Way forward. Bold Moves. Screw that. If America wants a bold, innovative car, they'll buy a Toyota. If they want something honest, inexpensive and comfortable, they'll buy a Ford. If they want an honest car with added spizzarkle, they'll spend a little more for a Mercury. Well, that's how it used to be, until Ford started building sub-par Japanese wanna-be's. Thankfully, the Blue Oval offers at least one rear-wheel drive automobile that stays true to the company's roots: the Mercury Grand Marquis.
Park the Grand Marquis next to its foreign counterparts and it's clear that the American luxobarge ain't livin' large no mo'. Snout-to-tail comparisons with a Camry require measurements smaller than a foot; millimeters differentiate their relative heights. Fortunately, the Marquis' ping-pong table hood and aircraft-carrier rear deck survive into the new millennium, while its broad shoulders continue to evoke memories of Officer Badass. Although the Marquis' police-a-like shape sends shivers down the spines of Boy Racers, the car's basic design is wildly inoffensive. This despite a new-for-'06 schnoz that blends-in about as well as a Speedo-wearing fat guy in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue.
The Grand Marquis' soft-touch keyless entry system ensures that its well-aged core clientele never lock themselves out, or loved ones in. (Take that, OnStar!) Even better, its portals swing open with all the reassuring monumentality of an '80's Mercedes S-Class. Once inside, the barge's beltline makes for excellent visibility and ensures easy parking maneuvers for one so broad of beam (the car, not its driver). Although the luscious nomenclature evokes memories of "Studio 54" decadence, the Grand Marquis' cabin sports a cabaret of dull and brittle coverings– in stark contrast to the fake tree trim glowing with radioactive glee on the car's massive dash.
The Grand Marquis' appointments can't hold a candle to a Camry's, but the big Merc is still leagues ahead of the Chrysler 300's blue light special. A pair of indulgent seats offers another clear advantage. Fold the deeply padded armrests and a spare bedroom awaits episodes of marital distress. Or perhaps a second honeymoon with the cavernous backseat? Six-passenger seating in a sedan is a forgotten delight, and beats the third row penalty box found in any similarly priced SUV. Crank up the tunes and feel the bass booming from the bowels of Mercury's Brick House trunk. The Commodores never sounded so mighty-mighty.
The Marquis keeps the muscle car flame alive with a redesigned analog gauge cluster, complete with its first-ever tachometer. Fire-up the cammer V8 and a distant rumble filters in from the ghosts of big-block Cyclones and Marauders. Although the Grand Marquis' mill only musters 239 horses, there's more than enough torque to take the "grind" out of the daily. Four gears are all you get (only one less than you really need). If you're young enough to read this site on a regular basis, or old enough to remember the Blues Brothers, you'll want Mercury's little known police package: cop engine (dual exhausts), cop tires (speed rated), cop shocks (monotube dampers) and cop suspension (revised front coils, Watts-link rear with heavy duty air springs and bigger sway bars). Evo's keep on frontin' but that guy in the Camry is toast.
Yank the column shifter to first and hammer the throttle. The Marquis' composed suspension, marginally-involving steering, torquey mill and RWD orientation make it an honest-to-God hoot in the corners. Pseudo-Super Troopers whose courage exceeds their skill benefit from the Marquis' five star crash test ratings. Credit the same brick shit house construction for the smoothest ride in town: hydroformed components on a body-on-frame chassis. Pot holes, speed bumps or subcompacts are a distant blip on the butt radar. Factor in a solid 21mpg (on regular gas) in mixed driving, and rough-riding, gas-guzzling SUVs hang their heads in shame.
Obviously the Grand Marquis is no match for a stick-shifted V6 Accord or Altima. But the Marquis ushers the family to grandma's house in far greater comfort. And, lest we forget, the Marquis' price lines up against baseline, four-cylinder versions of those wrong-wheel drive whips. According to the official Mercury website, the last of the Great V8 Interceptors has $5000 on the hood. And the deal grows sweeter down at the showroom. Hell, they're giving them away!
So why are Matlock fans the only people buying Mercury's Grand Marquis? Clearly, Ford turned its back on the old soldier; their press gang can't even be bothered to update the website with photos of the Marquis' analog instrumentation. No matter. It's time for pistonheads to reclaim old-school American cars for their own. The fact that Ford is killing this platform for some weak-kneed front driver only makes the Grand Marquis more desirable. And don't forget: it never hurts a speed demon to look like a cop.