The first car to show up in the AutoBlogGreen garage for a few days was a 2006 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the slightly more upscale cousin of the Ford Escape Hybrid. The Mariner Hybrid didn't earn its spot in the ABG garage because of its luxury features, however. The main reason for us having a closer look at the car is the 133-hp Atkinson cycle inline four cylinder engine, combined with a 94-hp electric motor powered by 250 1.3-volt nickel-metal hydride D-cells. The hybrid powertrain in this Mercury makes it a full hybrid, promising 29 mpg and 32 mpg highway and city fuel economy respectively, a significant improvement over both the standard 4-cylinder (21 city/24 hwy) and the optional V6 (19 city/24 hwy) engines. All the hybrid goodness comes at a price penalty of about $3,000 over an equally equipped standard Mercury Mariner. Some of this price penalty is compensated for by a $1,950 tax credit, however, Mercury dealers will probably not be offering incentives or attractive lease and financing deals on this model since only 2000 hybrid Mercury Mariners will be available in 2006.
Read lots more after the jump.
While the exterior design of the Mariner is unmistakably related to the Ford Escape, the visual presence of the Mercury grill gives the front of the car a much more attractive and up-to-date look. The rear of the vehicle is a different story altogether, with the Mercury badges and the chrome grilles covering the rear lights providing the only marked difference in styling. Now if the rear styling of the Escape was its best feature, no one would have a problem with keeping the styling more or less intact on the Mariner. Sadly enough, it is the most dated part of the design, having remained virtually unchanged since the 2001 introduction. The external clues to the hybrid powertrain are limited to some badging on the rear and sides of the car, and the air inlet on the driver side rear window, which is unique to the Mariner hybrid since it is required to cool the battery pack.
Stepping in to the car, the interior seems to be assembled with quality materials that will hold up to many years of abuse. The seats and the steering wheel are covered in high-quality leather, and the plastics seem solid if somewhat uninspiring. The overall design of the dash could significantly benefit from an extreme makeover to bring it in line with some of the more modern designs of other Mercury models. While our Mariner came equipped with all available options, you can't expect it to be overloaded with features, again showing the age of the platform the car is based on.
In a few days, we'll talk in more detail about the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. We'll be able to give you some real-world fuel consumption figures, and impressions of driving the car. Stay tuned to find out if you should be running to your local Mercury dealer to snatch up one of the 2000 Mercury Mariner hybrids that will be available this year. Continue reading here.