Although the Mercury Grand Marquis had evolved, by the 2000s, into a car aimed increasingly at an aging clientele, there was one exception: a hot-rod Grand Marquis resurrecting the Marauder name.
Created to liven up Mercury's dull image, it was displayed as a concept at the 2001 Chicago Auto Show, but hit the streets as a 2003 model to take advantage of that year's Grand Marquis chassis upgrades. Apart from its four-door format, the new Marauder followed the classic '60s muscle-car formula of more power, tight suspension, and a sporty buckets-and-console interior (recently pioneered with an LSE package option).
Horses numbered 302, courtesy of a 4.6 V-8 with a new four-valves-per-cylinder head, plus a specific intake manifold devised by tuner Jack Roush. Also specified were standard limited-slip differential, eye-catching three-inch-diameter twin exhaust tips, polished five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels (versus stock 16s), fat Z-rated tires (235/50 front, 245/55 rear), silver-faced gauges (including tachometer and console-mount oil-pressure and amps dials), and a leather-trimmed cabin with "dot-matrix" appliqués and metal-look accents instead of the usual Grand Marquis pseudo wood.
Paint was anything you liked so long as it was black, though dark blue and other colors were promised. Mercury charged just under $34,000 for the reborn Marauder, which looked a bargain.
America hadn't seen such a car since the last of Chevy's rear-drive SS Impalas, yet the Marauder proved a very tough sell. Mercury hoped to move 18,000 a year, but had to reset the goal to 12,000 after just 2910 sales in the first six months.
There were several problems. Only fifty-somethings still remembered Mercury's "hot car" days, and even they must have thought the Marauder akin to a grandpa dressed for a biker bar. Worse, performance didn't live up to the "bad boy" persona.
While almost every road test praised the car's dynamic balance and mechanical finesse, Car and Driver was disappointed by a 7.5-second 0-60 mph time and a so-what quarter-mile run of 15.5 seconds at 91 mph. "It is, in character, more 'disciplined sedan' than 'delinquent hot rod,'" C/D concluded.
Some industry watchers weren't so tactful. Consultant Jim Wangers of Pontiac GTO fame told trade weekly Automotive News that "While in concept it's a good idea, in execution the car is woefully short of anything they have any right to promote as a serious enthusiasts' car." Another analyst dismissed the Marauder as "just a half-hearted attempt at nostalgia. They would have been much better off doing it the right way."
Another embarrassment was the last thing Dearborn needed, so the Marauder struggled through model-year '04, then quietly vanished after estimated sales of under 8000 over some 24 months.
A better idea might have been to produce the two-door Marauder convertible presented as a concept in early 2002. It looked good, and no one else had anything like it. But as was becoming all too familiar for Mercury, the accountants just couldn't get the numbers to add up. Too bad. Many observers agreed that Mercury couldn't turn itself around without some kind of "difference to sell."
For more information on Mercury models, see:
- Mercury New Car Reviews and Prices
- Mercury Used Car Reviews and Prices