In a late-night, clandestine move, Mercury released details and images of a thoroughly redesigned Mariner, which will go on sale in early 2007 as a 2008 model. Ford's mid-market marque has decided that the 2005 model was in need of an update to keep up with the Joneses (i.e. other small soft-roaders). The entry-level SUV, or CUV depending on your perspective, is intended to mark a major shift for Mercury's approach to design and technology.
On the aesthetics side, the Mariner's front fascia takes the brunt of the redesign, with the trademark 'waterfall' grill gaining more prominence, both in length and width. The headlamps also grow significantly in every dimension, gaining 'eyebrows' that integrate and define the newly creased hood. Altogether, the redesigned front end has more tautly drawn lines and a more upright posture that provides the Mariner with a defined road presence that will be advantageous when you flash the high beams on someone crawling along in the left lane.
Following your way along to the rear, it's easy to notice that the beltline has moved northward and is met with wraparound taillights that don a more modern design. We've always liked the Euro-style, or Altessa, lights when they come from the OEM, and Mercury seems to have utilized those elements to its advantage. The tailgate also benefits from a few well-executed tweaks the lay to rest the previous model's undefined rear-end.
The interior reveals the designer's use of nothing but a straight-rule when it comes to the center console, a la S40. Faux-aluminum also bears a striking resemblance to its Swedish stable mate, with easily read buttons and clearly defined knobs. The dash gets more of the brushed stuff, with modern numbering that glows a light blue hue, rather than the stale green of its forbearer.
On the technical end of things, the new Mariner will be the first of FoMoCo's brands to receive their newly developed Electric Power Steering (EPS), which, along with the revised suspension, will contribute to more civilized riding and handling characteristics. Along with a smoother ride, drivers will also notice a reduction in road noise, due to several sound insulating upgrades.
When buyers opt for the Hybrid option, they'll be able to choose between two-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive, whereas before, AWD was the only option. Additionally, software changes have made the switch from electric power to conventional combustion even more seamless.
In the end, Mercury's revised Mariner remains a viable contender in the small utility vehicle marketplace and will likely garner more support from consumers than the previous generation.
Click on for more images and the full press release.
PHOTO GALLERY (click on any image to enlarge):
Introduced in 2005 as Mercury's entry-level, small SUV, Mariner built on the style and success of the mid-size four-door Mountaineer. The original Mariner was designed for customers who wanted a little more than a standard, small SUV, as it delivered a high level of design sophistication, more standard features, premium interior materials and unique content in a smartly packaged, fuel-efficient model.
Now, with the first significant redesign of Mariner since its launch, the new 2008 model builds on that foundation by adding higher levels of style and refinement – it is a look that will define the Mercury brand moving forward.
The 2008 Mariner hits dealer showrooms in early 2007 and is completely redesigned inside and out. In addition to fresh sheet metal with new Mercury design cues and a remade interior, Mariner is updated with a comprehensive safety package, a quieter ride and more refined driving dynamics. What has not changed is the overall package: Mariner retains the fuel-efficiency, maneuverability and the fun-to-drive nature that is a core characteristic of the small SUV package.
"The 2008 Mariner is the first product to truly deliver 100 percent of the design DNA for Mercury as a brand," says Kim Irwin, Mercury brand manager. "It looks good and drives well, it has sophisticated style, and it's not like anything else out there."
The 2008 Mariner enters the market at a time when customers are looking for smaller SUVs that still deliver on the attributes demanded of a traditional SUV, such as four-wheel drive, a commanding seating position, towing capability and good cargo capacity. The new Mariner continues to balance all these demands, wrapping it all in a sophisticated and stylish package that can only be found on a Mercury.
Clean, Modern and Sophisticated Exterior Design Sets Mariner Apart
On the outside, the 2008 Mariner's all-new sheet metal includes significant design changes to the front/rear fascias, liftgate, headlamps and taillamps, a raised beltline, new hood and B-pillar blackout molding. There's also a unique satin signature waterfall grille.
"Overall, the new Mariner looks more refined than the previous model," says Stephen Lesh, program manager for the 2008 Mariner. "The hood is raised and it's more squared off. With its new look and enhanced features, the 2008 Mariner is perfect for customers who want something a little smaller than Mountaineer, gets a little better mileage and yet still delivers all the capabilities of an SUV."
