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.
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.
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.