Jeff Ford
January 1, 2004

Could it be the Marauder is a car without a cause? Is the day of the big sedan fading? Is the Marauder a throwback to the bygone days from which this Grand Marquis' namesake hails? Back in 1963, the original Marauder stalked the highways and byways of the good ole US of A shoveling high-test fuel to a big-inch 427. It guzzled gas, fought the good fight, and made a reputation for itself as a stock car on the big oval, and, to a lesser extent, as a worthy competitor on the dragstrip. After the ponycars hit, the mighty Pirate quietly faded away.

So the name has heritage-if you were a teen in 1963. What does that do for the modern Marauder? Not much. The average cat buying one now was not even a year old back in the day, nor is he or she a Mercury big-car history buff. Sure, guys and gals like us may know about the vaunted carrier of the S-55 Marauder, but most people out there don't-nor do they care. What they care about is a big sedan that can fly; and, in some respects, the Marauder does.

When we heard about the forthcoming Marauder early in 2002, we were intrigued but puzzled. Here was a Ford entry in the fullsize car wars that Chevy launched in the mid-'90s and very quietly ended shortly thereafter. Yet Ford/Mercury seems interested in climbing into the empty ring and shadowboxing with itself. Know what? We say let 'em.

Who Better?
A big-ole-hairy four-door car with a 4.6 four-valve engine-who would be the best people to test it? Of course, the obvious answer is us. But no, we wanted the one group of people who drive these bulky sedans daily to put the black powerhouse through its paces. So we contacted the Polk County, Florida, Sheriff's Department and asked if Ken Powers, one of the training coordinators, would put the {{{M}}}-class pirate ship through its paces. We liked the symmetry of it all. The Marauder is blacked out and sinister, while the average Polk County training car at the facility is white. It sets up the old Good versus Evil, Skywalker versus Vader, Jack Sparrow versus The Crown kind of feel.

The first thing we were asked by the majority of officers was whether it was a new cop car. The answer could be-maybe. For sure, the Marauder caused quite a buzz in the class that was made up of present officers training to haul in evildoers.

Ken Powers was impressed with the nimbleness of the big sedan. We were too after taking a spin through the comp course in one of the Crown Vic police cars, then hopping directly into the Marauder with Ken piloting both vehicles. Time-wise, the big M beat the snot out of the cop car. Vader 1, Luke 0.

Braking too showed the Marauder, with its larger binders, to be the big gun on the street. It handily trounced the cop car in side-by-side braking contests. Ken was pleased, though he was reluctant to say anything. After all, the big bad guy was winning. But we could tell that deep inside the big M was tugging at the wiry sheriff's hot-rod heart.

Who Better?
The Big Test
At the training facility, there is a pursuit course set up that challenges officers' skills in tight, fast maneuvers. Cones are placed on the tarmac to give the driver the feeling of a city pursuit. On the line is the honor of catching the bad guy-that being Ken in the black Marauder-using a police package Crown Vic. The other driver piloting the "protect and serve" Vic was every bit as good as Ken. In the course of the run it became painfully obvious that the Vic just couldn't keep up with the Marauder. It had little to do with driver skill-OK, Ken is really good, but so are all the instructors. It really boiled down to the newer Merc with the slick rack-and-pinion steering, tweaked suspension, and sticky BFG meats popping around the corners better and faster than the Vicky. And not just once-the two battled twice and the black pirate ship walked away both times.

Ken was duly impressed. Though his public service position won't allow him to endorse a product, he did grin an awful lot when driving the Merc.

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What A Drag
So after trouncing the Vic in the handling department, we asked if they'd be willing to do an impromptu drag race "pursuit style" with the sheriff's car behind the Marauder. Ken jumped at the chance. We even added a sheriff to the Marauder (well, not really; we just wanted to give out a fun ride) to more closely approximate the weight of the equipment in the Vic. With lights blazing and sirens shrieking, the pursuit-Vic gallantly nipped at the heels of the big M-for about 50 yards. After that, it was all over as the Marauder stretched out its lead. "It [the Marauder] wasn't even done," said Ken. "There was more engine than road."

We have to say there is something mythical and fascinating about watching a pursuit-even if it was contrived. In a best two out of three, the white Vic was no match for the 4.6 four-valve Marauder, with Ken walking away easily in the two runs. Of course, Ken reminded us that it isn't the car but the Motorola radio that would have been his undoing were it an actual pursuit. Yes sir.

What We Thought
The Good...
We had the opportunity to have a Marauder lurking around the corporate offices for over a month, and we have to say the big car was quite cool to drive, especially on the interstates here in Florida. Why, you ask? Because the blacked-out grille and large size say "Florida Highway Patrol" to most any driver astute enough to watch the rear view. Though it was sometimes annoying to be "notacop" because people often slowed down to 55 mph on a stretch of road where the legal posted limit was 70-right in front of you. But on the whole, the Marauder was a riot.

For a car of its size and girth, it was quite nimble and gobbled up corners with ease. The suspension is tight, but not so much that it becomes tiresome. We were quite pleased with its ability to round corners under hard power and come out the other side picking up speed.