One striking visual statement on the 2008 Mariner is the new grille that's larger, with bigger openings between the bars. The Mercury badge in the middle of the waterfall grille is larger, too. More brightwork front and rear gives 2008 Mariner an unmistakable Mercury presence on the road. The previous model's body-color molding and lower body cladding are removed, giving Mariner a cleaner, more seamless profile. Mercury-exclusive integrated side repeater lamps is another Mercury's design cue and adds an element of safety.
Head and taillamps have a unique "eyebrow" design running around the lenses, bringing together the front and rear ends of the vehicle. Look closely: The headlamps are accentuated with a Mercury badge subtly integrated inside the housing. The taillamps have four inner lenses and a clear lamp with a red inner lens. The "powerdome" hood has a unique reverse crease that draws the eye from the grille toward the windshield.
The design changes go more than skin deep. "Every surface was changed to make the vehicle look more substantial than the previous model," said Doyle Letson, chief designer for Mariner. "We wanted the new Mariner to have a presence, sophistication and attention to detail that would be more appealing to the customer."
On top of the vehicle, a new roof panel helps reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). "Recessed channels on top of the vehicle are designed to improve air flow over the vehicle," said Letson. "We found out that if we tweaked the size and position of these channels, we could affect NVH in a very positive way."
Horizontal ribs in the roof also strengthen body structure and help reduce boom from wind noise while larger mirrors that improve rear visibility have been carefully tailored to reduce wind noise.
Mariner is available in two trim levels: the well-equipped Mariner and the up-level Mariner Premier that adds bright machined 16-inch aluminum wheels (with optional chrome-clad 17-inch wheels), available satin inserts on the roof rack, leather seats, a power driver's seat, dual automatic temperature control and body-color mirrors.
Three new 2008 Mariner colors include Kiwi, Light Ice Blue and Black Pearl Slate. In all, eight exterior colors will be offered on the new Mariner.
Mariner's Stylish, Sophisticated and Refined Interior Moves Further Upscale
Inside, Satin Pewter finishes and chrome accents give the 2008 Mariner an upscale look. There are new seats, door trim panels, A- and B-pillar trims, center console and a new floor-mounted shifter. The seats are monochromatic or two-tone with Alcantara ® Suede inserts.
"The way we define the brand is, it's cool," says Evelyn Bowman, interior designer for the Mariner. "Mariner's interior is savvy, forward and technical looking. It has a lot of eye-popping details that resonate well with our target customer."
Signaling a new direction for Mercury interior design, the 2008 Mariner is the first Mercury vehicle to debut three innovative interior features.
A "top of dash" display positioned at eye level on the dashboard shows inside and outside temperature, radio functions and climate control readouts. When the driver or front passenger adjusts a knob or button on the instrument panel, the change is reflected in the eye-level display instead of lower down on the dashboard where information is typically located. This simple, efficient design puts much of the vehicle's information in one place at the top of the dashboard, making it easier to read while driving.
Ice Blue Lighting replaces green on the instrument cluster, on the center console, on the door lock and window switches and on the steering wheel. Ice Blue presents a cool, crisp, easy-on-the-eyes light for night driving and enhances the overall quality feel of the interior.
Replacing the traditional "brick" design for the radio and heating/air conditioning controls, Mariner features dials and buttons that "poke-through" the center console. The instrument panel houses audio and climate controls, a standard MP3/iPod ® jack, controls for the heated seats and an available in-dash Navigation system. The result is a more integrated, more finished look.
In addition to these features, Mariner's center console has innovative space and storage solutions. The console features best-in-class volume and two removable bins with dovetail mounting points on the front passenger side or rear of the console. The medium-sized bins can be used as a trash receptacle, an extra place to put a music player, or an additional storage space for keys, sunglasses, etc.
The center console in the new Mariner is large enough to hold a laptop computer, and there are three levels of storage space. The bottom storage level features a secret compartment that goes nearly to the floor of the vehicle so Mariner owners can hide valuables like a digital camera or purse. The rear part of the console has molded-in rear-seat cupholders that are higher, sturdier and easier to reach than in the previous model.
