Ford provided the journalists assembled in Dearborn the chance to drive many of their 2008 models back-to-back with their 2007 equivalents so that the new models' improvements could be experienced firsthand. Among the vehicles available to us were Ford's compact crossovers, the Escape and Mariner. AutoblogGreen recently did a full review of the 2008 Escape Hybrid that you can check to find out what it's like to live with. We'll focus here on the improvements made to the '08s in general.
Out front, the new Mariner has a much more distinct and upscale face compared to the Escape. While the Escape is styled with more of a family resemblance to the big F-Series trucks, with a bumper that stands in front of the grille, the Mariner sports the Mercury family's vertical bar grille, sharing itd DNA with the Milan and new Sable. It flows all the way down to the bottom of the bumper and definitely looks more carlike than Escape. Once you climb inside, everything else applies equally to both the Mariner and Escape the driving experience is identical, save for some color/trim differences.
Check out our impressions of the Mariners old and new along with a video after the jump.
Interestingly, the interior of the older Mariner actually looks a little more upscale than the new one. The plastic surface has a faux leather texture to it. Like the new models, all the surfaces are hard plastic aside from the ones that drivers and passengers touch on a regular basis, such as the armrests. For a smaller vehicle like the Mariner, the center stack looks enormous and seems to intrude on front occupant space. The suspension of the older model also felt a bit under-damped and a little bouncy over even the small undulations of the road surface.
'07 interior on the top and '08 on the bottom
Getting into the new model, the look is completely overhauled. The design looks more trucklike and utilitarian and the surface textures definitely don't look (or feel) like luxury. There is also the issue we pointed out in the ABG review of all the different color texture combinations visible from the driver seat, with at least seven being visible in our tester. The new dashboard design does give a much-improved feeling of roominess, being further away from the front seat occupants, with a narrower center stack adding to the impression.
On the road, the improvements are even more palpable with the new model being vastly improved in almost every way. The old model didn't feel as solid and road imperfections seem to be amplified by the structure. Actually, it wasn't all that bad until compared directly to the new version. The 2008 Mariner feels almost tank-like, with every outside influence feeling and sounding much more muted. The dash may not look all that luxurious but the driving experience is much more in line with competitors from Japan. The best part is that Ford achieved all of this without adding any weight.
The drivetrain options on the twins haven't changed, but they have been refined to get better fuel efficiency. The hybrids, in particular, have received a fourteen percent improvement in that regard. In the ABG review, a loaded Escape hybrid managed 30mpg during a week of mixed driving, which is pretty impressive for an upright SUV-type vehicle.