By on August 3, 2006

06MarinerHybrid_16_HR.jpgDuring a business trip to Canada, my manager and I watched a Swedish colleague use his cell phone to hold a three-way conference call with Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. The boss was infuriated; his US cell couldn’t even reach Toronto from Toronto. He called Sprint on a land line. "This is unacceptable,” he screamed. “It’s un-American to sell technology that’s seven years behind the Europeans!" The exact same thing’s been said about Detroit’s inability to counter fuel-sipping low-emission hybrids.  Enter, finally, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. Ah, but is the gas/electric Merc ready for prime time or is it just a Johnny-come-lately phoning it in?

Like its platform partners, the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, the Mariner is a dapper looking cute-ute.  While I've never been a fan of the brand’s twenty-toothed family grill, the vertical blingery suits the Mariner’s massive front bumper like shoulder pads on a three-button suit.  The SUV’s tight and tidy side-sculpting is equally well-wrought; the concave effect suggests a healthy, trim vehicle with a bit of sporting pretension. Our tester’s Charcoal Beige Clearcoat metallic paint kept the chrome jewelry from visual overload, while the 16" five-spoke aluminum wheels that (nearly) fill the arches show brand-faithful restraint. If ever a badge-engineered vehicle gained a little something in translation, the Mariner is it.

06MarinerHybrid_15_HR1.jpgInside the Mariner’s cabin, it’s an ersatz world after all. The soft-roader’s combination of fake leather, fake wood and fake aluminum is strangely effective, in a 50’s Las Vegas hotel room kinda way. Although it’s not a bad place to spend some time saving the planet, there are plenty of cavils: the HVAC knobs (lifted from the Focus) couldn’t go any further down market if they cruised Union Square in a miniskirt, the leather-wrapped steering wheel is Olsen Twin thin, and the cow-clad seats are less supportive than a deadbeat dad. Despite six-way power seats, a perfect seating position proved eternally elusive. And I dare you to find the seat-heater button.

The Mariner’s Nav system/head unit is the SUV’s greatest ergonomic failure. The credit card-sized screen can’t fit street names — just tiny white lines. Why didn’t Ford install the Freestyle’s big, beautiful LCD touchscreen?  Half the fun (satisfaction?) of driving a hybrid comes from watching a real-time mpg readout while modulating the throttle and brakes to conserve as much fuel as possible. The Mariner's micro-screen doesn’t let you check your power source (Engine? Batteries? Hybrid-drive?) and mileage at the same time. You have to flip back and forth between the two screens– which is bad form for a company publicly committed to automotive safety. 

06MarinerHybrid_10_HR.jpgSpeaking of not dying, it’s best to pay careful attention to the Mariner’s brakes. Thanks to the regenerative braking gear, the anchor pedal weighs a ton. There is simply no way to smoothly roll on the stopping power; you have to stomp. The batteries and second engine benefiting from the recharge push the Mariner’s GVW up to nearly two tons. The extra weight degrades the tall, short wheel-base truck's ride and handling. At 80mph, driving the Mariners feels as if you’re riding a dented washboard.

There are three types of propulsion. Flutter the go-pedal and the torquey 94hp electric mill does the clean deed (although I could only get the Mariner into full-electric mode when tooling around parking lots). Mash the gas and the Hybrid switches to its 2.3L I-4 Atkins-style dead dino diet. Ninety-seven percent of the time you’re using both mills. After a few hundred miles of mixed driving the bottom line was… 25.8mpg. That’s nearly the same as the 21/24 EPA estimates for the four wheel-drive 2.3-liter Mariner. What's the point? Why spend $10k more to haul around an extra 400 lbs. netting you roughly 10% better fuel economy?

06MarinerHybrid_19_HR.jpgIt gets worse. In stop and go traffic, the Mariner’s powerplant hibernates. With the engine off, calling the already weak air conditioning anemic is an insult to the iron-deficient. Mercury’s recommendation: when it’s “overly hot” switch the controls to MAX AC, which keeps the engine from shutting off. During summertime daylight hours, you get to choose between saving the planet and not sweating to death. The reverse is also true. The instructions issue the same warning when it’s “overly cold;” the Mariner’s electric motor is little more than a space heater. If you live in a flat, temperate climate and enjoy slow speed cruising, Mercury has a very handsome hybrid to sell you.

Taken as a whole, the Mariner Hybrid can’t compete with Toyota’s more complete hybrid Highlander. But at least Mercury has started the hybrid conversation with its mid-market buyers. Bold moves aren’t usually successful first time; they require follow through and persistence. As long as Mercury keeps hitting redial, they’ll eventually make the connection.

[Mercury provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance, taxes and a tank of gas.] 

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50 Comments on “Mercury Mariner Hybrid Review...”

  • avatar

    We still have along way to go for the hybred to be a viable alternative to the conventional car or truck.In ontario our temp. goes from one extreme to the other I`m not willing to comprimise a/c or heat.for 10% fuel economy.

  • avatar

    A lot of people can save 10% in fuel consumption by changing the way they drive (less aggressive, not so fast, etc) and/or by maintaining their cars properly.

  • avatar

    The hybrid is an interim solution. The various Hondas and Toyotas got it right from the get-go. Some of them are available for four years now. We are ready to buy an RX 400h as we speak. It will be the first and last hybrid we buy because the writing is on the horizon that soon another technology will replace it.

    By the time GM and Ford have it right, let's say in a couple of years (I'm an eternal optimist!) The japanese industry is likely already adopting a non-petroleum based people mover.

  • avatar


    Almost forgot to ask, did you done a nomex suit and helmet to drive THAT supercar?? Keep up the good work!! The  next Bugmaserrari will be youra to test!!!!

  • avatar

    At one point, I thought Ford might survive, since they were the only "US" company to adopt the full hybrid technology.  However, they made several mistakes.  One.  It's a stinkin' SUV.  Two it uses a version of the same engine that propelled my 1975 PINTO, the worst car and engine ever built (except for Chevrolet's VEGA, which is damning the PINTO with faith praise, indeed).  Three.  It's a lousy, half-baked vehicle.  Four.  10% improvement in mileage?  Pathetic. 

