Celebrating its pearl anniversary, the Mercury Grand Marquis is the archetypical American highway sedan. Its trademark rear-wheel drive, V-8 engine, cushioned ride, and bench seating lend themselves perfectly to putting away long stretches of interstate highway with the cruise control on. It's a car that appeals to those who have fond memories of old Detroit and its big, powerful, and affordable vehicles--an audience that started driving well before the Grand Marquis's 1975 introduction.
The Grand Marquis is available in five trim packages, ranging from the base GS to the decked-out LS 30th Anniversary Limited Edition. The two GS models are a bit Spartan, while the three LS packages have enough bells and whistles to suit most full-size-sedan drivers' tastes. For 2005, the Grand Marquis is little changed from its comprehensive 2003 makeover, which included a new frame, suspension, and steering system. Enhancements for 2005 include improved modulation of airbag deployment, new color choices, a new steering wheel, and optional 16-inch wheels.
The soft-lined exterior of the Grand Marquis is nearly identical to that of its brother, the Ford Crown Victoria, and it's a familiar profile to anyone who has traveled by taxi (or, uh, police car) in recent years due to the prevalence of Crown Vic in fleets. You won't find modern styling trends such as crisp lines, large wheels pushed out to the corners of the car, or high-tech lighting. Instead, the Grand Marquis is proud of its traditional, block, three-box form. Although the Grand Marquis fit in with Ford's product line when it was introduced, minor changes have done little to bring this machine into the 21st century.
Utility is the overarching theme of the Grand Marquis' interior design. The standard materials are meant to endure rather than cosset, and yet they manage to provide a reasonable level of comfort. The Grand Marquis's fans love both its bench seats that accommodate a total of six passengers (for short hauls, at least) and the ease of entering and exiting its cabin. Its class-leading trunk space is commensurate with its seating capacity and could accommodate the baggage of a basketball team's starting lineup and their driver. The linear instrument panel has large digital displays, and while it looks dated, it's highly legible and gets the job done. The center console is simple to use, but only if you can reach it; drivers with shorter arms will find the placement of the controls a stretch. Standard equipment on LS models supplies all the necessities. Heated leather seats and a power sunroof are among the available options on the LS. No rear-seat DVD entertainment system is offered--a shame given that many a Marquis makes the long annual journey from Florida to the Midwest and back, and the folks in back likely would whine a lot less with a few movies to watch.
The Grand Marquis has long been equated with safety, and it's the only car to win, nine years running, the government's five-star rating for driver and front-passenger frontal crash tests. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes, dual front airbags, and traction control (except on the base GS) are standard; front side airbags are optional on the LS. The safety equipment profile is about average for cars of its class, though you'll find a few more airbags available on some of the competition. In side-impact testing, the Grand Marquis scores five stars for front and rear seat when equipped with the side bags, without the additional protection, the front is rated at four stars. To its credit, the Mercury earns five stars in the new rollover tests. Electronic stability control isn't available; rear-drive competitors like the Chrysler 300 offer it as standard equipment on most trim levels.
Only one powerplant is offered, and unlike many of its rivals' standard engines, it's a V-8. The 4.6-liter/224-horse SOHC V-8 is mated to the lone available transmission, a four-speed automatic. Notably, several of the Grand Marquis's peers have five-speed automatics available, and many also boast V-6s that produce more horsepower than the Marquis's V-8. A dual-exhaust system, part of the optional Handling Package, will boost power to 239 hp--still short of the 250 hp found in the Chrysler 300 Touring's standard V-6 (never mind the 340-hp 300C or the 425-hp 300C SRT8). Fuel economy is a fair 18/25 city/highway mpg. This same powertrain pairing, like almost all of the Marquis' components, is found in Ford's Crown Victoria.
The Grand Marquis handles as it was meant to, like an American land yacht. Body lean is prominent during all but the gentlest cornering. The Marquis floats on its soft suspension, so it feels less maneuverable than large cars that are better damped, such as the Chrysler 300 and even Mercury's own Montego. Those with jaundiced joints and bum backs might care less about handling than cushiness, and that's where the Grand Marquis excels; bumps don't jolt the cabin, they merely exacerbate the floating undulations. At the end of the day, the car's handling is sufficient for the typical challenges it will face.
Traction control is essential (standard on all but the base GS) if you live in snow country. Braking performance is acceptable but hardly great, and the pedal feels as mushy as the rest of the controls. The V-8 offers merely adequate performance in motivating the two-ton-plus car. As a result, passing and merging require advance planning. The eight-cylinder torque gives the big Merc greater oomph than its performance numbers bear, making it quite acceptable to the intended mature driver. The four-speed transmission is a disappointment as downshifts lag during passing and merging maneuvers, and the widely spaced ratios don't make the most of the available power. It's just as well; the noise when the V-8 winds up is more of a cacophony than a symphony.
If you're looking to continue the proud, patriotic tradition of rear-wheel-drive V-8 power in a big, roomy wrapper the Grand Marquis is the car for you. It trades off agile handling for roomy seating, trunk space to match, and a safe, if very uneventful, ride. If you want the same features plus a little more zip in a more modern package, look to the Chrysler 300 or the Toyota Avalon. Or if you want a deal, check out the Buick LeSabre in its final year of production. Basic warranty, powertrain coverage, and roadside assistance are for three years/36,000 miles. Rust coverage is five years/unlimited miles. Towing capacity is a measly 1,500 lbs.
For 2005, Mercury keeps the Grand Marquis on cruise control--still big, safe, and all Detroit.
Seating for six Big and not ashamed of it Rides smoothly enough for Grandma
No stability control Uninspiring power and handling Tardy four-speed transmission
Very little of substance has changed for the Grand Marquis since its 2003 redesign. Notable for 2005 are better airbag deployment modulation and a few cosmetic flourishes. The 2006 production year will bring a revised grille, redesigned front fascia, and new headlamps.
Traction control is the only essential option.