking is as easy as a car. The V6 option gives it a noticeable power difference from all of the other comparable CUVs test driven. This also helps in giving a much better engine note as well. Cons
While the power is probably best in class compared to the Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4, and Hyundai Tucson, the automatic transmission is not a welcome partner. Acceleration is optimal from a dead stop, but in certain situations such as merging onto an interstate, the automatic has numb feeling and doesn’t make intuitive gear selection for optimal acceleration. Stomping on the gas can be hit or miss because of this. While this isn’t a deal breaker and the car is still better equipped for passing and accelerating than any other car comparatively, it is unfortunate that such a poor transmission was paired with such a capable engine. Fortunately for ’09 V6 Mariner owners, this mistake was corrected with a much better 6spd automatic.
I have to mention the interior as one of my biggest cons. Articles have mentioned that Ford has now come a long way with their interior design and plastic quality comparable to foreign brands. I unfortunately have to disagree based on this car and two other Ford based models I have personally experienced. The first problem is in the overall design of the interior. It is functional and ergonomic, but all attempts at being aesthetically pleasing are an utter failure. The dash and console are a strange attempt at being both modern, masculine, and retro at the same time, with hard and soft edges coming together in odd fashion. We chose a tan interior because it had the options we wanted with the silver exterior we wanted. However, the interior in tan is horridly done, with at least five variations of tan used between the dash, seats, and carpet and at least 8 colors coupled at last count. Even the carpet mats contrast the carpet itself, having a darker tan (almost brown) tone compared to the carpet underneath. The dash has mismatching dark and light shades of tan mixed together, a silver center console, and chrome accents. There is also some black thrown in there as well. The plastics themselves are cheap in some areas (doors and center console) and decent in others (dash, arm rest, and pillars). Finally, there are the horrible LARGE gaps where the plastic pieces in the dash and console come together, none of which are present in the competitors mentioned above. Having seen the exiting interior that this one replaced, I’m at odds as to which I actually prefer (in a perfect world, I’d choose neither). The older interior on the Escape/Mariner was much simpler and at the very least, it didn’t offend anyone’s sense of taste. However, it was very cheap looking and dated. This new interior, on the other hand, steps up the idea that this car is meant to be more upscale, but with too many flaws. If you can find it with the options you want, choose the grey/black interior, it has better contrast and color selection, with the major problem then only being the gaps.
The wear and tear can be split into two reviews. While the exterior seems to be doing well after a year, the interior has some problem spots. Overall, the interior has kept up well compared to other cars I’ve owned in a similar amount of time and use. There is no evident cracking or color changing. However, the silver painted plastic used on the door arm rests, and the center console (surrounding the stereo, shifter, cup holders, and climate controls) are all very prone to scratching. After only a year of light to regular use, all mentioned silver surfaces have noticeable scratches, with the worst being the bottom of the cup holders.
The gas mileage is hit or miss as well. While long highway drives have treated us to mpg as high as 26, it seems that anytime you add an equal amount of city driving into the equation, the mileage drops off considerably. All city driving has given us as bad as 19 mpg. I suppose that’s not that bad for a vehicle with this much room and size, but it certainly won’t compete with the 4 cyl counterparts.
My final con is that the Mariner gets a good bit of road noise at highway speeds. I'm assuming this is from the 70 series truck-like
tires on it. While it isn't a deal breaker and you get used to it, it won't have a car like quiet inside the cabin. Final Thoughts
The Mercury Mariner seems to be a typical member of the newer Ford lineup. While they give you great utility for the price, they still don’t have that polished image and attention to detail in the interior. The car itself is very functional, safe, and will not leave you wanting in terms of the SUV side of things. Cargo, passengers, bad weather, and commuting are all things that it will excel at. However, refinement is lacking and gas mileage is only competitive enough to stay in the running. If some of the other mentioned pros are worth it to you, you can receive a huge jump in gas mileage by purchasing the Mariner in either I-4 or hybrid, although you will lose out in the power advantage and grunt of the V6. Overall, I am not disappointed with the purchase, although I would stress for individuals to assess what they are looking for when purchasing a CUV and which side of the car/SUV line you would like to fall closer to. The V6 4wd Mariner falls closer to the SUV side of that line. This car is a great compromise for someone that wants a full sized SUV, but needs something more sensible.
Amount Paid (US$):
2008Model and Options:
Premier, 4wd, V6