Welcome to the latest edition of Muscle Car Showcase. If muscle cars are your passion, you’ll feel right at home here. We look at rare, limited edition, and even a few anomalies that have significance in the muscle car world. Here, we like to throw out the rule book, enjoy ourselves, and try to learn something new along the way. We’re here to have a good time and enjoy the ride. Let’s turn back the clock and take a look at the 2003 – 2004 Mercury Marauder. Think of the Marauder as the middle child in the full size sedan war that started in the mid-1990s. It came seven years after the Impala SS and three years prior to the Dodge Charger. It was pretty much the only game in town during its brief lifespan.
“Launching the Marauder is a cinch. The tail squats, the nose rises two inches, and both tires paint an identical two-foot stripe. Every time. There’s just enough wheelspin to publicize the Marauder’s mission statement without revealing its operator’s learning disorders.” John Phillips, Car and Driver, July 2002
Let’s face it, 2003 was a dark period in muscle car history. General Motors had just given the Camaro and Firebird the ax after a legendary 35-year run. The Aussie GTO from down under was still a year away from arriving on our shores. Plus, performance options from Chrysler were limited to the Viper since the Charger was still a twinkle in its designer’s eyes. Yep, the scene was a little bleak…or was it? Like a ghost from the past, Mercury brought back its legendary Marauder nameplate and bestowed it on the Grand Marquis. Voila, the latest muscle car sedan to hit the streets was reborn.
In its inaugural year, the Marauder was available in Dark Blue Pearl, Silver Birch, and Black. A walk around reveals a car bathed in stealthy styling cues such as smoked taillights, turn signals, and back-up lights. Body colored grille, side moldings, and mirrors add subtle yet audacious styling to this performance sedan. In contrast, dual exhaust with polished stainless steel tips and 18-inch chrome wheels add a little bright work to this marauder as it roams the night streets looking for plunder. Since Marauder badging is limited to the middle of the rear bumper, first sightings of this performance sedan will probably cause chaos in the minds of those trying to figure out what they are seeing. It isn’t until this car has passed you by that you realize what you have seen. Something that rolls up quickly, takes you by surprise, and leaves you wondering what you’ve just witnessed. Come to think of it, that’s something that a marauder is good at anyway. Mercury decked out this street fighter so well that the only exterior option was a dealer installed rear decklid spoiler. For 2004, Mercury made the Marauder available in Dark Toreador Red, Silver Burch, and Black.
Mercury decked out the interior of the Marauder in true muscle car form. Yet, added luxurious amenities you would also expect in a modern day performance sedan. The driver is welcomed inside by bolstered 8-way power leather seats with contrasting French seam stitching. Take hold of the leather-wrapped steering wheel and you have stereo, climate, and cruise controls at your fingertips. Fire up the engine and the white-faced tachometer and console-mounted oil pressure and voltage gauges spring to life. And what muscle car would be complete without a console mounted floor shifter? Tunes are provided by a four-speaker stereo powered by a 100-watt amp and subwoofer. And get this…with the dual-media sound system, you can play those old Whitesnake and Motley Crue cassettes you have stashed somewhere in a closet as well as those Tim McGraw CDs you like so well. Mercury also provided creature comforts such as power-adjustable pedals, remote keyless entry, and automatic temperature control.
In order for this 4,200 pound sedan to rule the streets, Mercury packed a 4.6-liter DOHC V8 under the hood of this crafty prowler. This engine spits out 302 horsepower and 318 foot pounds of torque through a 3-speed automatic transmission. In 2004, an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic overdrive with high-speed torque converter was used. So how does it fare against its past and future competition? In their July 2002 edition, Car and Driver compared the Marauder to a foe from the mid-1990s: the Chevrolet Impala SS. Yep, these 60s era nameplates are at each other’s throats once again. They’ve just gained two extra doors in the process. From 0-60, the Marauder ran the distance in 7.5 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds hitting 91 mph. And since we’re keeping score, that’s a second slower in both 0-60 and the quarter mile than the Impala SS. Fast forward a few years and we look at how the Marauder measures up to the Dodge Charger. In the August 2005 edition of Motor Trend, the 2006 Dodge Charger R/T ran from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and burned up the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at a speed of 100.9 mph. As you can see, that’s considerably faster than the Marauder.
Fear not, there is good news. The aftermarket world offers upgrades that will significantly boost the Marauder’s performance. One in particular was offered by Kenny Brown Performance. Dubbed the Marauder S, this kit consisted of a centrifugal blower, air-to-air intercooler, and larger fuel injectors. Car and Driver tested the Marauder S in April 2003 and came up with some impressive performance numbers. The Marauder S went from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 13.1 seconds at 108 mph. Quite a 360 when compared to the stock Marauder. However, this boost in performance did not come cheap. The Marauder S package tacked on an additional $16,800 and that didn’t include options such as high performance torque converter, transmission cooler, and high speed drive shaft. From time to time, a Marauder S can be found on the secondary market if you’re willing to make the effort to find one.
And in true marauder fashion, this stealthy sedan burst upon the scene and was gone in a flash. After the 2004 model year, the Marauder disappeared into the night and has not been seen since. With the demise of the Mercury brand in 2010, chances are slim we will ever see this legendary muscle car return.