2003 Mercury Grand Marquis Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D LSE

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2003 Mercury Grand Marquis
Jim McCraw

The Mercury Grand Marquis has been re-engineered for 2003. The new model comes with a brand-new frame, a new suspension, new steering, a new interior, and new exterior styling. And those are just the highlights.

The Grand Marquis offers almost all the comfort and convenience of the Lincoln Town Car, and it's priced lower than many luxury mid-size cars. That's a big part of the reason why Mercury has sold 2.7 million Grand Marquis since 1975 when the car was first introduced as a premium American sedan.

If performance is your game, step over to the Marauder, a 300-horsepower version with a floor-mounted shifter, extra gauges, sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch high-performance tires.

As a result of a stiff new structure, the 2003 Grand Marquis rides more quietly and offers sharper handling. It's a much better car than last year's model, more poised. The Grand Marquis frame is brand new for 2003, the third frame design since 1990, and the first with hydroformed front and rear extensions and new crossmembers. Also new for 2003: speed-sensitive variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering; a redesigned independent short- and long-arm front suspension, optional dual side air bags, new headlamps, side markers, grille, front fascia and decklid applique, new seat styles and materials, new instrument panel woodgrains, new wheels on all models, and a new overhead console design. For 2003, Grand Marquis has standard antilock brakes and traction control; fold-away, power-adjustable and heated outside mirrors, and a storage pouch in the driver's seat. A dual-media radio with AM/FM cassette and single CD player is now available on all models. A trunk cargo organizer is optional on all models as well.

Model Lineup
The 2003 Grand Marquis comes in three trim levels: GS, LS, and the new LSE.

GS ($24,070) has a 220-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 engine, automatic transmission, seating for six and all of the normal and standard comfort features. The GS Convenience version ($24,020) adds power adjustable pedals for the driver and remote keyless entry.

LS Premium ($27,800) adds automatic climate control, HomeLink garage door opener, rear reading lights, automatic-dimming mirrors, body side moldings, dual front seats with 8-way power for the driver and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. LS Ultimate ($28,980) comes with a rear air suspension, electronic instrumentation, an upgraded audio system, and controls for speed, audio, and climate on the steering wheel.

LSE ($29,305) has a different rear axle, a more powerful 235-horsepower engine, dual exhaust, sports suspension tuning, including the rear air suspension, leather seats and special wheels and tires.

To get sportier than this, you have to make the leap to the Marauder ($33,790) high-performance version with its 300 horsepower engine, extra gauges, custom interior and loud dual exhausts.

Options include leather seats ($995), a single CD player ($140), and a six-CD changer ($140). Packages and pricing varies, but dealers are dealing on the Grand Marquis.

Mercury's Grand Marquis a big, roomy sedan with big doors. It boasts a curb weight of more than 3900 pounds. Riding on a 114-inch wheelbase, it stretches to an overall length of 212 inches.

Buyers concerned about safety will appreciate the heft, as bigger cars tend to be safer in collisions than smaller cars. The size of the Grand Marquis, as well as the new frame design that is part of the 2003 model year overhaul, helped it earn a five-star rating in government front and rear crash tests.

The Grand Marquis was restyled recently, with a new and more vertical grille, new complex-reflector headlamps and new tail lamps.

Sit in the Grand Marquis and you'll be treated to huge, thick seats that are as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Fit and finish inside the car are superb, and the choice of materials is excellent. All controls and instruments are arrayed in a logical, intuitive, and spacious manner; nothing seems out of place.

The Grand Marquis retains that big-car feel many of us grew up with. The interior is spacious, with plenty of room for long legs, broad shoulders and gangly arms, and it will comfortably seat six adults. The Grand Marquis provides more headroom than a Buick LeSabre does.

Despite the car's size, there's enough fore-aft seat adjustment to accommodate the petite. This is true even without the adjustable pedals. With the optional power-adjustable pedals, smaller drivers can find an even greater range of comfort.

