Introduced last year, the Mercury Mariner compact SUV features only a handful of changes in 2006. Now, a six-way power driver's seat is standard on Luxury series models. A "Moon and Tune Package" includes a power moonroof, roof rack with crossbars, AM/FM audio system with satellite radio, six-disc in-dash CD changer, and four speakers. Other changes include the addition of a perimeter alarm to the Comfort Package, along with one additional exterior color-Light Tundra Clearcoat Metallic, and a new Flint interior color selection.
The Mariner, and its fuel-efficient twin the Mariner Hybrid, is based off the same platform as the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute. The Mariner's has been positioned to attract a younger audience to the Mercury brand. Mariner's exterior appearance differs from its brand twins by virtue of a satin aluminum "waterfall" grille and taillight shrouds that are aligned with Mercury's family design elements as seen in the larger Mountaineer. It also features 16-inch aluminum wheels for a beefy appearance. Inside, the Mariner sports a more upscale look than the other two models, with two-tone seats and additional woodgrain and satin aluminum accents. The only visual differences between the Hybrid and gas-powered models is the badging on the front doors and rear liftgate, unique wheels, and a barely noticeable vent in the driver's side C-pillar, which is there to provide cooling for the hybrid battery pack.
For power, the Mariner comes in an inline-four, V-6, or Hybrid version. The 2.3L I-4 makes 153 hp, while the 3.0L V-6 churns out 200. The Hybrid version utilizes the 2.3L Duratec 23 four-cylinder engine, combined with an electric motor that augments the four-cylinder during high-demand acceleration or heavy-duty towing. This engine yields a combined 155 peak-hp figure and offers performance that feels about the same as a V-6, but with a much greater fuel savings, according to the company; Mariner Hybrid achieves an EPA estimate of 33 mpg in the city. Both standard engines are matched to a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the Hybrid gets the benefit of a Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT, which helps manage power delivery from the electric motor to the gas engine, as well as to help provide battery recharging during the regenerative braking cycle.
More than 20 models make up the field in the Compact CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) segment-one of the fastest-growing segments in the U.S. light-vehicle market. These models are based on passenger-car designs and feature unit-body construction to provide better ride and handling and deliver better fuel economy.
The 2005 calendar year sales leader of the segment was the Ford Escape (165,122 units sold), followed closely by the Honda CR-V (150,219). In a close battle for third, the Chrysler PT Cruiser (133,740) outsold the Chevrolet Equinox (130,542). The Mariner's slice of the pie was 34,099 units, but as 2005 was its first full year of sales, 2006 will be the true test of sales strength for this cute ute.