The storage area behind the second row of seats has a newly available rear cargo management system. Lifting the rear cargo area carpet reveals a hidden, lockable place to store items – it's a second "wet" trunk to keep snorkeling gear or wet beach towels away from dry bags or clothes. The rear cargo area carpet is also reversible – flip it over and there's an easy-to-clean rubber surface.
The air conditioner has been improved for more comfort in hot weather conditions. A larger air conditioner compressor improves overall performance, and new rectangular air vents near the top of the dashboard efficiently direct air to passengers in the back seat and do not blow directly on the driver's hands.
A host of other features elevate the level of sophistication inside Mariner. A new floor-mounted shifter, for example, let engineers remove the emergency brake handle from the center console, freeing up room between the seats; the emergency brake is now engaged with a floor-mounted pedal and released with a handle on the dashboard. Thoughtfully sculpted door panels create more elbow room; audio speakers sit higher in the front doors for better sound clarity; and the rear doors have new storage bins.
Mariner is also one of the first Ford Motor Company vehicles to feature One-Touch Integrated Start. This feature lets the driver put the key in the ignition, turn it once and then let go – like electronic "start" buttons that are becoming common on luxury cars.
New Steering and Chassis Upgrades Improve Mariner's Ride and Handling
The 2008 Mercury Mariner is one of the first Ford Motor Company vehicles to use speed-sensitive Electric Power Steering (EPS), a sophisticated system that improves overall steering feel and is more efficient than conventional systems.
Conventional power steering systems use a hydraulic gear that gets power from a belt turned by the engine – this draws power and efficiency from the engine. The 2008 Mariner has seamless electric-power-assisted steering that draws power from an electric motor instead of drawing power directly from the engine accessory drive. This new system helps improve fuel economy and eliminates the hydraulic noises typical of conventional hydraulic power-assisted steering systems. Because there are no hydraulic lines or fluid, maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle are reduced, too.
EPS and a retuned suspension reinforce Mariner's confident on-road ride. For 2008, Mariner's car-like feel is further improved with a reduction in the rear spring rates from prior models and a front stabilizer bar that grows from 20 to 21 mm. Models with 17-inch wheels/tires get unique rear dampers and a 22-mm front stabilizer bar.
For 2008, gasoline-powered Mariners come with an all-new 10-inch , front disc/rear drum braking system that is more durable, quieter and emits less dust.
"With Mariner's new braking system, stopping distances are equivalent to the previous model," said Tom Skwirsk, Mariner Brake System Supervisor. "The difference now, however, is that customers will get improved life on linings and rotors, which greatly reduces the cost of ownership. There's also better NVH. Because the new brakes are larger, they run cooler and are quieter. A new brake lining material creates much less brake dust, virtually eliminating the need to clean brake dust from the front wheels."
The 2008 Mariner Hybrid continues with regenerative four-wheel-disc brakes.
A Focus on NVH Refinement Delivers a Quiet, Car-Like Ride
Engineers made a host of changes to the 2008 Mariner to lower NVH levels inside
"There is a noticeable improvement in wind and road noise," says Eric Loeffler, chief engineer of the 2008 Mariner. "We measure noise in sones, but what we're really trying to go after is the level of speech intelligibility inside the vehicle. We've made significant improvements to Mariner that will be very noticeable to customers."
To achieve lower NVH levels, a new acoustic windshield laminate is sandwiched between two glass panels in the front windshield. In addition to preventing the windshield from breaking apart in a collision, the new laminate material reduces the sound level of wind noise experienced in the vehicle. There's an acoustic headliner in the vehicle as well, and the interior carpet is thicker than the previous model and does a better job of isolating noise. Overall, carpet volume has increased by 25 percent with a 50 percent increase in thickness over about 50 percent of the area.
There's a host of other NVH enhancements, too.
Side glass thickness has increased from 3.8 to 4.7 mm and helps prevent outside noise from entering the passenger cabin.
On V6-equipped models, engineers moved the alternator from the right to left side of the engine. Because the engine is transversely mounted, the noise is now located farther away from the passenger cabin.
A new, quieter cooling fan reduces idle noise.
All-wheel drive models have a new rear differential that is quieter and smoother.
New windshield molding and low profile wipers help improve airflow around the vehicle and reduce wind noise.