Like many bench seats, the units in the Grand Marquis are made for cruising cross country, and won't hold you in place in sharp corners. One minor annoyance: The hump running down the center of the floor for the driveshaft reduces foot space for anyone sitting in the center. It is the single largest drawback in the Grand Marquis' rear-drive design.

Rear-seat roominess and comfort are at the top of the class. Trunk capacity is rated at nearly 21 cubic feet, substantially more than the Buick LeSabre, Chrysler Concorde or Toyota Avalon.

Driving Impressions
The Grand Marquis' 4.6-liter single overhead-cam V8 is smooth and quiet, yet delivers strong acceleration with plenty of power for quick passing. It's one of the best engines Ford has ever built in terms of quality and durability, and features a coil-on-plug ignition system that is simple and reliable.

The transmission delivers smooth, precise, quick shifts. Like many transmissions on the market today, it requires no maintenance for the life of the car.

Grand Marquis offers a smooth, quiet ride. It is stable at high speeds and in crosswinds. Better yet, with the frame, suspension and steering alterations, this is the best-handling big Mercury we've ever driven. Mercury engineers have produced a car that rides and handles much better than its predecessor. The car does float over undulating pavement, though not at uncomfortable levels. The steering is a bit light at higher speeds, but the power assist makes it easy to maneuver the big car in crowded parking lots.

Technical stuff: For 2003, the rear trailing arms were redesigned and relocated to provide better control of vertical wheel motions. A three-piece Watts link was added; it provides more precise lateral location than would be possible with the single-piece Panhard rod or track bar usually used in live-axle setups.

Braking performance is surprisingly good for such a large car. The brakes were enlarged and upgraded recently, with larger, thicker rotors and dual-piston calipers on the front discs. Those changes improved braking performance and reduced the chance of brake fade when descending steep mountain grades. Steel 16-inch wheels are standard, while aluminum alloy wheels are optional. Standard tires are P225/60R-16 all-season Michelins.

We found our 2003 Grand Marquis Ultimate a pleasure to drive on a winding road. The rear air suspension and 16-inch alloy wheels with Goodyear high-performance tires contributed a fair measure of stability.

With its strong V8, rear-wheel drive, and body-on-frame construction, the Grand Marquis is rated to tow 2000 pounds.

Mercury's Grand Marquis is a wonderful sedan for covering a lot of territory on wide-open North American highways. It also rides well in big cities with beat-up infrastructures, though it takes up more space parking.

The Grand Marquis is the last of the V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive, full-size cars with body-on-frame construction. Its ostensible competitors, the Buick LeSabre, Chrysler Concorde, Pontiac Bonneville, and Toyota Avalon, are all more modern in concept, with front-wheel drive, V6 engines, shorter wheelbases, and frameless, unit-body construction.

The 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis separates you and your companions from noise and intrusions caused by the road surface, but it doesn't totally disengage you from the driving experience. The steering and suspension work well to deliver competent ride quality and handling. There's plenty of room for four adults and it comes with one of the biggest trunks in the industry.

Model as tested
Grand Marquis LS Ultimate ($28,980)
Basic Warranty
3 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
CD changer ($350); leather seats ($995)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GS ($23,820); GS Convenience ($24,240); LS Premium ($27,295); LS Ultimate ($28,475); LSE ($27,315)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual airbags with personal safety system, seat-belt pre-tensioners
Safety equipment (optional)
4.6-liter sohc 16-valve V8
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
power steering, power brakes, power mirrors, tinted glass, power locks, anti-theft system, tilt steering column, power windows, remote keyless entry, rear window defrost, electronic instrumentation, premium audio system, rear air suspension, antilock brakes, traction control, cast aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, power passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dim mirror with compass, electronic instrumentation, power adjustable pedals

Engine & Transmission
4.6-liter sohc 16-valve V8
Drivetrain type
front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
220 @ 4750
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.