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
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 '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?
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.