    I own a 2005 Toyota Prius and this car obtains 100% better mileage than my comparable 2nd car, a conventional 2002 Hyundai Sonata V6.   Similar room, performance, comfort, trunk area.  50 MPG instead of 25 MPG. 

    Now THAT is what could have potentially saved Ford. 

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    And 10% better is being generous.

  • avatar

     Hello!!  Actually, the 2.3L engine used today is a totally different engine than the old Lima 2300 engine as used in the Pinto, Mustang II, Fairmont,  and B2300 Mazda/Ford Ranger trucks and the clone Mercuries.
       The present 2.3 is an Mazda-design all-aluminum twin-cam 4-valve head engine. The cams are chain-driven and like the crankshaft, is keyless to allow precise valve timing. The intake cam has variable timing, the intake manifold is resin composite.
       Very smooth, good power and economy, and excellent reliability in the Mazda vehicles I service daily.

  • avatar

    This is hybrid technology and marketing at it's worst.
    Selling this is like selling "organic" salmon (there is no such thing).
    It's like selling a bag of potato chips labelled "no cholesterol!" (loads of fat, though!)
    Similarly, there's no such thing as an efficient 3600+ lb. vehicle; hybrid or otherwise.
    Selling these hybrid SUVs is plain misleading, expensive, and wasteful. A lot of environmentalists out there complain that the auto industry doesn't make an honest effort to sell environmentally responsible cars. They are correct. The auto industry is in the midst of making a dishonest effort to sell allegedly environmentally responsible cars. i.e. E85, hybrid SUVs.
    But then again, the auto industry is just catering to us the American people who love our organic salmon and no-cholesterol potato chips. What's a PZEV anyway? 

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    For the record, this is a 3,787lbs. vehicle.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Terry beat me to the Pinto I-4 thing. Did a better job too I might add. :)
     I found the regular V6 model to be a blast to drive, not just for an SUV either. Its almost sporty. I don't get the need for the hybrid's extra weight and price.  If I wasn't a power fiend, the Mazda four-banger is good enough.

  • avatar

    Sounds like another weak effort from the blue oval. This vehicle is as effective as makeup for women. This car exists only to make it look like ford is making a realistic effort in the hybrid category… if this is the best they can come up with then they would do better by improving the 4cyl engine or just give the thing a diesel 4 banger with a turbo… making say 140hp and 200lb/ft displacing 2 litres. I'm sure the fuel consumption and cost per mile for fuel would be less than this conspicuous piece of crap called a mariner.

  • avatar

    The point of the extra $10,000 is not to save gas; it's to make you feel better about driving an SUV. You can cruise along comforted by the elusion that you are part of the 'solution' and not part of the problem like all those other drivers.
    As a bonus, you will save some gas as you don't have enough power to drive fast or the confidence to break in time as your low-resistance tyres have no grip at all.
    Why not wave to the driver of that E85 compatible SUV? He's also saving the planet.

  • avatar

    How big is the "Hybrid" badge on that sucker… they seem to increase in size about every 6 months.

  • avatar

    phattie – you're right about improving fuel economy just by driving smarter.  in fact, i bet if all cars had an lcd screen (like the hybrids have) that showed you instantaneous and average gas milage people would start to be smoother with the throttle and brake as they learn to save gas.

  • avatar

    Ford has been quick to take advantage of the fact that the "Hybrid" badge will bring suckers, er , customers, to the showroom. But as people buy Mariner and Escape hybrids realize how little they gain (if anything) by owning one, they'll go back to a conventional engine at lease-end. And go around bad-mouthing the whole hyrbid concept.
    I rented a regular Ford Escape with a V6 a couple of times, most recently for skiing in Utah. Neither had many miles on them (under 8K) and both were tippy and underbraked, had mediocre fit and finish, and were less than a fun ride. My wife was still driving her '96 Exploder at the time and her 10 year old truck was a league ahead of its younger sibling. And got 19-20 mph highway. And we'd didn't really like the Exploder all that much.
    Hybrids, or hype-brids as I sometimes think of them, have their value for certain types of use, like heavy stop-and-go commuting, at least if you get a Toyota or Honda version. If you want to save money on fuel I think a turbo-diesel is a better choice.

  • avatar
    Ed S.

    The hybrid is an interim solution.

    I couldn't disagree more.  I think the dead-dino/plug-in electric hybrid will be THE prevailing propulsion system for the next century.  The simple fact is that all other technologies have a fatal flaw that prevents their cost-effective widespread adoption, even in the very long term.

    For instance, electric-only cars take too long to recharge.  Hydrogen (fuel cell or IC) has fuel production (net energy loss) and storage (5000 PSI!) issues.

    The US will come around to the idea of REALLY cheap nuclear power combined with plug-in overnight recharging.  Very little additional infrastructure will be required to serve these vehicles; nuclear power plants will be coming online in the next 15 years anyway as a result of huge federal subsidies.  A smart (Japanese, probably) company will sell modular reactors designs with a low enough risk/cost profile to entice most utilities to replace aging oil/NG/coal power plants with nuclear. 

    Plus, I'm not so sure the Republican Party will maintain power over the next few years.  You gotta believe that a Democratic President will install new air quality standards and/or enforce current air quality standards making it difficult to justify the continued operation of oil/NG/coal power plants.

    We look at the development of these future technologies under the pretext of the current economic/political/environmental climate, but often major turns in a given market are influenced by seemingly unrelated or otherwise unforeseen forces.

  • avatar
    Ed S.

    PS: I say the first big oil company to use 1 year's profits to buy ALL the patents for ALL promising battery technology then use just 50% of their future R&D dollars to continue to develop said technology, will be the biggest winner in the new hybrid market.

  • avatar

    The one nice thing about these hybrids is that it wouldn't take much to turn them into full blown electric vehicles.

    Put a big enough battery pack in them to make the range be ~1,000 miles per charge.  Or what number do you need for them to be viable cross country commuters?

