If you saw this car in your rear view mirror, what would you do first? Well if you’re like most of us, you’d check your speedometer and maybe touch your brakes, positive that it’s a police cruiser. Well, it certainly isn’t. This is the 2003 Mercury Marauder, a hot new variation of Mercury’s Grand Marquis. Marauder replaces geriatric comfort with a 60’s-style streetwise attitude. But is the Marauder all attitude, or does this big black sedan have the power and performance to back up its tough looks?
And it does look tough! Recalling the hot rod Mercs of the late 40s, 1950s, and 60s, the 2003 Mercury Marauder shows just how effective a few styling changes can be in transforming the placid Grand Marquis into a street fighter. In addition to a thick coat of night black paint, Mercury stylists blacked-out the grille and non-functional headlamp areas, and added high-intensity fog lamps, while the taillights are tinted dark as well, adding to the stealth effect. A bit more noticeable is the Marauder embossed bumper and the large 3-inch chrome exhaust tips, and the 18-inch polished alloys, with low-profile BF Goodrich G-Force tires.
Backing up the Marauder’s tough cop looks is an SVT-tuned version of Ford’s yeoman 4.6-liter V8. Now sporting better breathing twin-cam 32-valve aluminum heads, it punches out 302 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Other power upgrades include a low-restriction aluminum intake, a dual-bore 57mm throttle body, high flow fuel injectors, and a low-restriction exhaust.
The transmission is a beefed up 4-speed automatic with a reinforced torque converter, and heavy 1-inch, one-way clutch, while the rear differential sports a 3.55:1 final drive with an 8.8- inch ring gear and limited-slip. One would think all that’s a recipe for tire-smoking burnouts, but in fact the Marauder launches like a pussycat, albeit a very robust one, hitting 60 in a quick, if not exceptional, 7.5 seconds. The 1/4 mile takes 15.6-seconds, ending at 93 miles-per-hour.
The power delivery is more Mercedes-smooth than pre-historic Detroit-fierce, but the throaty exhaust note is just right. Maximum power hits at about 3,500 rpm, and builds in a quick, polished manner to the 6,250 rpm redline. Shifts are firm and positive, with the whole drivetrain exhibiting a much more Teutonic character than we expected in a 4,165 pound lump of Detroit iron.
That drivetrain is bolted to a more rigid full-perimeter frame, that’s shared with the Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car. In the Marauder it rides on a short-and-long-arm front suspension, with Tokico nitrogen- charged monotube shocks, and a 28mm solid stabilizer bar. Out back, the vintage live-axle is controlled laterally by a Watt’s linkage, with load- leveling air springs, more monotube shocks, and a 21mm stabilizer bar.
Course control is by way of new, lightweight speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, giving the still big feeling Marauder handling abilities far above those of your average American luxo-boat, and even better than its blacked-out predecessor, the Chevrolet Impala SS. Turn-ins are quick and precise, with far less body roll than the generic Grand Marquis. There’s plenty of grip, and you can blip the throttle mid-corner to make the back end step out in a very predictable manner. Front cornering push is really abundant, though. All that weight does make its presence known, requiring you to work harder at the wheel. At this point, a bit more steering feel would also be appreciated.
Braking is by way of 12-inch front and 11-inch rear ventilated discs with standard ABS. They bring the big Marauder down from 60 in an average distance of only 126 feet. There’s plenty of nose dive, but lateral stability is excellent.
This capable track performance is matched by a firm, but refined, almost European ride on the street and an interior with just the right combination of adult luxury and boy-racer attitude.
There’s dot-matrix faux-carbon fiber trim on the dash, instead of the usual wood tone, and a set of white-face gauges, with a 140 mile-per-hour speedometer, while 60s-style satellite gauges for volts and oil-pressure have been added to the center console. The seats are leather covered buckets, with 8-way power and extra padding for the thigh, lumbar and shoulder. But more lateral support for cornering is still needed. Road music is provided by a standard 140-watt Alpine system, with an optional 6-disc CD changer mounted in the trunk. Passenger space is naturally generous, with the full size interior offering plenty of room for five adults, and a gigantic 21.6 cubic-foot truck that now includes a flat floor panel over deep storage wells.
And you can enjoy this homage to the grandest days of the Mercury brand without breaking the bank! The 2003 Mercury Marauder carries a base price of $34,495. Our fully loaded test car steps out for $35,045.
Now, that strikes us as reasonable for the 2003 Mercury Marauder’s impressive combination of muscle car era style and 21st century control and refinement, and did we mention again, one tough attitude. And for many drivers, attitude is what it’s all about.
Engine: 4.6-Liter 32-valve V8
Torque: 310 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 93 MPH
60-0 MPH: 126 Feet
EPA Mileage: 17 MPG City 23 MPG Highway