2008 Mercury Mariner Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D Premier 2WD

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2008 Mercury Mariner
Frank S. Washington

Introduction
The Mercury Mariner offers everything most buyers seek in a small sport-utility vehicle, including the high, commanding seating position and lots of cargo space, with more maneuverability and better fuel economy than behemoth, truck-based SUVs. For 2008, the Mariner simply does those things a little better than before. Like its corporate sibling, the Ford Escape, the Mariner has been thoroughly updated for 2008.

Improvements to the 2008 Mercury Mariner cover the spectrum, adding both safety features and refinement without altering the basic character that has made this small SUV a popular choice across the United States.

Mariner has a bit more truck-style flair than some of its competitors. The new look for 2008 replicates Mercury's mid-size, truck-based Mountaineer sport-utility. Mariner's ride height and seating position, for example, are higher than that of the Honda CR-V or Nissan Rogue. Mariner can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is substantially more than most vehicles in the class.

Still, Mariner delivers the advantages of other unit-body, car-based SUVs such as the CR-V. The Mariner is more car-like on the road than the Jeep Liberty, for example. Its smooth ride and reasonably agile handling make for pleasant driving, and its compact dimensions make it easy to maneuver and park.

The Mariner offers comfortable seating for four, or five in a pinch, with more headroom than before. Folding the rear seats opens a good-sized cargo area with a flat floor, and space behind the seat surpasses that in the trunk of the typical sedan. Interior storage options have improved for 2008. The finish is more upscale and pleasing, and feature function and switches are among the best. New standard safety features, including a Roll Stability Control system, reset the class benchmark.

The engines are one of the few things carried over from the previous Mariner. The base four-cylinder is adequate, if not particularly exciting, and all variants, including the V6 and Mariner Hybrid, deliver good fuel economy ratings compared to the competition.

The Hybrid drives like a conventional Mariner, for the most part, and demands little additional effort or knowledge from the driver in exchange for improved mileage. Along with the Ford Escape, it's the only full hybrid available in the class. Like other Mariners, the gas-electric Hybrid is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive. The Hybrid models are powered by a more fuel-efficient, 133-hp Atkinson Cycle version of the four-cylinder engine that works in concert with a 70 kilowatt electric motor, all coupled to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. Unlike some mild hybrid SUVs, the Mariner Hybrid can run on 100 percent electric power up to about 25 mph.

In line with a plan to rejuvenate the Mercury brand, Mariner is intended to offer a step up in status over the Escape. Yet it's worth noting that the Escape can be equipped identically to the Mariner, and with the same stuff the prices are essentially the same. In either case, a leather-upholstered V6 4WD, with premium audio, navigation, dual-zone climate control and rear sonar sells for about $30,000. At the higher end of the product line, the differences between Mariner and Escape really comes down to styling details. Model Lineup
The 2008 Mercury Mariner is available with front-wheel drive or fulltime all-wheel drive, and either a four-cylinder, V6 or hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain. All models come with an automatic transmission.

Mariner ($20,920) and Mariner 4WD ($21,320) come with a 153-horsepower 2.3-liter inline four that generates 152 lb-ft of torque, matched to a four-speed automatic. A 200-hp, dual-overhead cam 3.0-liter V6 ($1,000) is optional. These base models come well equipped, with air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and locks, an AM/FM stereo with CD and auxiliary jack, rear window defroster, cruise control, privacy glass and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The V6 comes standard in the Mariner Premium ($23,820) and Premium 4WD ($25,570). This is the upscale trim level, with leather seating, a six-CD changer, automatic headlights and other features included.

Mariner Hybrid ($27,020) and Hybrid 4WD ($28,870) are equipped similarly to the Premium models, with the hybrid powertrain replacing the V6.

Options include the Cargo Convenience Group ($195), which adds a retractable cargo area cover and a compartmentalized rear storage bin. The Audiophile Package ($695) includes a high-power stereo with seven speakers, subwoofer and the in-dash CD changer. The Leather Trim package adds leather seating and adjustable lumbar support to the base model ($995) or Hybrid ($695).

