2006 Mariner Hybrid New Car Test Drive
The Mercury Mariner, based on the Ford Escape, debuted as a 2005 model and was hailed for its responsive handling, smooth road manners and available V6 engine. For 2006, the Mariner continues relatively unchanged except for a new exterior color, interior color, several equipment additions and, the big news, a Mariner Hybrid model for buyers interested in an SUV with better fuel economy and reduced emissions.
Mariner comes standard with front-wheel drive (2WD) and a four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. It's easily and affordably upgraded with all-wheel drive (4WD) for stable traction in the snow and a powerful V6 for more responsive performance. The 2006 Mariner Hybrid, with the same gasoline/electric powertrain that was first offered in the 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid, comes only with all-wheel-drive and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
The 2006 Mercury Mariner continues unchanged on the outside, its slick and clean design accented by Mercury's avant-garde styling cues. Inside is a pleasant and calming cabin with room enough for the kind of stuff people who are moving up from the Milan sedan or retreating from the more truck-like Mountaineer need to haul around.
As part of a carefully scripted, and enormously expensive, re-birth and rejuvenation of the Mercury brand, the Mariner is intended to offer a step up in status over the Ford Escape.
Compact sport utility vehicles are popular because they're smaller and easier to park than midsize SUVs like the Ford Explorer. They're also lighter and have more fuel-efficient engines and, of course, they're less expensive. Yet they offer cargo space with fold-down back seats and a commanding view of the road that comes with a higher seating position.
The Mercury Mariner is a good example. It's a nice package. The size and basics are right. Fuel economy is respectable with the four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines and downright impressive with the Mariner Hybrid. Plus, it's affordable even when fully optioned.
The Mercury Mariner is available with a choice of four-cylinder, V6, and gas/electric hybrid powertrains. All models come with a four-speed automatic transmission except for the Hybrid, which comes with the CVT. Three trim levels are available:
Convenience ($21,380) features comforts expected in prestige brand vehicles. Among them: air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and central locking; solar-tinted side glass; four-speaker stereo with CD-player; cruise control; and leather-wrapped, tilt steering wheel. Seats are upholstered in cloth and the front seats are manually adjustable. The Convenience model comes with the 153-horsepower four-cylinder engine. All-wheel drive is available ($23,130), which Mercury calls intelligent four-wheel drive. Options include privacy glass ($275), a full-size spare wheel ($105), side step bars ($350) and a rear cargo Convenience package ($150).
Luxury ($23,285) comes with the more powerful, 200-horsepower V6 and privacy glass, and it's available with all-wheel drive ($25,035). It comes standard with a six-way power driver's seat. The Moon and Tune package ($1,240) adds a power moonroof, roof rack with crossbars, and AM/FM audio system with satellite radio, a six-disc in-dash CD changer and four speakers. Options include leather-trimmed upholstery ($795) and a six-disc CD changer ($345), a Comfort package ($595) that offers automatic headlamps, electrochromic inside rearview mirror, overhead console, message center with compass, illuminated vanity mirrors and, new for 2006, a perimeter alarm. Other options: a Moonroof package ($895), a Class II Trailer Tow package ($395) with hitch and four-pin connector, and a roof rack with cross bars ($160).
Premier ($25,035) and Premier 4WD ($26,785) are the top of the line, adding a seven-speaker stereo with subwoofer; heated outside mirrors and driver's seat; power-adjustable front seats; a premium, suede-like upholstery; and polished wheels. Optional is a reverse-sensing system ($255) and Moonroof package ($895).
A Rear Cargo Convenience package with retractable cargo cover and cargo management gear is available for the above models.
Mariner Hybrid ($29,225) comes loaded with an AM/FM six-disc in-dash CD player with four speakers, all-wheel drive, electric power-assisted steering, power four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Quick Brake Assist, power windows, locks, mirrors and accessory delay, keyless entry, driver side keyless entry keypad, auto dimming rearview mirror, specific 16-inch aluminum wheels, front fog lamps, roof rack, privacy glass, power six-way driver's seat, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel with speed control, and a passive anti-theft system.
The Hybrid's Premium package ($3,795) adds a navigation system with integrated radio and hybrid features, heated leather seating surfaces, heated exterior side mirrors, Reverse Sensing System, cargo shade, and a Safety package featuring Safety Canopy side air curtains with a rollover sensor and front-seat side-impact air bags. Options include a power moonroof ($585), the Safety package ($595), the Audiophile sound system with a six-disc in-dash CD player and seven speakers ($595), and the Hybrid Energy/Audiophile/Navigation system ($1,995).
Safety features that come standard on gasoline-powered Mariners include dual two-stage frontal airbags; antilock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist; and Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH). Side curtain airbags for head protection and front seat-mounted side-impact airbags for torso protection are optional ($595).