Pros: Full-Frame. Full-Size, Rear-Wheel Drive. Powerful V-8 Engine. Excellent Value.
Cons: Looks too much like Ford Crown Victoria
My girlfriend's 3-month old Chevrolet Impala was smashed by a hit-and-run driver last Friday. The repair is going to take about a week and a half to repair and cost $1,900 excluding the rental car. She went to Enterprise Car Rental and was given a dirty Dodge Intrepid and wasn't happy. She complained to the manager and he asked her if a Grand Marquis was satisfactory.
I had once owned a 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis LS and it was a wonderful car. My girlfriend's rental vehicle wasn't quite as nice as my '89 LS since it was a base GS model, but it was still quite impressive despite being a plainer car. The car was finished in silver-metallic with a dark gray cloth interior. The car was shod with P225/60R16 all-season tires on steel rims with full wheel covers. These chromed units, unlike so many other plastic wheel covers, did an excellent imitation of sport wheels. The LS has very attractive 16" alloy wheels. The tires featured very narrow white-stripe tires, about 1/4" wide. I'm sure they were a reluctant gesture toward those who still prefer whitewalls, (I do) but I would've liked at least a 1" stripe.
The Mercury Grand Marquis, along with the Ford Crown Victoria, is the last of traditional American cars with full-frame and rear-wheel drive. The Grand Marquis is a very attractive car, but looks more and more like its Ford Crown Victoria sister than ever. The only difference seems to be a huge vertical-tooth grill and a wide strip of red reflective plastic between taillights nearly identical to the Crown Vic. The only difference was a short strip of chrome. This middle portion wasn't even illuminated much to my disappointment. The only resemblance my '89 Merc bore to the Ford was its doors and roofline. It had a very attractive Lincoln-esqe front-end clip and wall-to-wall taillights in the rear.
The Grand Marquis GS is powered by Ford's ubiquitous 4.6L SOHC V-8 giving 220 hp @ 4750 rpm and 265 ft-lbs torque @ 4000 rpm . This engine is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. The car provided excellent, smooth and quiet acceleration, though it seemed a bit hesitant pulling away from lights. A neat feature is a button on the end of the column-mounted shift lever that allows the driver to disengage overdrive. A green light will indicate "O/D Off" on the instrument panel. The car seemed to handle well, but not quite as well as I remember my '89 model. The 2001 Marquis looks and feels like a much larger car. The brakes stopped the car in relatively short distances and with very little nosedive in panic stops.
The instrument panel is humongous! I makes the interior of the car seem a mile wide. The instruments are small circular gauges mounted in an oblong binnacle. I really loved the fact that the Grand Marquis has FULL INSTRUMENTATION! There was a temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge and ammeter in place of the virtually useless tachometer found in other manufacturers automatic-equipped cars. A plethora of idiot lights supplemented these gaugues. The cruise control buttons were mounted in the steering wheel per Ford practice since time immemorial. An aluminum Mercury "M" logo in the hub provided a touch of class. One thing that I haven't figured out is how to activate the high beams. I pull back on the turn signal stalk and a blue light comes on to tell me the high beams are engaged, but it doesn't click. I have to hold the stalk to keep the beams on! My 1989 model would just need one click and the high beams were illuminated. I never learned sine the rental company failed to provide an owner's manual. Could somebody please tell me how the high beams work?
The factory stereo w/cassette provided crisp, clear sound but seemed mounted so far away from the driver, one would need gorilla arms to reach the controls. The AC, however, had controls that were easy to reach and understand. The AC rapidly cooled the car. I have always been happy with Ford's efficient and effective air conditioning and heating systems. This Grand Marquis didn't disappoint me.
Unlike too many of today's cars, the Grand Marquis had a generous amount of imitation wood on the lower portion of the instrument panel to break up the monotony of flat blacks and grays. Unfortunately, it seems they forgot how to make fake timber. It looked really fake as opposed to the imitation wood I remember in my 1989 model. The glove box was at least generously sized.
The gray cloth seats were very comfortable and supportive. I felt as if I were sitting in my La-Z-Boy at home. There are logical Mercedes-esque power seat controls on the driver's side door. The passenger seat in this Marquis was manual. Buttons for the gas cap release and trunk release were also located on the driver's door near sturdy compartments for maps and cassette tapes. I loved these storage bins on my 1989 model as well as on this 2001 model. My '94 Deville has soft pockets in lieu of these hard plastic containers. I can't fit as many tapes in these pockets as I can the Marquis' bins. Unfortunately, an "express down" for the driver's window was absent. The rear compartment is cavernous. The rear seat also features two points for mounting child seats.
The trunk is a wide and as deep as a well. I couldn't believe all the groceries my girlfriend and I could fit in there with plenty of room to spare! There is also an inside trunk release should some criminal type carjack you and toss you in the trunk. Hopefully, the desperado won't notice it. Unfortunately, this car had the virtually worthless "space-saver" tire. Why don't car manufactures just forgo euphemisms like "space-saver" tire and just call it what it is - "cost-saver" tire.
All-and-all I actually had a lot of fun driving the Grand Marquis GS, though I'd spend the extra money to get the more super-deluxe LS. I'll feel sorry when she turns this car in later this week. The Grand Marquis is on my short list of cars to buy when I go shopping in the near future. What can I say? It is a lot of car for very little money and perhaps one of autodom's greatest values.