The Audiophile and Navigation Package ($2,295, base, $1,995 Premium and Hybrid) includes the stereo upgrade and a touch-screen navigation system. In the Hybrid, it also adds a meter that graphically and immediately demonstrates the benefits of hybrid drive, and helps the driver maximize fuel economy. These are only the start of the packages, and there are also a host of stand-alone options for all trim levels, including CD changer ($295), a power moonroof ($795), floor mats ($75), 17-inch wheels ($650), and a Class II towing package ($395).

Safety features have been upgraded substantially for 2008, making equipment that was previously optional standard across the board, and raising the benchmark for small sport-utilities. Passive safety features include front- and side-impact airbags for front occupants, and curtain-type head protection airbags for all outboard seats. The side curtains can remain inflated for several seconds in the event of a rollover, and are designed to slide between the side glass and occupants if the people are oddly seated or resting heads against a window.

Active safety systems include four-channel antilock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control and a Roll Stability Control system. RSC adds a second gyroscopic roll-rate sensor to the typical stability control package, measuring the Mariner's roll angle and roll rate and applying countermeasures (such as braking one of the wheels or reducing power) to increase rollover resistance. Walkaround
The 2008 Mercury Mariner has been substantially restyled, but it may be what isn't obvious to the eye that matters more. The most important changes could be functional rather than aesthetic.

The outside mirrors, for example, are larger than before, offering a broader view to the sides and rear. Yet Mercury engineers tailored the shape so the bigger mirrors generate less noise as air speeds over them. The roof, too, is designed to reduce interior noise. Recessed channels running its length are intended to move air more quietly over the surface. Horizontal ribs underneath the panel add structure, which limits flex in the metal and reduces booming noise inside at high speeds. In all, it's part of the overall refinement that makes the redesigned Mariner a more pleasant place to spend time.

We're not trying to minimize the changes to Mariner's styling, because they're significant. The front end, liftgate, headlights and taillights are different. The beltline, or that crease just below the side windows, has been raised, and none of the major body panels are common to previous Mariners. It's just that the redesign is evolutionary, with the most obvious changes in the details. In a general, impressionistic way, the new Mariner still looks a lot like a shrunken version of the larger Mercury Mountaineer SUV. And while it may have a sedan-style unitbody with fully independent suspension underneath, the Mariner has a more conventional, upright, truck-style look than a lot of its competitors.

It starts with the big, bold, waterfall grille, which immediately attracts the eye from any angle on the front of the vehicle. The new grille is larger than before, with wider openings between the bars. The badge in the middle is larger, too, and there are smaller Mercury badges integrated inside the headlight lenses. There's more brightwork on this Mariner front and rear, but it's mostly a satiny, aluminum finish rather than conventional chrome. It gives Mariner a more understated, slightly more upscale look than the closely related Ford Escape.

That higher beltline creates the impression that the windows are shorter or narrower, promoting a pillbox effect that emphasizes Mariner's truck look. The taillights have the same eyebrow shape as the headlights, which helps connect front and rear. The lenses are clear, with read and white clusters underneath.

We particularly like a couple of features in back of the Mariner. A step pad on the bumper provides secure footing for anyone who steps up to put something on the roof rack, and the two-piece tailgate is handy. The rear glass can be popped open with the key fob, so dropping smaller items like a gym bag into the cargo area is easier than it might be with some competitors, which require hefting the entire gate upward. Interior
The 2008 Mercury Mariner features a redesigned cabin, and it contributes considerably to its overall refinement, increasing its appeal. This interior isn't a great leap forward in any particular fashion, but it's carefully thought out and well executed. Ergonomic function is best in class, and the visual impact is good.

The brushed, satiny aluminum trim that abounds outside the Mariner carries over inside, and anyone who likes the effect should find the Mariner a pleasant place to spend time. The look and feel of materials are improved throughout. The headliner is plush and molded to the contour of the roof.