  • avatar

    OK I should not have assumed it was the "Pinto" motor in this hybrid – but my son's 2.3 Ford engine in his Ranger pickup (1993 I think) is the same as the 1971-1979 Pinto, updated with fuel injection, of course.  For all know, the Ranger still uses this engine.  Anyone out there know? 

    Detroit has a bad habit of building the same engines "for ever". 

    The basic Chevrolet V8 shares architecture with the 1955 engine still, though I am aware there have obviously been improvements of many kinds.  I think the Chevrolet 4.3 V6 is most closely related to the old tech V8 nowadays. 

    The AMC Rambler "Six" was built from 1964 until just recently when it was last used in Jeep Wranglers. 

    The GM 3.4 and 3.5 V6's date from the 1980 V8 which originally displaced 2.8 liters and was used in the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Phoenix and Chevrolet whatever it was called.  (The first front drive X-cars, anyway). 

    The Buick 3.8 liter V6 dates from the Buick Special of 1962, the basic engine was a cut-down, iron version of the alloy Buick V8 introduced in 1961.

    Chrysler built their 318 engine for decades, from 1966 to the late 1990's I think. 

    Ford, likewise, built its small-block OHV V8 in 221, 260, 289, 302 (5 liter) displacements from about 1962 through a few years ago, and it was last used in prior generation Explorer V8's and Econoline vans, I think.

    Thankfully, Ford quit building their flathead V8 in 1954.  It was introduced in 1932. 

    Can you see Hyundai, Toyota or Honda using the same basic engine for decades?  Me neither.

  • avatar

    Kinda makes you wish they'd have spent the time andmoney to put together a capable, say, turbo diesel into this platform…

  • avatar

    A few comments on this article & posts:

    – Escape Hybrid is designed to match V6 acceleration with best in class MPG – thus you achieved ~20% better than V6 EPA estimates – The V6 EPA est. mpg is 20 city/24 hwy…..(You mean you didn't drive like they drive "on the cycle" for an apples-to-apples comparison? )
    – Escape Hybrid is certified at PZEV emission levels (i.e cleanest, most fuel-efficient HEV mantra) – Tough to meet w/ a diesel these days…
    – You can argue all day what the correct performance/MPG balance should be without market data.
    – Last I heard Prius doesn’t offer AWD or off-road option – oops – there's that apples to apples thing again.

  • avatar

     I give FOMOCO credit not for making a hybrid but for
    making an effort to fool the auto buying public. I bet that there are
    few asses out there looking for a seat just like this mariner. 
    for the diesel… well diesel is icky and smelly and smokey too.
    Mercury is a brand of cars for women IMO… Diesel is a fuel for
    truckers with sun charred leathery arms, sleeveless flannel shirts and
    stories/language that make hardcore XXX rated movies seem like
    something you would see on the Jesus channel. Diesel would be a much
    better fuel to achieve high MPG figures… but that's
    not what they are going for with this jacked up car pretending to be a
    "truck" for women. I believe Mercury is simply just betting that
    their female audience is largely inept when it comes to things with
    four wheels and a fuel tank. So a hybrid badge is something to talk
    about and even pat yourself on the back over… in a pseudo tree-hugger
    kind of way… almost in a I'm doing my part self empowered but not in
    touch with reality sort of mindset.

  • avatar

    Funny, my calculator says the fuel savings are closer to 15% than 10%.

    Also, with the March 29Th NHTSA rulemaking, the Escape will have to average about 27.3mpg by 2011 – almost the same as the "car" standard of 27.5mpg, so more will have to be done in the future.

    Aluminum anyone?

  • avatar

    gfrog: Looks like they’ve come full circle.

    Mercury’s 1960’s slogan:’

    “Mercury – the MAN’S car!”

  • avatar


    They’ve got a pretty decent looking woman doing their adverts now… but she isn’t dressed to kill, she looks rather inoffensive and nothing she says or does is sexy. IMO she is intended to make women feel more comfortable with the brand which is nothing more than a ford wearing some blush and eyeliner on the outside and silk panties beneath the sheet metal.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is, hybrid vehicles are presently only a marketing/stop-gap ploy.

    Just watch the resale value of these vehicles fall right off the richter scale as the batteries and computers that control these monstrosities need servicing/replacement.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Hev —

    – Escape Hybrid is designed to match V6 acceleration with best in class MPG – thus you achieved ~20% better than V6 EPA estimates – The V6 EPA est. mpg is 20 city/24 hwy???..(You mean you didn’t drive like they drive “on the cycle” for an apples-to-apples comparison? )

    No, I achieved just over 10% better than the inline four — read it again. I guess it may accelerate as fast as the V6 model, but that’s still slow. Stick that setup in a seden, ala Honda accord, and you may have something.

    – Escape Hybrid is certified at PZEV emission levels (i.e cleanest, most fuel-efficient HEV mantra) – Tough to meet w/ a diesel these days???


    – You can argue all day what the correct performance/MPG balance should be without market data.

    You can arugue all day about anything — what’s your point?

    – Last I heard Prius doesn???t offer AWD or off-road option – oops – there’s that apples to apples thing again.

    No one will take this sucker off-road.

    More to the point, it costs $33,000. A Mustang GT Convertible costs $31,000. Even at $3.00 a gallon, $2,000 buys a lot of fuel.

