2008 Mercury Mariner Performance
The 2008 Mercury Mariner strikes most reviewers as, at best, an aging middle-of-the-pack performer in a competitive class. Edmunds says "the Mercury feels less sporty than the newer SUVs in the compact class, and its highway ride isn't as composed."
The V6 that drives the luxury and premium models provides adequate power for the Mariner, but the four-cylinder engine found on the base models is widely seen as particularly weak. The only transmission available is a four-speed automatic. "A 5- or 6-speed automatic would be nice, as quicker, smoother acceleration would be possible" says 4-Wheel & Off-Road.
Acceleration and Power
The base four-cylinder engine puts out 153 horsepower -- not a lot of power for a relatively heavy SUV. Consumer Guide reflects a general consensus that the 4-cylinder delivers power that is "only adequate at best."
The 200 horsepower V6 found on base V6 and Premier models is of an aging design, and reviewers also generally find it not quite up to the task. Edmunds observes "A V6 Mariner isn't exactly slow, but its 10-second 0-60-mph time is bested by many rivals, a few of them powered by four-cylinder engines." AutoWeek comes to a similar conclusion, stating that "Merging on to the freeway, I just didn't feel like there was enough power available." The test driver continues, "I had the throttle to the floor. This motor isn't strong enough for the job. It's fine with one person, but I can't imagine it works with four, or serious cargo, or even a light tow."
According to new EPA estimates, the four-cylinder engine achieves 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving, and 24 on the highway. V6-powered Mariners achieve 18 mpg in the city, and 23 on the highway. These estimates seem on target, as Edmunds finds that the V6 "dips into the high teens during city driving."
The only transmission available is a mechanically simple (and technologically dated) four-speed automatic that most reviewers find to be a disappointment. Edmunds declares the 2008 Mariner is "hampered by an outdated four-speed automatic gearbox. The result is a double whammy of now so-so acceleration (zero to 60 mph in about 10 seconds) and mediocre fuel economy." It should be noted that many vehicles in this class provide five- and six-speed transmissions. Edmunds observes that these newer designs "do a better job of keeping their engines on their toes while providing higher fuel mileage. The quicker SUVs in this class dash to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds."
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 brakes were a particular disappointment to most reviewers. While Mercury added a special "low dust" brake lining to the 2008 Mariners, "the Mariner remains one of the few vehicles on the market to retain a disc/drum setup (the hybrid gets four-wheel discs). So how much has really changed?" wonders Car and Driver. Edmunds writes that "brake pedal feel is firm and reassuring, but Mariners with rear drum brakes (all except V6 AWD model) return dismal stopping distances."
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.