The base seats have rich, suede-like Alcantara inserts; the optional leather upholstery is thick and tailored tautly around the seats. The most impressive feature may be the woven-look, rubberized trim on the dash and console. It looks sporty and suited to a more expensive car. The low point is the grained plastic on the door panels, which feels hard and looks a bit cheap. Fortunately, it's not enough to overwhelm the good stuff most everywhere else, and many others fall down in this area as well.

The front seats are smaller than those in a larger sport utility. We'd guess drivers with wide frames might find them small. There isn't an abundance of side bolstering, either, but that makes it easier to slide into the seats, and there's enough to keep occupants solidly in place for the type of driving a typical Mariner owner is likely to undertake. For most drivers, the seat should have enough cush to prevent butt numbing and enough support to limit fatigue during a long commute.

Gauges are clustered in a shaded binnacle that can be absorbed in a glance: Tachometer left, speedometer right, with fuel and coolant temperature in the middle, along with an easy-to-read trip- and systems-info display. We loved this, because it includes a menu that allows the driver to easily cycle through and change features like headlight-off delay and auto-locking.

The gauges and switches feature Ford's corporate signature backlighting style, which the company calls Ice Blue. No gripe here, as the bluish white is crisper and brighter than conventional green-yellow or orange lighting. We're not terribly fond of the speedometer script, however. It lacks differentiation beyond the big even numbers, so it's hard to tell quickly what speed you're driving unless you are traveling precisely 20, 40 or 60 mph.

The dashboard is tall and squarish, but attractive. Big vents at the ends move lots of air, and there are two more in the middle near the top of the center stack. These can be aimed to avoid blasting the driver's hands or face with a rush of air. At the very top, nearly eye level, sits a neat TFT display that shows compass direction, date and time, exterior temperature and interior temp settings.

Measured by the placement and function of switches and controls, the Mariner is first rate, and examples are easy to find. When the driver rests his or her left forearm on the door rest, the windows buttons sit almost perfectly at the fingertips. With elbows on the door rest and center console, arms are even and hands rest nicely at 9 and 3 on the steering wheel. The mirror adjustor sits on the door pillar, and it's easy to reach when the driver's head is in driving position. One easy-to-use stalk controls the blinkers and all wiper/washer functions. Steering-wheel controls for cruise and audio work without moving hands from the driving position.

The primary audio and climate controls are even better. The volume and station-selector knobs are good sized, but more importantly, they are raised substantially from the stereo plate, rather than nearly flat to the surface as they are in many vehicles. The radial switches for fan and temperature are also big and easy to find. Picking nits, the pushbuttons to control airflow direction and the rear defogger are a bit small, but they tend to be adjusted less frequently than the others. The auxiliary audio jack is at the bottom of the center stack, opposite a 12-volt power point, and just above a lined bin where you can set an iPod with reasonable assurance that it will stay put for the entire trip home.

Our Mariner Hybrid had the optional touch-screen navigation system, which is becoming one of our favorites from any manufacturer. Its biggest weakness is the display screen, which is smaller than those in some other brands. Yet the graphics are clear and easy to read to the smaller details, at night or wearing sunglasses in bright daylight. More importantly, the system is easy to use with minimal distraction, and easy to learn without pouring over the owner's manual. The software also identifies some rather obscure roads that others miss.

It's an expensive tool (or toy, depending on your perspective), but we particularly recommend the nav system with the Mariner Hybrid. In the hybrid, it includes an Energy display that demonstrates in real-time the fuel-saving benefits of hybrid drive. By paying some attention to the graphs, you'll find yourself becoming a more environmentally friendly and fiscally efficient motorist. It can be fun to see how efficiently you can drive, or not. We wish Mercury offered this feature without the nav system.