    (I’m saying it’s too expensive)

  • avatar

    Here’s a press release with regard to life cycle costs of vehicles. You can get more information from the CNW Marketing Research Inc. website if you are curious about methodology.
    I cannot vouch for the content of the analysis discussed in the press release, have no connection to CNW and offer the copy of the press release as info for those of you who may not have seen it.
    TF from Tokyo
    Hybrids Consume More Energy in Lifetime Than Chevrolet”s Tahoe SUV
    BANDON, OR — As Americans become increasingly interested in fuel economy and global warming, they are beginning to make choices about the vehicles they drive based on fuel economy and to a lesser degree emissions.
    But many of those choices aren”t actually the best in terms of vehicle lifetime energy usage and the cost to society over the full lifetime of a car or truck.
    CNW Marketing Research Inc. spent two years collecting data on the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage. This includes such minutia as plant to dealer fuel costs, employee driving distances, electricity usage per pound of material used in each vehicle and literally hundreds of other variables.
    To put the data into understandable terms for consumers, it was translated into a “dollars per lifetime mile” figure. That is, the Energy Cost per mile driven.
    The most Energy Expensive vehicle sold in the U.S. in calendar year 2005: Maybach at $11.58 per mile. The least expensive: Scion xB at $0.48 cents.
    While neither of those figures is surprising, it is interesting that driving a hybrid vehicle costs more in terms of overall energy consumed than comparable non-hybrid vehicles.
    For example, the Honda Accord Hybrid has an Energy Cost per Mile of $3.29 while the conventional Honda Accord is $2.18. Put simply, over the “Dust to Dust” lifetime of the Accord Hybrid, it will require about 50 percent more energy than the non-hybrid version.
    One of the reasons hybrids cost more than non-hybrids is the manufacture, replacement and disposal of such items as batteries, electric motors (in addition to the conventional engine), lighter weight materials and complexity of the power package.
    And while many consumers and environmentalists have targeted sport utility vehicles because of their lower fuel economy and/or perceived inefficiency as a means of transportation, the energy cost per mile shows at least some of that disdain is misplaced.
    For example, while the industry average of all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2005 was $2.28 cents per mile, the Hummer H3 (among most SUVs) was only $1.949 cents per mile. That figure is also lower than all currently offered hybrids and Honda Civic at $2.42 per mile.
    “If a consumer is concerned about fuel economy because of family budgets or depleting oil supplies, it is perfectly logical to consider buying high-fuel-economy vehicles,” says Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, Inc. “But if the concern is the broader issues such as environmental impact of energy usage, some high-mileage vehicles actually cost society more than conventional or even larger models over their lifetime.
    “We believe this kind of data is important in a consumer”s selection of transportation,” says Spinella. “Basing purchase decisions solely on fuel economy or vehicle size does not get to the heart of the energy usage issue.”
    The goal of overall worldwide energy conservation and the cost to society in general ” not just the auto buyer ” can often be better addressed by being aware of a car or truck’s “dust to dust” energy requirements, he said.
    This study is not the end of the energy-usage discussion. “We hope to see a dialog begin that puts educated and aware consumers into energy policy decisions,” Spinella said. “We undertook this research to see if perceptions (about energy efficiency) were true in the real world.”
    END IT
    For a complete list of all vehicles and their Energy Cost per Mile, contact Art Spinella at CNW Marketing Research, Inc. (541-347-4718) or email

  • avatar

    Tigersfamily, if that’s the same report I saw earlier (the numbers look similar), they cooked the books. The authors decided a Prius was going to be scrapped at 100K miles and the Hummer would last 300K miles.

    Most likely that’s the exact inverse of what will actually happen.

    And if they got that wrong, what else did they screw up?

    It also flunks the common sense test; if the car takes more energy to produce, it should cost more to buy. After all, the manufacturer has to pay the cost of manufacturing it and a large chunk of that will be the energy.

  • avatar

    Glenn: August 3rd, 2006 at 2:35 pm
    OK I should not have assumed it was the "Pinto" motor in this hybrid – but my son’s 2.3 Ford engine in his Ranger pickup (1993 I think) is the same as the 1971-1979 Pinto, updated with fuel injection, of course.  For all know, the Ranger still uses this engine.  Anyone out there know?  [The Ranger 2.3 is a totally different design than the old 2.3The GM 3.4 and 3.5 V6’s date from the 1980 V8 which originally displaced 2.8 liters and was used in the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Phoenix and Chevrolet whatever it was called.  (The first front drive X-cars, anyway).   [The 2.8 was a V6, not a V8]

    The Buick 3.8 liter V6 dates from the Buick Special of 1962, the basic engine was a cut-down, iron version of the alloy Buick V8 introduced in 1961.
    Chrysler built their 318 engine for decades, from 1966 to the late 1990’s I think.  [The Chrysler 318 was introduced in ’57 as a polyspheric-head engine, lasted into ’66, when it was reintroduced as a resized 273.]
    Ford, likewise, built its small-block OHV V8 in 221, 260, 289, 302 (5 liter) displacements from about 1962 through a few years ago, and it was last used in prior generation Explorer V8’s and Econoline vans, I think.[There was also a 255CID version in the early ’80s as a stop-gap gas-saving measure]
    Thankfully, Ford quit building their flathead V8 in 1954.  It was introduced in 1932. 
    Can you see Hyundai, Toyota or Honda using the same basic engine for decades?  Me neither.

  • avatar

    Hi Terry

    You're right, the Chrysler 318 was introduced as a polyspheric-head (or "semi-hemi") V8 early on, but the 273 based 318 was introduced in 1966, and in Canada, in 1967 (the Cannucks "made do" with the old, completely different, heavy and physically larger engine for an extra year). 

    The part about the 2.8 V8 was only a typo, of course it was a V6. 

    I remember the 255 Ford, also the Oldsmobile 260 which was a small bore 350 Olds engine. 

    In contrast, look at Hyundai.  As little as 7 years ago, they were still using cast-off Mitsubishi engines (many of which were more advanced than much of what Detroit built).  But instead of standing pat, they engineered their own engines, all across the board, and in fact the new Sonata V6 (3.3 liters) is brand-new, as are the 2.4 liter four bangers.  The newest four cylinder engines are apparently designed to last 250,000 miles from the get-go. 

    My 1975 Ford Pinto motor barely made it 12,000 miles out of warrantee before one of the cam lobes wore completely smooth.  A 3 cylinder Pinto is a dog.  Got it repaired at my own expense, was 19 years old at the time, it was a major financial hit (I was also paying for my own car, and insurance) then a recall came for the camshaft – and Ford refused to reimburse me.  I did not buy another Ford for some 20 years, and was sorry when I did. 

  • avatar

    qfrog – good points, but I'm not sure that view takes a few things into account – namely demographics. 

