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The Mercury Grand Marquis is one of the last surviving rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered full-size cars built on a separate frame. Its ostensible competitors, Buick LeSabre, Chrysler Concorde, Pontiac Bonneville and Toyota Avalon, are all more modern in concept, with front-wheel drive, V6 engines, shorter wheelbases and unitbody construction.
However, the Grand Marquis offers almost all the comfort and convenience of the Lincoln Town Car for a price less than that of a near-luxury mid-size car.
And while the Grand Marquis has been criticized by driving enthusiasts for being way too conservative, that could change very soon as Mercury prepares to launch the Marauder version of the car with 300 horsepower, a floor-mounted shifter, sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch high-performance tires.
For 2002, Grand Marquis arrives with standard antilock brakes and traction control; fold-away, power-adjustable and heated outside mirrors, and a storage pouch that's sewn into the driver's seat. A new trunk cargo organizer is optional on all models as well.
The Grand Marquis' 4.6-liter single overhead-cam V8 is one of the best engines Ford has ever built in terms of quality and durability. It is smooth and quiet, yet delivers strong acceleration with plenty of power for quick passing. It features a coil-on-plug ignition system that is simple and reliable. Thanks largely to its strong V8, 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.
Grand Marquis offers a smooth, quiet ride. It is stable at high speeds and in crosswinds. Better yet, with the suspension alterations made in 1999, this is the best-handling big Mercury we've ever driven. Mercury engineers refined the Grand Marquis in 1999 to produce a car that rides and handles better than its predecessor. The rear trailing arms were redesigned and relocated to provide better control of vertical wheel motions. A three-piece Watt's link was added; it provides more precise lateral location than would be possible with the single-piece Panhard rod or track bar usually used in live-axle setups.
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 for 1999 as well, with larger, thicker rotors and dual-piston calipers on the front discs. Those changes improved braking performance and reduced 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 all-season Michelins.
We found our Grand Marquis to be a pleasure to drive on a winding road. The rear air suspension and 16-inch alloy wheels with Goodyear high-performance tires contributed to this feeling.
Mercury's Grand Marquis is a wonderful sedan for covering a lot of territory on wide-open North American highways. With its body-on-frame construction, smooth V8, 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.