Redesigned recessed channels on top of Mariner are staggered and shorter to reduce boom as air flows over the top.
Outside mirrors are larger and careful attention was given to their design to minimize wind noise.
Additional sound deadening material has been added throughout the vehicle to reduce noise throughout the interior.
Compared with the previous model, the 2008 Mariner is 12 percent quieter on the highway (30.8 sones to 27 sones at 80 mph in the wind tunnel) and 20 percent quieter in high velocity cross winds.
Mariner's Proven Chassis and Powertrain Reinforce Mariner's Car-Like Ride
Mariner is tuned for the urban environment to deliver a comfortable and controlled ride. Unibody construction contributes to its light weight, nimble maneuverability, and a low stance makes it easy to get in and out of the vehicle. A responsive architecture – with four-wheel independent suspension – gives Mariner precise steering and handling and the ability of each wheel to react separately to road imperfections.
Mariner comes standard with front-wheel drive. An available Intelligent Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) system automatically transfers torque from front to rear as required by road conditions without driver intervention. The computer-controlled system operates so seamlessly that its engagement is barely noticeable to most drivers.
The Intelligent 4WD System has a fully computer-controlled clutch that engages the rear wheels as needed. Using sensors at each wheel and the accelerator, the system's computer can calculate up to 200 times per second exactly how much torque to send to the rear wheels to minimize slip. Intelligent 4WD constantly monitors all four wheels looking for tire slip on wet or snowy pavement and can transfer torque to the rear axle in a moment's notice. The system eliminates a drawback of other four-wheel-drive systems – a binding effect during tight turns and driveline harshness when the system engages. Mariner's Intelligent 4WD System can sense tight turns and continuously vary the torque to the rear wheels at all speeds, offering the benefits of a "locked" four-wheel-drive system without any of the drawbacks.
The standard engine is a 2.3-liter, 16-valve Duratec 23 four-cylinder that produces 153 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 152 lb.-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. An optional 3.0-liter, 24-valve V6 Duratec 30 engine produces 200 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 193 lb.-ft of torque at 4,850 rpm. Both engines come with a standard four-speed-automatic transaxle.
Mariner Hybrid Proves its Durability and Urban City Prowess
Mariner Hybrid comes with a 2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor. The gasoline engine produces 133 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 124 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm. The electric motor produces 70 kw @ 5,000 rpm and 330V maximum voltage. The net result is 155 horsepower with 0-60 times comparable to a 200 horsepower V6 engine and a boost in city-driving fuel economy of nearly 75 percent. A smooth-shifting, electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is the only available transmission on the hybrid model.
For 2008, Mariner Hybrid engineers made revisions to software in the control system to improve transparency, or the transition between gasoline and electric operation. The transition from all-electric to gasoline power to a combination of the two is now even more seamless and virtually imperceptible to the driver. Also, the four-wheel-disc regenerative brakes have also been retuned to provide better feel. With the 2008 model year, Mariner Hybrid will be available for the first time with a choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Previously, the Mariner Hybrid was offered only as a four-wheel-drive model.
Mariner Hybrid continues to be a "full" hybrid. This means that, unlike other "mild" hybrid vehicles, Mariner Hybrid can run on 100 percent electric power up to about 30 mph, maximizing in-city fuel economy. Mariner Hybrid automatically switches between pure electric power, pure gasoline engine power or combined operation of the two to maximize efficiency and performance.
Full hybrids achieve their greatest improvement in fuel economy during stop-and-go driving where the electric motor is most efficient. The Mariner Hybrid provides approximately 75 percent better fuel economy in city driving than the conventional
Safety Canopy™ with "Roll-Fold" Technology Offers Enhanced Rollover and Side-Impact Protection
The 2008 Mariner has, as standard safety equipment, a side-impact protection system consisting of several components: Ford's Safety Canopy™ side air curtains provide head and neck protection for the first- and second-row passengers, and side impact airbags deploy out of the upper portion of the front seats to protect the upper and lower torso of the driver and passenger. Additionally, there are occupant friendly door trims with softened armrests, side impact foam bolsters and intrusion door beams that distribute the loading during an impact to the hinge and B pillars.
Safety Canopy™ side air curtains deploy in certain side-impact collisions, or if an impending rollover is detected, to help protect front- and second-row outboard occupants. The curtains remain inflated for several seconds after deployment to enhance protection during an extended crash event.
