2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid Performance
The 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid strikes most reviewers as, at best, an aging middle-of-the-pack performer in a competitive class, though the mileage and performance provided by the well-executed hybrid system make it a worthwhile step up from the non-hybrid version. Edmunds says "the Mercury feels less sporty than the newer SUVs in the compact class, and its highway ride isn't as composed."
The Mariner Hybrid has a four-cylinder gas engine augmented by an electric motor. A control module monitors the battery level, driver throttle input, and other car data to determine whether to run the car off the electric motor, or both the motor and the engine. It also decides when to use the engine to charge up the battery. According to CNET, "This hybrid system is currently the best in the business." The only transmission available in the Mariner Hybrid is an electric continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Acceleration and Power
The Hybrid offers only a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, teamed with an electric motor that kicks in during heavy acceleration with a 155 net horsepower output, mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Reviewers aren't bowled over by the amount of power the Mariner Hybrid provides. CNET says it offers "reasonable acceleration" yet complains that the continuously variable transmission "doesn't lend itself to an exhilarating driving experience." The same reviewer does go on to say that the combination of the engine and motor does "provide enough power to get the car moving."
Gas mileage is where Mariner really shines. Front-wheel-drive Mariner Hybrids get an EPA estimated 34/30 miles per gallon highway/city, while the all-wheel-drive model is estimated at 29/27. The calls the fuel economy "astounding for an SUV." CNET is impressed with the Mariner Hybrid's smooth transitions: "There is also a gauge on the instrument cluster that shows when the battery is being charged and when the motor is assisting the engine. The tachometer needle also points to a wide, green band when the engine is off, at a stop or at low speeds. The extra power is noticeable when the engine turns off, but the transition is not uncomfortable. "
Handling and Braking
For 2008, Mercury has replaced the Mariner's original hydraulic steering system with speed-sensitive electric power steering. Cars.com explains that "the advantage to electric power steering is that it reduces drag on the engine, resulting in better gas mileage." Many reviewers find that the system enhances steering feel, but the improvement in steering is not enough to bring the 2008 Mariner's overall handling in line with the rest of the small SUV class. Edmunds finds that "overall, handling is respectable, with the compact SUV remaining flat through corners and composed in quick transitions. Sadly, the ride quality is more trucklike than carlike." The suspension is aimed at on-road driving, and does a competent job.
The 2008 Mariner Hybrid is equipped with 4-wheel disc regenerative brakes, which charge the battery during braking. Cars.com says the braking system provides "a better feel," and Consumer Guide calls it "good, but some testers say emergency stops induce too much nosedive."
Four Wheel Drive
All trim levels of the Mariner are available with Ford's Automatic Intelligent Four-Wheel-Drive System, carried over from the previous-generation Mariner. Motor Week explains, "On dry roads all power goes to the front axle. When slippage does occur, a variable hydraulic clutch can send up to 100% of the torque to the rear axle." The reviewers continue, "We would normally call such a single speed automatic system all-wheel drive. But Mercury gets away with calling it four-wheel drive because in extreme conditions the front and rear axle physically lock together for a 50/50 torque split." With this light-duty four-wheel-drive system, the Mariner is not intended for off-road travel.