Interior storage creates another Mariner strength, or at least storage within reach of the front passengers. Start with that rubber-lined, slide-proof bin in front of the shifter, which is great for iPods, phones, glasses, a wallet or change. High-trim Mariners feature swing-down overhead bins for glasses and garage-door remotes. The glovebox is big enough for some stuff beyond the owner's manual and documents, and there are decent-sized bins molded in the door bottoms (though whatever goes here tends to slide as the Mariner slows or accelerates). The crown jewel is the center console, which is large enough to swallow a hand bag or laptop computer. Better, it has two removable trays that allow stacking of smaller items inside, and hide valuables like a digital camera or MP3 player at the way-bottom like a false floor. Better still, the trays can be hung outside the console, adding even more storage space.

The rear seatback could be a little too upright for some tastes, but otherwise the rear bench is comfortable. There's plenty of knee room, and noticeably more headroom than before. A medium-sized adult should stay comfortable in the outboard seats for an hour or more, assuming the person in front isn't 6'6". The middle space works best for kids in a booster seat, or just out. There are cupholders and a power point on the back of the center console, but storage space for rear passengers is limited to those slide-prone bins at the bottom of the rear doors.

With the redesign for 2008, some of the Mariner's interior dimensions (particularly headroom) have increased. On the other hand, cargo capacity has decreased, from a maximum of 69.2 cubic feet to 66.3, with 29.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat (compared to 33 previously). The difference is equal to a big duffle bag, and maximum cargo volume puts Mariner near the bottom of a class that includes the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Jeep Liberty and Chevy Equinox (73, 72.9. 69 and 67.1 cubic feet, respectively). On the plus side, the extra battery pack under floor in the Mariner Hybrid does not significantly encroach on storage space. It reduces the maximum just .3 cubic feet.

Further, the Mariner's cargo space is easy to access. The rear seat folds quickly, 60/40, and the bottom can be removed to make a perfectly flat load floor. The fold-flat front-passenger seat is a great addition, too. The design seems to do nothing to diminish the seat's comfort, yet its back can fold forward to a level on the same plan as the folded rear seat and cargo floor. This allows the Mariner to carry much longer items securely inside.

There aren't a lot of frills in that cargo area, but the essentials are there: tie-downs, and an optional cargo shade and under-floor bin that's deep enough for a small load of groceries. The bin may be more valuable as a place to separate wet items like beach towels. The carpet behind the rear seat is also reversible, so the rubber-coated bottom can be turned up.

One of our biggest gripes with the previous Mariner was noise inside. It was certainly no quieter than its corporate sibling, the Ford Escape, despite its upscale pretensions, and less quiet than a lot of competitors. And while we can't say for sure if this new Mariner is quieter inside than the new Escape, we assure you that it is both smoother and quieter than the old Mariner.

Mercury invested a lot of time and money reducing interior noise, starting with thicker side glass. The windshield has an acoustic laminate sandwiched between two layers of glass. The headliner has more sound-deadening capability, and the carpeting is 50 percent thicker. The net result, according to Mercury, is a 20 percent reduction in interior noise at 80 mph. We'll say that, in overall noise, vibration and harshness control, the Mariner has moved from the lower end of its competitive set toward the top. Driving Impressions
The redesigned Mercury Mariner still seems a bit more like a real truck than competitors such as the Honda CR-V or Saturn Vue. That's partly due to Mariner's squarer, upright styling, but mostly because its ride height and seating position are higher than other small, unitbody (sedan style) sport-utilities. The difference is a character issue more than a genuine, functional phenomenon, and it's not bad at all. The 2008 Mariner never feels tippy on the road and it's quite pleasant to drive. Both the four- and six-cylinder engine deliver good response and adequate acceleration, and the high seating position simply offers a better view when scooting through traffic, which can be accomplished with the same confidence you might have in a standard sedan.

All Mariners, from front-drive four-cylinders to all-wheel-drive V6s to the Hybrid, have some of the best EPA mileage ratings in the class. All have a firm, comfortable ride, without the roly-poly mush quality or the jarring clanks that can characterize conventional truck-based SUVs with tall, off-road tires and long-travel suspensions. Improvements for 2008, including increased air-conditioning power, an electric power steering system, better noise management and changes in suspension tuning, raise the level of refinement above previous Mariners.

