When Al Gore recently decided it was time to trade in his Lexus for a more efficient vehicle, he opted for a new 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid compact SUV (actually, he bought two of them). And he’s not the only politico who’s a fan of the Mariner Hybrid: Ford built a custom model for former President Clinton. Seems the gas-electric Mariner Hybrid is suddenly hot, and the vehicle of choice for those who want to make a statement about their commitment to automotive efficiency.
And if you want to make a statement, the new Mariner Hybrid certainly fits the bill (or the Al, for that matter). While the Mariner Hybrid won’t win any design competitions for the most beautiful car in the world, it’s certainly contemporary looking, with new headlights and taillights, a prominent grille, and a distinctive rear bumper. The interior is a bit more jazzy, with satin pewter accents, ice-blue illuminated instrument panels and dashboard, plenty of storage room in the center console, and an MP3 input jack on the stereo system.
But the real action takes place under the hood. The Mariner Hybrid is equipped with a combination gas engine and electric motor that work in sync with each other to provide maximum efficiency. For instance, at stoplights or when coasting, the gas engine automatically shuts down to conserve fuel, and when it’s running, it charges a 330-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that’s located in the floor of the cargo bay. The battery pack provides energy to start the engine and, along with the generator motor, provides the drive power at speeds up to 25 miles per hour.
The gas engine/electric motor powerplant is controlled by a Vehicle System Controller, which shuts down the engine at specific times to conserve fuel and manages the recharging of the batteries, among other functions.
Of course, just because one drives a hybrid doesn’t mean one has to give up comfort. The Mariner Hybrid is outfitted with two-tone leather-trimmed seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a dual-zone climte control system, an available power moonroof, and an optional Audiophile Sound System and optional Sirius Satellite Radio. It also comes with anti-lock brakes, a Roll Stability Control system, and automatic headlights that turn off and on automatically depending on outside lighting conditions. The Hybrid is available with either front-wheel-drive or an intelligent four-wheel-drive system. Of course, you don’t have to be a former president or vice president to get one tricked out to your exact specifications — but then again, it never hurts, either.