- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Once in love with cars, always in love with cars.
This is most certainly true of those of uncertain age who have followed cars through the great day of "muscle cars" such as the Pontiac GTO, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, etc.
But there comes a day when you realize that you again want the comfort of a full-size sedan but the choices have been narrowed. Most of the full-size sedans are nice, comfortable cars but the sport and enthusiasm have been left out. It is here that the Mercury Marauder offers this segment of buyers a choice.
The Marauder is basically a Mercury Grand Marquis but with a difference. It offers the roominess of a full-size sedan with some of the zip of an old-time muscle car plus some of the latest automotive technology.
Retros have proven big in recent years. VW started off with the new Beetle and Chrysler followed up with the PT Cruiser and other automakers are jumping on the bandwagon including Mercury.
The Marauder was one of the hot ones during the muscle car days and was a star on the NASCAR circuit. The first Marauders were performance versions of Mercury's mainstream models, the Montclair and Monterey. They were designed to capitalize on the success of the Bill Stroppe-prepared Marauder stock cars, including the one that Parnelli Jones drove to victory in the 1963 Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
Mercury needs a winner and with several new cars on the drawing board the Marauder could be the start of the renewal of the marque.
Powering the present Marauder is a normally aspirated, all-aluminum, 4.6-liter double-overhead camshaft V-8 with four valves per cylinder that produces 302 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 318 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250.
Mated to the engine is a heavy-duty four-speed transmission with overdrive.
Good off-line performance is provided when the engineering team went to their drag racing playbooks and added a reinforced 11-inch, high-stall speed torque converter with heavy-duty 1-inch, one-way clutch.
A 3.55:1 rear axle with an 8.8-inch ring gear and limited slip differential also enhances off-line performance and acceleration.
The Marauder is no compact sport sedan. It weighs in at 4,282 pounds and it still is capable of a respectable 7.5 seconds in the 0-to-60-mph test. It will do the standing quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds.
Some old-timers claim this isn't fast enough, but then again they have nowhere else to turn. Chevrolet dropped its Impala SS back in 1996.
Not only is this engine an excellent performer but it provides an exhaust tone that is music to a gear head.
Unlike the muscle cars of yore, the new Mercury is a decent handler and with large disc brakes at all four corners it stops quickly and in a straight line. Try that with your old GTO.
The ride is firm, flat, composed and stable. The engineers have done an excellent job in roll control for a full-size sedan.
Part of its excellent ride and handling is due to a new variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering system that I found to be excellent. It relays turning force to the operator and tracks with amazing perfection.
There are good and bad points to the interior. Roomy it is, but the front bucket seats, unique to the model, provide cushions that I found too low. The standard "Nudo" leather is slippery, making it difficult for the driver to remain in the correct position.
White-on-black tachometer and speedometer along with the fuel gauge are located directly in front of the driver while the oil pressure and voltmeter are located on the center stack.
Mercury has taken a hint from Mercedes-Benz with its power controls for the front seats. They are seat outlines placed on the doors allowing driver and passenger to easily adjust the seats.
The Marauder resembles the bad brother to the Grand Marquis.
Its all-black paint job gives it an evil countenance and I've heard it described as a car dipped into a vat of tar. Everything is black except exhaust tips and the forged Alcoa five-spoke 18-inch wheels.
If you enjoyed the muscle car era, you'll like the Marauder.


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