In a straight-line test, the stock M wasn't what we'd call earth shattering since it was trounced by VP Doug Evans' supercharged Harley Davidson pickup. But with aftermarket tweaks, the big Merc can be made into an awesome 13-second street prowler. By the way, the tweaks are via a chip and charger-that's it. So if Johnny Rice Rocket pulls up and snickers at your old-man-mobile, you can hand him his doors and a tall, cool pint of crow.

Where the big car's light shines is on the open road. The expansive seating, 302hp 4.6, taut suspension, and no-brainer automatic make the big pirate ship a tireless mount on any long trip.

The Bad...
The '03 we tested had some deficits for sure. Hey, nothing is perfect. The automatic for the car definitely had a strange dip at roughly 2,800 rpm. From what we can see, Mercury has identified the problem and, we hope, fixed it for '04.

We'd like to see it be able to pop a Harley truck. It needs more juice. If Mercury really wanted to be the bad boys with the Marauder, they'd have snuck into SVT's larder and stolen the four-valve supercharged Cobra engine. Yaya.

Price is still a problem. We spec'd out an '03 Marauder (the '04 is not listed yet on the www.mercuryvehicles.com Web site) with the mac-daddy CD changer and trunk organizer-two out of three options-and had to turn our heads and cough. Our stunning total came to a whopping $35,090. Quite the hunk of change for a four-door sedan, especially when the competition for the big Mercury (Pontiac GTP and Chrysler 300M) comes in at nearly $6,000 less. Sure, you pay a price for performance, but do most folks know the Merc is a bad dude? Worse, do most folks care?

The Ugly...
Well, even after all that, we still want a Marauder. There is a mystique about the car for us, mostly when it's black with charcoal guts. It exudes a sinister appeal that makes us want to don an upscale Armani suit, some black shades, slide behind the wheel, and kick some butt-be it alien or human.

Even with the hefty price we can still say the big Mercury makes a super cruiser (and not just for the cops). It likes the open road and, with the addition of a supercharger, would be a great boulevard bruiser.

The Goods
Powertrain
Engine typeMach 1 V-8, iron block, aluminum heads
Bore/Stroke 3.55 x 3.54
Displacement 281 ci/4606 cc
Compression ratio 10.1:1
Fuel injection Sequential multiport electronic
Valvetrain DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Power 302 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque318 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm
Transmission four-speed automatic
Final drive ratio 3.55:1
Gear ratios I 2.82:1, II 1.50:1, III 1.00:1, IV 0.70:1
Suspension
FrontSLA independent, coil spring, monotube shock, stabilizer bar
Rearfour-bar link live axle, Watt’s linkage, coil and air spring,
 monotube shock, stabilizer bar
Steering typepower rack-and-pinion
Ratio18.5:1
Turning circle curb-to-curb41.5 ft
Brakes
Front12.0-in vented disc
Rear 11.5-in vented disc
Assist typeVacuum, ABS
Wheels And Tires
Base wheel18-in aluminum
Largest tire availableP245/55WR18
Weight (pounds) Base curb weight 4,195
Maximum trailer weightproperly equipped 2,000

New For 2004? Whasupwitthat?
Gone. It has been bandied about in the motor press that the Marauder was done after what was reported to be a "bad sales year" for the Mercury fullsize mauler. It seemed the Marauder was to join the Blackwood as another Mercury idea that was less than stable sales-wise in application. Most felt that Mercury was going to pitch out the baby with the bath water.

Well, rumor and a press kit on the Web from Mercury has it that there are some inside Ford who don't want to see the big bad sedan go away. So it gets new life for '04. This is the kind of info that makes us happy around here.

What's New?
What Ford says: The '04 Marauder gets a new 4R75W heavy-duty, four-speed automatic transmission for greater efficiency and low-end torque. Other refinements include the addition of needle bearings and Teflon seals to a new 11.25-inch high-stall-speed torque converter with a one-inch, one-way clutch. The new transmission provides quicker upshifts and downshifts, and lets the driver "kick down" into First gear at a higher speed.

What we say: Is that annoying "dip" in rpm gone now? Our biggest complaint with both the Marauder and Mach 1 automatics was a puzzling dip at around 2,800 rpm. Not life-threatening, but noticeable.

Major Equipment And Options
Standard features include: Cibie fog lamps; tinted glass; 18-inch, forged-aluminum, five-spoke aluminum wheels; center and overhead consoles; illuminated visor mirrors; dual-heated foldaway mirrors; leather-wrapped console shifter; leather-wrapped steering wheel with climate and audio controls; floor mats; power steering/brakes/windows/ locks; adjustable pedals; rear reading lamps; map/courtesy/glovebox/trunk lights; electronic clock; automatic climate control; Audiophile AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with equalizer and subwoofer; speed control; traction control; tilt steering column; remote keyless entry; and rear load-leveling performance, air springs. and suspension.

Options include a six-disc, trunk-mounted CD changer, heated seats, engine-block heater, and trunk organizer.

'04 Quick Check

  • Heavy-duty 4R75W transmission with improved shift response
  • New exterior colors: Dark Toreador Red and Silver Birch
  • New interior color: Light Flint/Dark Charcoal two-tone
  • Needle bearings and Teflon seals on torque converter
  • Dual knock sensors for improved response at low engine speeds
  • Standard traction control
  • Standard Audiophile entertainment system