The Mariner Hybrid delivers essentially the same performance as the gasoline V6, with very little except improved mileage to give away its hybrid powertrain. Few drivers will notice any substantial, functional differences with the Hybrid in day-to-day use. This is a full hybrid, meaning it can run exclusively on electric power, but there's no power cord needed. The battery pack is automatically recharged by the gasoline engine and by regenerative braking, which captures energy that is otherwise wasted when a vehicle looses momentum, then sends it to the batteries for storage.

By combining a four-cylinder gasoline engine with the boost from an electric motor, the Hybrid can deliver a significant fuel-economy improvement and reduce emissions. The Mariner Hybrid can operate on the electric motor up to about 25 mph to maximize in-city fuel economy, and for 2008 it's available with all-wheel drive. .

The Mariner Hybrid's primary source of power remains its gasoline engine. It's nearly identical to the 2.3-liter four in gasoline-only models, except that it runs on something called the Atkinson cycle, which improves its fuel efficiency but reduces horsepower by 20 (to 133). The companion, 70-kilowatt electric motor will kick in when a driver demands full acceleration and deliver more torque to the wheels, or it can power the Mariner Hybrid by itself in certain circumstances, such as creeping along in a traffic jam or rolling through a parking lot. Bottom line, the Hybrid model delivers acceleration times comparable to the gas-only V6, with a 55 percent improvement over gas-only four-cylinder models in city mpg, according to the EPA (34 city, 30 highway for the Hybrid 2WD).

The Hybrid delivers excellent acceleration at lower speeds. Floor it at 20 mph, and it will snap heads back toward head rests. Floor the Hybrid 2WD at a stop sign, and it can squeal its front tires like a hot rod. To be sure, its tires are harder than those on other Mariners and designed for maximum efficiency, which means less rolling resistance, and less grip. The only real performance issue compared to gasoline-only Mariners is a reduction in maximum towing capacity from 3,500 pounds for the V6 4WD (best in class) to 1000 pounds for the Hybrid (still enough for a personal watercraft or dirt bikes)

Few will notice a significant difference between the Hybrid and a conventional Mariner, except when the Hybrid shuts itself off at stop lights or glides quietly through a parking lot on electric power. Indeed, the Hybrid is a bit quieter, probably smoother, in all circumstances. In order to minimize the power lost as it transfers to the drive wheels, the Mariner Hybrid has a continuously variable transmission, which has no conventional gears. Instead, it has metal bands that adjust to best match the engine's rpm. In typical driving, there's no hesitation as gears shift, no uneven surges of speed and less variance in the noise coming from under the hood as the Mariner picks up speed. There's just smooth, even acceleration.

With the stereo cranked up to cover ambient noise, a driver will have a hard time knowing when the gas engine starts or shuts off at stop lights, or when the Hybrid is rolling along on electric power alone. The transitions are generally seamless, and for 2008 models, Mercury engineers spent a lot of time revising the control software to make the changes even less perceptible.

They've done a good job, but we're not sure what protocol determines when the Mariner Hybrid operates on electric power. In fact, it seemed to operate in electric mode less frequently than we might have expected. At times the gas engine ran when we thought it might not have to, and at times it didn't even shut off at a stop light. For the most part, we drove the Hybrid as we would any other test car, which is fairly aggressively, using the accelerator as if someone else were buying the gas, and we still saw some improvement in fuel economy.

Just not an incredible improvement. Our normal rounds include more city than highway driving, though rarely in true rush-hour traffic, plus a few extracurricular, test-specific maneuvers. In this routine, by our best calculation, we found an improvement of 10 to 12 percent over what we've seen with a conventional four-cylinder. We expect most consumers will do better, or at least those with long, traffic-laden commutes. Still, the real-world fuel savings with a hybrid will depend heavily on how, where and when you drive. For guestimation, EPA mileage numbers may be the best tool.

