- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2001

MODEL: Mercury Grand Marquis
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $26,795
MILEAGE: 18 city, 25 highway

The American V-8-powered rear-wheel-drive sedan lives on only at Ford. Although committed to getting back into that business, General Motors gave up on it several years ago, and Chrysler has been out of the V-8 rear-wheel-drive sedan business for more than a decade.
Ford, though, never abandoned those folks wanting power, space and rear-wheel drive at an affordable price. In 2000, it sold a combined total of 215,000 units of its twins, the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. In anyone's book, that's more than just keeping the genre alive. That's making a success of it.
While the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis share a number of their mechanicals, their styling and amenities are quite different. It falls to Grand Marquis to be the more upscale of the two. Indeed, when fully loaded in its LS guise and festooned with the available options, the Grand Marquis is downright luxurious.
Both sedans have a number of enhancements for 2001. At the top of the list is a notable boost in power. Horsepower is up from 200 last year to 220 this year. Another new standard feature is a Personal Safety System. Using a number of sensors around the vehicle, this system reads the dynamics of a collision and reacts appropriately to best protect front-seat passengers.
Engaging the wipers now also automatically activates the headlamps. New on the options list is Ford's adjustable pedals. Providing three inches of travel, the brake and accelerator pedals can be arranged to provide an ideal driving position in relation to the steering wheel.
Grand Marquis is offered in either GS or LS trim. Other than a couple of additional standard features, such as remote keyless entry and two-way power lumbar support in the driver's seat, the more pricey LS and base GS are quite similar. Where the difference lies is in available options. If you want to upgrade to leather seating or automatic climate control, you must first begin with the LS. My test Grand Marquis was an LS.
Handling has never been a Grand Marquis long suit. It tends to float along, giving its occupants a traditional American boulevard ride. Taking a sharp curve at speed produces noticeable body roll. Opting for the $535 handling package helps. A beefier rear stabilizer bar and stiffer spring rates conspire to firm up the suspension. The package also includes upgraded rubber and alloy wheels.
To add this option, however, the Grand Marquis must also have the one engine option available. It's a massaged version of the standard 4.6-liter V-8 that raises the horsepower to 240. When included with the handling package, the enhanced V-8 pushes the option's cost to $855.
A four-speed automatic transmission transfers power to the rear wheels. Reaching 60 mph from a standstill takes about nine and a half seconds. The Environmental Protection Agency gives Grand Marquis a miles-per-gallon rating of 18 in town and 25 on the highway.
Plush is the word of the day when referring to the Grand Marquis cabin. In LS trim with leather interior, it can go toe to toe with any Lincoln or Cadillac. Only the fake wood accents hint that this is luxury on a budget.
Leg-, hip- and headroom abound for both front- and rear-seat occupants. The seats are comfortable without being too soft. Fatigue is minimized on longer trips. Wide door openings provide easy entry and exit. Controls for the audio system are high up on the dashboard where they belong, while the much less accessed climate control system is relegated to an area at the bottom.
An eight-way power driver's seat is standard, as is the AM-FM stereo cassette player with in-dash CD player and trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer. The trunk is cavernous, but most of that space is depth. Lifting heavy items in and out could be a job.
Base price of the Grand Marquis LS is $24,485. Other standard features include speed-sensitive, power-assisted steering, four-wheel disc brakes, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control and intermittent wipers.
The tested Mercury Grand Marquis LS also had the handling package ($855), anti-lock brakes ($600) and automatic climate control ($175). Adding the $680 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $26,795.


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