    I don't think there are really that many people who have the old diesel stigma in mind in my age group (under 30). In fact, anyone I've talked to about cars recently, women included, are like "that new diesel jetta is sexy". I'm sure I'd be saying much the same about the dirty smelly stigma diesel has if I was a bit older. And I don't think the Mercury brand is for women at this point…well, not yet at least. I still associate Mercury with my grandfather or local (non-bigshot) doctor more than anything.

    That said…I drove a Mariner v6 non-hybrid, and almost bought it before I decided I wanted a sporty car rather than another SUV…and I thought it was quite a nice package, comparably speaking, to the Escape, but decidely less fun than the Tribute. But I don't think it was feminine in in the least – I think the interior was neutrally cold, sorta retro but not really. 

    Johnny…the one thing I don't get from the review is the criticism of the front grille…I think it looks good. But hey, I don't come here to read stuff that agrees with every damn thing I like, cause then I'd be very bored. The rest of the review is spot-on. The dealer tried to give me the "are you all about tech?" speech and asked if I'd considered the hybrid Mariner while looking at the regular one, and proceeded to bash the vehicle I was actually looking to buy. It was fairly amusing. Also, I'm surprised that some of the interior cues from the Milan didn't make it into the Mariner this model year – as you nailed it when you said the HVAC controls were cheap.

    Spot-On…Cap'n Farago, give this man a raise! 

  • avatar


    What about the Toyota 22R? Or it’s variations? Those have been around for a long time…

    Concerning some of the domestic V6’s: The Chevy 60 degree V6 has spawned several variations over the long production timeline. There was the OHC variation that saw usage in the late 80’s early 90’s. The current ‘high feature’ OHC 3.6L motor is another variation of the 60 degree V6. The current ‘high value’ 3.5L or Chinese V6 is a direct descendent of the old 2.8.

    I understand why Hyundai has changed engines, only because they started with Mitsubishi designs, but apparently found them lacking. I can only speculate that’s the reason, I don’t actually have any first-hand knowledge. Once they started ‘rolling their own’, their quality ratings seemed to have gone straight up.

    I’d bet we see a new generation of Toyota V6’s in the near future, due to the recent incidents with the sludge build-up in those engines. Maybe VW too, for the same reasons.

  • avatar

    Hi geozinger

    Toyota just “did” a brand-new V6 for the Toyota Camry and I am pretty sure it will find its way into other vehicles soon. I read that it costs something like $500 less per engine to produce than did the prior engine, and it is made in the US, as was the prior V6. Something about vastly improved production methods which were enabled by the purchase of some super modern, massive machine (I’m not an engineer, but the write-up was fascinating). I’d bet the farm that they’ve solved any sludge issues, too. Toyota don’t like loose ends or recurring problems, do they?

    Once (not if) Toyota start to utilize this technology for their next generation engines of all kinds, it would be obvious that their profitability will improve even more. The article stated that the alloy block and head foundry (which was an American company that Toyota purchased) can quickly and easily switch production from the new V6 engines, to fours, within hours. Amazing.

    GM, Ford, DCX, Nissan and even VW-Audi can no longer “catch” Toyota, by all appearances. Toyota can drop a huge amount of money on the latest technology to improve their vehicles and profitability and have sufficient funds available in the bank to literally buy GM and Ford with money left over (not that they would be foolish enough to do either, I’m certain of it).

    Not forgetting that Toyota have stated categorically that the next generation Prius will be a 100 mpg car, and that the price differential between “conventional” and hybrid cars is to be cut in half. Not “well, we’ll make 250,000 hybrid cars by 2010” one month, and the next “ok we’ll do E85 instead” (Billy Ford).

    I wonder in in 50 years, other gear-heads will be looking at articles about Toyota’s death watch while Hyundai or Chery or some other company tries to take away the crown?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    geozinger — I was saying that normally I do not like the Mercury family grill (at least not since the 60s) but somehow on the Mariner, they made it work.

    A very handsome little ‘ute.

  • avatar


    I remember reading something along the same lines about the Yota ‘wonder machine’ for engines. I don’t follow Toyota all that carefully anymore, so I guess I missed the new gen V6. More power to them. I guess the real issue about the domestic vs. japanese engines is the attitude from the domestics: Don’t fix what ain’t broke. However, I find I dislike that there are times we have to ‘fix what ain’t broke’ just to keep up with the Joneses. Seems like a waste to me.

    Hopefully in 50 years, other gear-heads may be in fact looking at Toyota’s death watch, but I hope for other reasons, rather than what the domestics have done to themselves. Maybe by 2056 (I’d be 94 years old!) we will finally realize the ‘flying nuclear cars’ and the other great devices that were promised (loosely) to us 50 years ago… That would be worthy of a deathwatch. The end of wheeled transportation. Maybe by then we can email ourselves…

    Jonny Lieberman: I don’t believe I made a comment about the new Mercury family grill, but I agree, the Mariner is prettier than it’s stablemates.

  • avatar

    Regarding: Last I heard Prius doesn???t offer AWD or off-road option – oops – there’s that apples to apples thing again.

    You are absolutely right. Let the apple be a fuel saving and environment friendly car, then the Prius is an apple while the Mariner is not.

  • avatar


    You stated that:

    “The basic Chevrolet V8 shares architecture with the 1955 engine still, though I am aware there have obviously been improvements of many kinds.”

    “improvements of many kinds” is vastly minimizing the clean sheet design of the current Gen III-IV GM V8s that debuted in the 1997 Corvette….they share virtually nothing with the classic small block Chevy motor other than the 4.4″ bore spacing and OHV layout, neither of which is a bad thing.

    These motors are class leading in terms of power and efficiency in a very compact package, not to mention versatile enough to be implemented in various iterations from Escalades to the widely praised Corvette Z06.

  • avatar
    Tim K

    As an owner of a Mercury Mariner Hybrid I just thought I would add my thoughts to this article. I won’t talk about the aesthetics/styling of the vehicle as those are obviously subjective and personal. I will talk about the features and function of the vehicle though.

    Johnny points out that Ford used some less than luxury parts for the vehicle and it lacks a number of features you might expect in a vehicle of this class/price. The Nav system is certainly dated and rates as poor in my book as well. Add to that the fact that the unit doesn’t play MP3’s or allow a satellite radio hookup despite being advertised as such. However, these features are not limited to the Hybrid and are the same ones found on the standard Mariner as well. A few options are not available on the Hybrid and the configurations/colors are limited to allow for more efficient (cheaper) production of such a limited number of vehicles.