To get the best fuel economy, Hybrid drivers will want to be gentle on the gas pedal. That will maximize the instances when the Mariner travels only on electric power. Dip the pedal quickly, or much past a quarter of its travel, and the gas engine restarts immediately to satisfy what the control electronics determine to be a demand for serious acceleration. Even if a driver is not going to exceed 20 mph, which is well within the limit of electric-only speed, the gas engine will start if the pedal application is too strong. It probably helps to stop slowly, too. Long, steady, coast-down stops, using more engine compression than wheel brakes, are best for charging the batteries. We surmise that short, quick stops from road speeds may keep the engine from shutting off at a red light. The control system may take aggressive stops as an emergency, or just sporting, aggressive driving, and leave the engine fired for more action.

For the best economy, we also recommend the optional navigation system, which on the Hybrid includes an energy-meter function that graphically illustrates how well you're doing at saving fuel. It includes instant and average fuel economy readouts, and tells you when the gas engine is running, when the electric motor is doing the work and when the batteries are charging. It's a good tool to learn how to maximize economy with the Mariner Hybrid.

The other engines in the 2008 Mariner are carryover from the previous generation, but both are decent performers. The base 2.3-liter four-cylinder delivers good power at high revs for those who like to wind it up, and adequate torque at any speed. With a balance shaft to offset vibration, it's also smoother than some of Ford's previous four-cylinder engines. We just wish the 153-hp four was available in the Mariner with the five-speed manual transmission offered in its corporate twin, the Ford Escape. The 2.3 four is more satisfying with a manual, and more fun to drive.

The 200-hp, 3.0-liter V6 engine delivers stronger acceleration, and about as much torque as any small SUV is likely to need. It has no obvious torque peak, or accompanying burst of thrilling acceleration, but its power band is broad. In day-to-day driving, it never lugs, strains or feels as if it's out of breath.

Neither the four-cylinder nor V6 powertrain is the smoothest in small SUVs, but neither is course enough to seriously detract from Mariner's appeal. Our gripe in the driveline is the four-speed automatic, and it's not because some competitors now offer five-speeds. While the Mariner automatic shifts smoothly, it sometimes shifts slowly, in that it seems to take its time deciding what gear it wants to be in. In particular, it's very reluctant to shift itself down into first gear, which would provide the most immediate acceleration. When rolling out of a parking lot onto a busy road, for example, the transmission will stay in second gear when you hit the gas, even when first is better for the traffic conditions.

The automatic is the biggest source of complaint in the Mariner's overall performance, and how much that matters will depend on how you drive. In general, the Mariner handles well, and improvements for 2008 give it a more refined feel. One of those is the electric power-assisted steering system (EPS), which operates with an electric motor rather than a belt turned by the engine. One of the advantages is increased efficiency, because a conventional, belt-driven steering pump takes a bit of the engine's power just to operate. That's power that's not being used to move the vehicle.

In Mariner's case, the electric power steering pump also improves steering feel. With EPS, there's a nice balance between steering assist at parking-lot speeds and decent feel on the highway. The steering tracks more steadily than before, with less adjustment or correction required over uneven surfaces. It's direct and accurate with no dead spot in the center, and there's enough feeling when you turn the wheel to impart a sense of control.

In all, refinements in the steering and suspension improve the 2008 Mariner's performance on the road, which wasn't that bad to begin with. Despite its truck-style ambience, the Mariner delivers a ride-handling balance that comes closer to a sedan than a truck. Its ride is comfortable, but never wobbly or floaty, over a variety of road surfaces, including expansion joints and shallow potholes. The tires deliver respectable grip in paved corners, so the Mariner stays planted where a lot of SUVs might slide. Transient response is surprisingly good, meaning Mariner maintains reasonable composure in a series of left-right-left lane-change maneuvers. This allows quicker driving that is also smooth, and it won't make passengers feel sea-sick.

Mercury pitches the return to drum-style rear brakes on gasoline-powered Mariners as an improvement, claiming the drums add durability and reduce the amount of brake dust generated. We call it a cost-saving move, plain and simple, and that's fine. We also believe consumers are smart enough to know whether they like the cost advantage of drum brakes, or not. No need to spin it.

