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Price-conscious shoppers who do their research will learn that the Mercury Grand Marquis is one of the great full-size sedan bargains on the American market. It offers rear-wheel drive, lots of interior space, five-star crash performance, strength and durability, along with almost all the comfort and convenience features of the Lincoln Town Car -- at a much more affordable price.
The Grand Marquis competes against the Pontiac Bonneville, Buick LeSabre, Chrysler Concorde, and Toyota Avalon.
Mercury engineers refined the Grand Marquis last year to produce a car that rides and handles better than its predecessor. The 4.6-liter, single overhead-cam V8 is one of the best engines Ford has ever built in terms of quality and durability, and it received a slight power gain last year. In both 200- and 215-horsepower configurations (depending on the exhaust), it is smooth and quiet, yet delivers strong acceleration with plenty of power for quick passing. The engine now has a coil-on-plug ignition system that is simpler and more reliable. The Grand Marquis is rated to tow 2000 pounds.
The transmission delivers smooth, precise, quick shifts. Like many transmissions on the market today, it requires no maintenance for the life of the car.
The Grand Marquis offers a smooth, quiet ride. It is stable at high speeds and in crosswinds. Better yet, the rear suspension was altered substantially for 1999, resulting in the best-handling big Mercury we've ever driven. The rear trailing arms were redesigned and relocated to provide better control of vertical wheel motions. A Watt link -- a simple mechanical linkage between the center of the frame and the axle assembly that locates the axle laterally -- was added. The car does float over undulating pavement, though not at uncomfortable levels. The steering is a bit light at higher speeds, but the power-assist makes it easy to maneuver the big car in crowded parking lots.
Braking performance is surprisingly good for such a large car. The brakes were enlarged and upgraded last year, with larger, thicker rotors and dual-piston calipers on the front discs. Those changes improve braking performance and reduce the chance of brake fade when descending steep mountain grades. Steel 16-inch wheels are standard, while aluminum alloy wheels are optional. Standard tires are P225/60R-16.
We found our Grand Marquis to be a pleasure to drive on a winding road, yet Mercury has more in store for serious drivers. An optional Handling Package includes a completely retuned suspension with revised air shocks and a larger rear stabilizer bar, plus a quicker 3.27:1 axle ratio, the more powerful dual-exhaust engine, special 16-inch alloy wheels and Goodyear high-performance tires. The Handling Package sharpens cornering response and improves acceleration. At the same time, it doesn't degrade the ride quality.
The Grand Marquis is a wonderful sedan for covering lots of territory on the wide-open North American highways. With its body-on-frame construction, quiet and smooth V8 engine and rear-wheel drive, this car separates you and your companions from noise and intrusions caused by the road surface, but it doesn't totally disengage you from the driving experience. The steering and suspension work well to deliver competent ride quality and handling.
If you want a big, plush rear-wheel-drive sedan, but you don't want to spend $40,000 or more for a high-end luxury car, then the Mercury Grand Marquis may be the car for you.