    As for the functionality of the vehicle itself I have alot to add. Johnny complained about the brakes on the vehicle, but having owned mine for a few months now, I must say that I haven’t noticed any weakness in the brakes at all. Quite frankly, many Hybrid drivers try to limit their useage of the brakes in order to take advantage of the regenerative nature of the “engine/motor braking”. In fact, by shifting into “L” you can improve the braking ability of the vehicle by combining the normal braking system with the motor braking.

    As for the gas mileage, like many reviewers Johnny commented that his real-world numbers fell short of the EPA estimates. Also, like many other reviewers, Johnny failed to mention that EVERY vehicle’s real world numbers will fall short of the EPA estimates. The EPA estimates are outdated and set to be revised in the next couple of years. While Johnny may only have gotten 26mpg in the 29mpg rated Hybrid, you can bet that he would only have gotten 15-16mpg in the gas-only version rated at 19mpg. To be fair, I think that should be mentioned as well. In addition, those purchasing a Hybrid may tend to be a bit more conservative in their driving in an attempt to further increase fuel economy. Many owners have been able to exceed EPA numbers by modifying their driving styles. Setting the cruise control at 65mph I averaged 31mpg on a 600 mile round trip that was 99% highway driving. Setting it at 55mph netted me an average closer to 33mpg. Furthermore, the Hybrid system does require a significant break-in period. The manual states that an owner should drive AT LEAST 1,000 miles on the vehicle before even looking at the fuel economy. Owners of the identical Ford Escape Hybrid system note that the real fuel economy of this vehicle emerges somewhere around 3,000-5,000 miles. Presumably, this has to do with both normal break-in of the hardware as well as conditioning of the battery and the computer “learning” the system. At least that is what Ford says. I’d like to see Johnny’s numbers on a slightly older vehicle to see the comparison.

    With regard to the AC system, the vehicle offers the driver the choice of economy or full AC. “Regular mode” only runs the system when the engine is on, MAX keeps the engine from shutting down. Since most driving is actually done under engine power, it is only during stops and initial acceleration that the AC is off. Usually, for 15-30 seconds the car remains cool enough for it not to matter. On the hottest days, or in certain climates, MAX AC is a necessity, but for most people it is only necessary a couple of days/weeks a year. If I lived in Arizona or South Florida I could see this being a problem. But for a couple of weeks in late July/early August, flipping on the MAX AC at red lights is no big deal to me.

    Johnny also referenced the price premium for this vehicle, however his numbers are WAY off. I spent time comparing the Mariner Hybrid to the standard version (and similarly with the Escape). When outfitted with the same options, the actual cost difference between the standard and Hybrid versions is about $5,000 (MSRP). The Highlander Hybrid, which Johnny spoke so highly of, is significantly more expensive than the Escape/Mariner not to mention about $8,000 more than the standard Highlander. Johnny also failed to mention the Tax incentives for this vehicle. For the AWD Mariner Hybrid there is a federal tax credit of $1,950 and many states offer additional credits ($500 in my state). When I sat down to compare the standard and Hybrid versions, I priced them out and found that for the features I wanted, the difference only amounted to $3,600 (retail) as we purchased an ’06 at the end of the model year for $1900 less than sticker price. Taking into account the federal and state tax credits/rebates, the actual price premium for the Hybrid amounts to only $1,150. Using very conseravative fuel economy numbers, the Hybrid should make up the cost differential in under 2 years.

    In the end, I think Johnny’s review of the Mariner Hybrid was fairly positive and addresses that “its a start”. The early versions of any vehicle will have weaknesses, but it is something to build on.

  • avatar

    Great review – great comparisons – I laughed out loud. It seems to me that these new hybrids are just like the lame attempts like the old Caddy V-8-6-4. You can’t make a tea-totaler out of a tank wagon.

  • avatar
    Tim K

    Two further comments.

    1. CNW’s claims are quite biased, unproven and based on arbitrary numbers. Undoubtedly, they are entrenched in the anti-hybrid camp. Who knows who is behind it…maybe big oil $’s.

    2. While a standard Honda Civic gets better gas mileage than the Escape/Mariner Hybrids, there are some of us who actually have a use for the small SUV. Hell, a moped gets much better gas mileage than a Civic and a compact car like the Civic is just as useless to me. Claiming that there is no point in making a Hybrid SUV is denying the fact that SUV’s are a necessary evil for some and also that Americans are buying SUV’s at an incredible pace. I think a 3,700lb SUV that can carry 5 people, transport large pieces of furniture, moving boxes, etc., and do it all while averaging over 30mpg is quite an accomplishment. Would it be better to have everyone driving Honda Insights? Sure. Is it feasible? No. So why not try to get the best out of what we do drive?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Tim K:

    Over 30mpg? Which one? I averaged 25.8mpg over 400 miles.

    And, a Mazda 3 Wagon will carry as much stuff and as many people.

  • avatar
    Tim K

    Out of curiousity, do you know how many miles were on the vehicle you test drove?

    As for me, I just returned from a 600 mile round trip to Boston. On the way there we averaged over 31 MPG with 2 adults, a baby, and loads of luggage….driving about 65mph with the AC running the whole time. On the way back, with my heavy-footed wife driving about half the trip at 75mph, we still managed 30mpg. This is in an AWD Mercury Mariner Hybrid with a hair over 3,000 miles on it. For the first 1,000 miles my mileage was terrible….in the mid twenties. After 1,000 it improved suddenly and dramatically to the point that I believe there are hard-coded system restrictions imposed by Ford to 1,000 miles. Again, I’ve seen improvements as my mileage increases, though not as suddenly or dramatically as I did at 1,000. So, for this 95% Hwy drive I averaged over 30mpg.