As it is, the Mariner stops in plenty of time, with no brake fade in any typical on-road driving circumstances. The ABS system is well tuned, keeping the brakes right at the threshold between maximum stopping force and wheel lock, and allowing the driver to maintain steering control in a full-panic stop.

Hybrid or coventional, Mariner makes a good all-season vehicle in all climates. It does not make a good off-road vehicle, despite a bit more ground clearance than some competitors. The optional Intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD) system is tuned for driving more on slippery pavement than dirt or gravel. It monitors vehicle speed, throttle input and steering angle and delivers engine power to the appropriate wheels before any particular wheel can loose traction. It can switch power front to rear or side to side, and theoretically can send 100 percent of the engine's power to either the front or rear wheels.

The system takes a lot of the stress out of driving on wet, slushy or snowy roads. It helps maximize forward progress on slippery surfaces, and its transfer of power to wheels with the best traction is rarely noticed by the driver, who can focus simply on using the gas smoothly and steering between the lines.

Of course, the Mariner is built on a front-wheel-drive platform developed primarily for sedans, and like most small SUVs, the 2WD models are front-wheel drive. With caution, it can handle reasonably level gravel or dirt trails. But if there is no graded path, forget about it, and if the way is much steeper than you'd attempt in a car, forget about that, too. Shoppers seeking a small SUV with real off-road potential should consider a competitor like the Jeep Liberty.

For everyday driving and travel on the road, the Mariner is one of the best. Summary
The 2008 Mercury Mariner offers front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, competitive four- or six-cylinder engines and the Hybrid package, which works essentially as the conventional models do. Fuel mileage for all models, and towing capacity, rank with the best in class. Substantial improvements for 2008 add safety features, refinement, comfort and more style. For all-purpose, reasonably efficient daily transport on the road, the Mariner rates among the best smaller SUVs. Shoppers seeking genuine off-road potential should look elsewhere.

J.P. Vettraino filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Mariner in the Detroit area.

Model as tested
Mercury Mariner Hybrid ($27,020)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Kansas City, Missouri
Destination charge
665
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
20920
Price as tested
32255
Options as tested
Premium Package ($3,395) includes leather seating, GPS navigation system with seven-speaker audiophile stereo, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, roof rack with crossbars and retractable cargo cover; Hybrid Moon & Tune Package ($995) includes power glass sunroof with shade and Sirius Satellite Radio receiver with six-month subscription; 110-volt electrical outlet ($180)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Mercury Mariner ($20,920); Mariner 4WD ($22,670); Premium ($23,820); Premium 4WD ($25,770); Hybrid ($27,020); Hybrid 4WD ($28,770)
Safety equipment (standard)
front-impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags, curtain style head-protection airbags for all outboard seats, rollover protection system with roll stability control, dynamic stability control, four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS) , tire-pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.3-liter dual overhead-cam 16-valve Atkinson-cycle inline-4 with 70-kW, 330-volt electric motor
Transmissions
CVT

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, six-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar control, AM/FM/cassette with in-dash six-CD changer and auxiliary jack, cruise control, power locks, illuminated remote keyless entry pad, automatic headlights, power mirrors, power windows with express down for driver's window, auto-dim rearview mirror, center console with armrest, message center with compass and outside temperature, dual illuminated visor mirrors, three accessory power outlets, privacy glass, electric rear window defroster, front fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, floor mats

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.3-liter dual overhead-cam 16-valve Atkinson-cycle inline-4 with 70-kW, 330-volt electric motor
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
133 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
34/30
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with four-channel ABS
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson strut, anti-roll bar
Tires
P235/70R16
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
40.4/53.4/41.6
Head/hip/leg room, rear
39.2/49..1/35.6

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
66.0
Wheelbase
103.1
Length/width/height
175.2/71.1/68.0
Turning circle
36.7
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
1000
Track, front/rear
61.1/61.4
Ground clearance
8.6
Curb weight
3657


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