The air curtains feature "roll-fold" technology. If occupants are improperly seated and resting their heads against a window, the Safety Canopy™ is designed to slide between the glass and occupants as it inflates.
Mariner is also one of the first 2008 model year vehicles designed to meet the upgraded, phase II Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for front- and side-impact collisions.
The new FMVSS 208 frontal test measures how well vehicle occupants are protected in a 35 mph crash against a rigid barrier; the previous test was conducted at 30 mph. In designing the vehicle to meet the new standards, engineers on the 2008 Mariner program developed an entirely revised restraint system that consists of new airbags, seat belts, steering column and a new steering wheel.
The government's new FMVSS 214 test for side-impact collisions received even more changes for 2008.
"The revised 214 test represents a giant overhaul of side-impact government crash tests," says Matthew Makowski, chief safety engineer for the 2008 Mariner. "The previous side-impact test used a side-impact dummy (SID) that was developed in the 1970s. The new 214 test scraps the old dummy and now uses a EuroSID-II RE dummy that measures loads that are better representative of a human body. There are also two dummies, a 50 th percentile dummy that represents half of the population and a 5 th percentile dummy that represents adults of a smaller stature."
Designed with the new standard in mind, Mariner has new doors and a standard side-impact protection system; on the previous-generation Mariner, the side-impact protection system was available as an option only. Mariner also enters 2008 retaining the previous model's double four-star front occupant safety rating from NHTSA.
Additional Mariner safety features include front seat load limiting seatbelts with dual-pretensioning that, in the event of a collision, remove the slack out of the safety belt in two places – at the buckle and at the retractor. This cinches the driver and front passenger in their seats and allows the seatbelts to "payout" through the ride-down of the crash event. Additionally, the driver and front passenger front airbags are new (the driver's bag is one inch larger), and the energy absorbing knee bolster system of the instrument panel has been redesigned to provide better protection for both driver and front passenger.
Mariner also features standard ABS that helps the driver maintain control during an emergency stop on slippery road conditions.
AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® Enhances Mariner's Resistance to Rolling Over
Every non-hybrid 2008 Mariner comes standard with Advance Trac ® with RSC ®, a Ford Motor Company-exclusive roll stability control and active safety system not offered by any other manufacturer.
This active stability enhancement system offers a significant difference when compared to typical electronic stability control systems. While typical systems are designed to control yaw or spinout only, Ford Motor Company's AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® goes one important step further: it can enhance the vehicle's resistance to rolling over.
Most systems use one gyroscopic yaw-rate sensor as they work to control yaw. AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® uses a second gyroscopic roll-rate sensor to determine the vehicle's body roll angle and roll rate. If this roll-rate sensor detects a significant roll angle, the system applies additional countermeasures – such as applying brakes to one or more wheels or reducing engine power – to enhance vehicle rollover resistance. AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® is an integrated system of four major components that include:
Anti-lock Brake System (ABS): ABS regulates brake pressure to help prevent wheel lockup when trying to stop the vehicle.
Traction Control: When the traction control system detects a loss of adhesion between the wheels and the road surface, a computer quickly responds by reducing engine power when necessary and selectively applying brake force to the slipping wheel while transferring power to the opposite wheel.
Yaw Control: When understeer (which leads to "pushing" wide in a turn) or oversteer (which leads to the rear-end losing grip and coming around, or "fishtailing") is detected, the system selectively applies individual brakes and modifies engine power to maximize control.
Vehicle Roll-motion Sensor: The Ford-exclusive gyroscopic roll-rate sensor helps monitor vehicle roll motion approximately 150 times per second. If it detects a significant roll angle, it automatically engages AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® to help keep all four wheels safely on the ground.
AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ®is automatically engaged every time the vehicle is started. A switch lets drivers turn the traction control system and AdvanceTrac ® off when they may want the wheels to spin freely to help the tires "dig" for traction, such as during low-speed off-road driving or when traveling through deep snow or mud.
Ford is the first automaker to develop AdvanceTrac ® with RSC ® technology and has more than 80 patents and patent applications pending worldwide for the system. Ford Motor Company is making the technology available to other companies and automakers through licensing agreements.