    With regard to city driving….your results will vary greatly depending on a number of conditions especially the following:

    Short trips: For emissions reasons the engine will start every time you turn on the vehicle to heat up the catalytic converter. This wastes fuel and reduces your MPG average. Many short trips throughout the day will hurt your fuel economy. If you live in a nice neighborhood you can leave the vehicle turned on, lock the doors and run in for your morning coffee so you don’t have to restart the engine (if you have the key pad on the door of course!). A tip: Don’t start the vehicle until you are ready to go. “Warming up” a hybrid wastes fuel that could be used to actually drive the vehicle while it is warming up. Instead, adjust your mirrors, put on your seatbelt, fix your hair, open the garage, release the parking break, turn on/tune in the radio….THEN start the engine and pull right out.

    Heat: In HOT conditions the battery pack will act just like you do and turn on the AC. The system has its own AC and will turn on the engine to run it. Running the vehicle in MAX AC or in very hot conditions will negatively impact your fuel economy. But, a hot battery also does not operate as efficiently as a cool one so it actually makes sense to run the AC rather than strain your battery. If you are hot, so is your battery.

    Stop-and-go traffic: Driving in a major metropolitan area with lights at every corner is not ideal for Hybrids despite the idea that it is. These vehicles depend on regenerative braking for much of their battery power, and if the vehicle never gets up to speed and slows down again the battery will not charge enough to truly help acceleration. A plug in hybrid with an expanded battery pack would be perfect because it would not need to rely on regenerative braking for any of its power in this situation. What a Hybrid owner will end up with is a vehicle whose gas engine is running at red lights to try to charge the battery. These vehicles do much better in suburban driving where you might go a 1/4 mile between lights. Getting up to 30mph and coasting back to a stop seems ideal for this vehicle.

    Let’s just say that the three conditions above represent some of the biggest fuel economy killers at least in my book. That said, I faced all three last week. We had a week of temps in the high 90’s including several days over 100. I had to run MAX AC on at least half of my trips because I have my 8mo old son in the backseat. In total, I take 4 trips of under 5 miles per day directly across the city with a traffic light at EVERY corner, and that is just to and from daycare. I also do additional city driving during the day. In that week, my fuel economy dipped to a paltry 26mpg. My worst ever day was about 23mpg. That was a day that included driving clients around in 90+ degree temps and included over a dozen starts and stops about 30 minutes apart over 6+ hours.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Tim K.

    My car had 6,000 miles on it.

    I didn’t get to do any long road trips — just 30 mile jaunts followed by standard city driving.

    Hey, look, I managed to squeeze better than 20 mpg out of a Mercedes Benz GL450 doing 90 in 110 weather.

    During normal driving, I was just under 26mpg in the Hybrid.

  • avatar
    Tim K

    If you were running the AC alot, then your 26mpg in the city isn’t that surprising as I get similar numbers under those conditions. In fairness, I am pretty sure that equivalent gas-only Mariner with the V6 wouldn’t get near its city rating of 19mpg either. I know that Escape drivers with the V6 and 4wd report numbers in the mid-teens so that sounds about right.

    26mpg = 78% of the EPA’s 33mpg for the Hybrid
    15mpg = 78% of the EPA’s 19mpg for the standard

  • avatar

    Chiming in just to help here. 05 V6 AWD tribute is getting 19 worst case under the worst of circumstances, 24mpg highway average case A/C will dip to about 22, and 26mpg was the best ever achieved on a 100% highway trip.

    Cant help it here Johnny, that mazda 3 wagon may have the cargo capacity but wont pull a trailer and wont handle a snowstorm NEARLY as well as the mariner/tribute. I know you arent hacking the mariner too badly, but Tim is right they are apples and oranges to the prius, mazda3, and many others. In my opinion, the Mariner is the most handsome out of all of them, but the Mazda warranty really made the difference in our decision. Very pleased so far at 33K miles.

  • avatar

    “”Escape drivers with the V6 and 4wd report numbers in the mid-teens so that sounds about right.””

    how impressive…

    Our 1995 Jeep ZJ (grand cherokee) gets 16mpg city, 17.8 overall avg., and 22mpg 60mph freeway…..21 @ 65, and 20 @ 72.

    These are not just results from a special 50 mile test either….these are averaged results over 170,000+ miles and all sorts of terrain, from the midwest to the mountains of the PNW. And it does it with the very same 318 engine lambasted above….

    Oh by the way, it’s also doing it with a 4,500 lb vehicle….25% stouter than the Escape.

    Interesting, eh?

    The lesson here is that there hasn’t been much actual improvement over the past 10 yrs. The computer-controlled EFI engines of the mid-90’s are very close to those of today, in terms of actual specific-fuel-consumption.

    As one poster noted above, despite all the unthinking regurgitation of corpgov-media conditioning, lots of folks DO need something larger than a Geo Metro. Lots of folks need to carry a lot of stuff regularly….or get around in regions of poor roads and/or driving conditions.

    Or tow a trailer regularly. It is DANGEROUS to tow with a light vehicle. The tow-vehicle weight must be proportional to the towed-weight. That’s not politics, that’s physics. i.e., reality.

    And believe it or not, despite the glaring assumptions of the urban-centrics who seem to wield all political and media power these days, fully 50% of the US population does NOT live in the city like they do. Yeah, that’s right, HALF of us live a whole different life than the one on TV. Amazing, huh?

    For the half of us living in a rural area; snow, mud, fallen trees, road-washouts, etc., are a daily presence to be dealt with. Without some ground-clearance and traction, a vehicle is not only useless, but actually a hazard, to oneself AND to others.

    These needs are real, and there has ALWAYS been a similar type of vehicle to meet these needs. In the ‘old days’, there were station-wagons, pickups, Travelalls, even Woodies.

    With the phase-out of wagons in the 80’s, the SUV -naturally- became the “station wagon” of the 90’s. There’s nothing ‘evil’ about it.

    Funny how you never hear any PC conditioned-reflex bashing of Minivans, like you do for SUV’s, eh? Despite them being similar in size, weight, mpg, etc.. Makes you realize that fuel-economy isn’t the true reason for the endless SUV-bashing. The true purpose is conditioning against 4wd, clearance, and access.

