What Was the Partnership for a...
Daily Life with the Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV
There’s a stretch of road we drive every day that opened our eyes to what the Mercury
Mariner Hybrid is all about. This neighborhood commute traverses rolling hills at low speed with a few stop signs thrown in just to break things up. It’s a route that generally destroys fuel economy, but that’s not the case with our inaugural 2006 Green Car of the Year. For more than one and a half continuous miles of this nearly three mile drive, the Mercury Mariner runs silently along, solely on electric drive. Mariner’s 2.3-liter four cylinder gasoline engine steps in only when the load is too great for the electric drive on steeper uphill grades.
There’s a stretch of road we drive every day that opened our eyes to what the Mercury Mariner Hybrid is all about. This neighborhood commute traverses rolling hills at low speed with a few stop signs thrown in just to break things up. It’s a route that generally destroys fuel economy, but that’s not the case with our inaugural 2006 Green Car of the Year. For more than one and a half continuous miles of this nearly three mile drive, the Mercury Mariner runs silently along, solely on electric drive. Mariner’s 2.3-liter four cylinder gasoline engine steps in only when the load is too great for the electric drive on steeper uphill grades.
Ideal conditions for a full hybrid to be sure, but this is the real world and not an EPA test lab dyno. We hear a lot about hybrids not achieving their EPA mileage estimates. That hasn’t been the case with the Mariner Hybrid. On our initial highway experience from Detroit to Southeastern Ohio, we beat the EPA highway number of 29 mpg, posting slightly over 30 mpg while running comfortably with traffic.
Push the speed up past 70 mph and economy will drop off sharply, but if you drive with maximum fuel economy in mind, over the road mileage can be impressive. We should also point out that this experience began with just 23 miles showing on the Mariner’s odometer. It will be interesting to see if fuel economy changes after the break-in period.
Around town is where the Mariner Hybrid really shines. Here, the EPA suggests a 33 mpg average. Our initial experience suggests that number is an honest figure, even if you aren’t particularly paying attention to the art of achieving maximum fuel economy. Our long-term test vehicle is equipped with the in-dash navigation system, so it’s easy to monitor instantaneous and average fuel economy at the touch of a button. The fuel computer shows a graph in green that charts fuel economy with a white line extending across the average for the past 15 minutes. A bar graph at the left of the display shows current fuel economy. By processing this information along with input from the analog gauge at the left of the main instrument cluster (showing assist or regeneration), an alert driver can quickly learn a driving style that provides maximum fuel economy. A conscious effort to drive efficiently will easily deliver city fuel economy in the mid-thirty mpg range. On one rural/city combined loop, we saw an impressive 38-plus mpg.
While our 2006 Green Car of the Year is delivering in the fuel economy department, what has perhaps been most impressive is its overall utility. Mariner Hybrid is a fully functional SUV that feels just right for most missions. It’s a five passenger model that comfortably accommodates four adults. Three in the split back rear seat is do-able, particularly if they are smaller adults or children. The hybrid system’s nickel-metal hydride battery pack is mounted below the rear cargo floor and unless you pull up the carpeting, you would never know it’s there. Before the Mariner showed 500 miles on the odometer, it had already hauled 200 pounds of horse feed in the rear cargo hold without a whimper.
Let’s not forget that the Mariner Hybrid also delivers all-wheel-drive traction. Rain slick roads in late spring have not been a concern. Our long term commitment to the Mariner Hybrid will allow us to fully test its all-wheel drive capability as the four seasons roll around. Clearly, you don’t give up traditional SUV utility with Mercury’s hybrid entry.
Overall, the driving experience to date has been quite pleasant. Mariner is easy to handle, with a tight turning radius and overall light touch that lends itself to urban operation. On the open road, the Mariner’s substantial feel is rewarding. There are many reasons consumers flocked to the SUV segment and their on-road presence can’t be discounted.
Mariner Hybrid’s electric steering assist has a natural feel and allows a precise command of the vehicle. Braking feel is heavier that what many drivers are used to, but once you are accustomed to the input required, the slightly stiffer pedal makes the driver more conscious of the regenerative braking process.
Our time behind the wheel of the Mariner Hybrid has just begun and we are looking forward to sharing real world experience with this efficient hybrid SUV in the months ahead.
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