    The idea of non-elite regular citizens like us having easy access to the forests drove the political/academic class up the wall. At the most, we should be limited to their anal asphalt-paved and rigidly controlled “parks”….and especially those where we can pay a big FEE…

    Thus, the whole “roadless” agenda…..roads a Jeep can use, but a Honda can’t. Redefine ‘roadless’…..straight outta 1984….down with SUV’s…

    Regarding that CNW report. Those numbers aren’t as “biased” as some would like them to be. The hybrids DO require batt-pack replacement at a relatively low mileage….100K may well be right, on average. Who can know yet?

    It is too early to get an accurate read on average vehicle-life; but if you know anything about engineering and statistics, then you understand MTBF and how a higher parts-count impacts overall device life.

    In other words, it would be almost impossible for a more complex device to have an avg. life as long as a less complex device (assuming equal quality and material components in both; which is generally true for this case).

    Conversely, the 300K miles life-figure that the poster claimed was being used for the Hummer IS a fairly accurate number for that class of vehicle. While I would expect the usual rich/urban Hummer buyer to trash it long before 300K, the fact is that a typical 1-ton pickup does last that long.

    I’m still driving my old ’91 F350 diesel 1-ton; with 265,000 miles, never a rebuild, and a recent compression-test of 400+ in all cylinders indicates the motor has another 200K to go.

    A farmer friend has a similar but even older 1986 1-ton truck with 385K on the clock, and all original running gear. Over the years, I have seen many many pickups with similar numbers….well over 200K.

    Most of your typical mini-cars just never make it to that age; for whatever reason. Go down to your local auto-recycler and watch what’s being fed to the crusher. The vast majority of crushed vehicles are compacts and sub-compacts only 10-15 years old.

    Over a 30-year career in engineering (including automotive), I have always had the hots for Hybrid technologies; but the current hybrids are far from optimum in my opinion. My dad’s 1978 diesel Rabbit got 50mpg….and that was 30 years ago! I drove a 1980’s 300D Mercedes for a while, and even that got 24 avg, 29 freeway…and it wasn’t any light car either.

    The eco-propaganda is that diesels are ‘dirty’, and put out a lot of particulates….but the truth is that gasoline engines spit out particulates as well. The thing with gas motors is that the particles are much smaller, so you don’t SEE them; thus, no whining.

    Ironically though, those nano-particles are WORSE for your lungs than the larger plain carbon particles of a diesel. Think ‘asbestos’….’silicosis’….and other particulate-caused lung disorders.

    Gas engines also exhaust much nastier organic chemical byproducts than diesels. In that sense too, diesels are actually a -cleaner- engine.

    A true -system- wide ecological perspective would look at life-cycle costs, not just MPG. From such a perspective, the MUCH lower mfg. cost of a simple yet very efficient turbo-diesel leads to LOWER energy usage than a hybrid over the life of the vehicle, every time.

    The dollar-savings are nothing to sneeze at either. Take $5,000 bucks, multiply it by the size of a WORLD FLEET, and you’re talking a VERY serious hit to society. That’s a huge chunk of societal productive output that could’ve been used for something else/better.

    The talk here has been of how the US lags in hybrid tech; but the sad truth is that the US lags in -turbodiesel- tech. All that misplaced ego-religion fighting reality….while the entire rest of the world was getting nice Toyota’s and Nissans and Mazdas with sweet turbodiesels that kept getting better and cleaner, year after year after year.

    If the US had done that, with the enormous financial size of the US market behind it, the development would’ve been astounding…and we’d right now be driving super-cool and super-clean turbodiesels in 80% of our fleet…..sigh….

  • avatar
    Tim K

    While I agree with much of what Hydra added, (such as there being a need for SUV’s) there are a couple of things I disagree with.

    1. The CNW report is not based on any science whatsoever. It is all intentionally biased and is nothing more than a guess. It is very clear that this report was written with an agenda. As the same can be said of many pro-hybrid reports, I wouldn’t quote them either.

    2. Battery life has already been tested. Don’t forget that the Insight hit the roads about 5 years ago, and the Prius not long after. There have been numerous vehicles passing 150k and 250k miles on the original battery with no loss in fuel economy. There are even studies out there showing this. There have been few, if any, battery failures, and Toyota reports only having to replace batteries involved in accidents. Remember, these batteries are also never fully charged or discharged so they don’t suffer the short lifespan of cell phone and other rechargeable batteries.

    3. While your dad’s Diesel Rabbit might have gotten 50mpg back in 78, let’s not forget a couple of things. Fuels have been reformulated since then. And the big one….it is not just about the amount of fuel used, it is also about emissions. Hybrids undoubtedly produce tons less pollutants than any older vehicle.

    Today’s hybrids aren’t perfect….they’re better than just burning gas. But if we don’t support what we’ve got now, we’ll never get to the next generation. Who knows, perhaps a Plug in Hybrid with a turbo bio-diesel or Ethanol burner???? Sounds good to me.

  • avatar

    I’d just like to note that my Pontiac Vibe gets better emissions performance and better economy, with better performance/handling and a good 700lbs less weight, for just $3k more than the PRICE INCREASE the Mariner Hybrid commands over the non-Hybrid 4cyl Mariner. And I can carry four people and their backpacking gear 350 miles in total comfort.

  • avatar
    Tim K

    For the record…
    The Pontiac Vibe gets about the same (reversed) gas mileage AND has worse emissions than the Mariner Hybrid. Remember, the Mariner is an Automatic with AWD so check the specs on that Vibe:
    EPA figures:

    Vibe: 29/34 city/hwy
    Mariner Hybrid: 33/29 city/hwy

    Vibe: scores 7 out of 10
    Mariner Hybrid: scores 8 out of 10

    Air Pollution:
    Vibe: 2 out of 10
    Mariner Hybrid: 7-9.5 out of 10

    Finally, we are talking about needs and preferences. I don’t like the style or performace of the Vibe, and it couldn’t fit me or my family as well as the Mariner does. It simply was not an option. Also, as discussed numerous times, with the tax credits, this price difference you refer to is under $2000. I guess the Vibe is selling for $5,000 now?

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