Pop quiz, hot shot. It’s 2029 and you’re walking down the street. An older gentleman is pulling the cover off a shiny, black, early 2000s muscle car in his driveway, and you spy an archaic logo with what looks like a waterfall on it. Do you stop and ask him about his slick ride? Or maybe you’re in the Lowe’s parking lot, and you spy a beat-up mid-size crossover with chunky styling and a little logo with three diamonds. Do you snap some pics? Well, if the answer to either of those is yes, you’re on the right website. Read on.
Mitsubishi gets it right but then gives up
In previous installments of this series looked at the other two Project America Mitsubishis, the Eclipse and Galant. Mitsubishi spent over $1 billion on developing the three cars, and over a decade later the brand’s US market share sits at a pathetic 0.5 per cent. The Endeavor was arguably even more of a disastrous failure for the perennially beleaguered Mitsubishi brand than the Eclipse and Galant, despite being an entrant in an extremely popular and growing segment, and actually beating other brands to market.
The 2004 Galant, at launch, was a solidly competitive entry in the mid-size segment, offering crisp handling, a powerful V6 and modern styling. Mitsubishi left it to wither on the vine, giving it no meaningful mechanical or interior updates, until mercifully killing it in 2012. The 2006 Eclipse offered striking styling at launch, looking more special than its FWD Japanese rivals despite lacking much athleticism for a sport coupe. Mitsubishi left it to wither on the vine, too, with no meaningful updates until it was axed in 2012. So, you can probably guess the story of the 2004 Endeavor.
Believe it or not, a Mitsubishi that didn’t have “Evo” in its name actually won a comparison test in the new millennium! The Endeavor bested the Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot in a 2003 Edmunds Mid-Size SUV comparison test. The reviewers were surprised at such a strong showing overall, and noted the Endeavor was broadly competent over a number of areas and lacked any major flaws. Although it was outgunned by most of its rivals in horsepower rating, the Endeavor made up for its merely adequate 215hp with a solid 250 ft-lbs of torque, which gave it plenty of low-down grunt and a test-winning 0-60 time of 8 seconds. As Ferdinand Piech is quoted as saying, and I paraphrase here, you buy horsepower but you drive torque.
The Endeavor’s exterior styling was bold and unmistakeable, taking cues from the 1999 SSU concept; inside was a similar story, although perhaps not for the better. The Wall-E shaped center stack was unusual, with ice-blue lighting and typical 2000s satin metal finish; the fiddly looking switchgear was shared with the Galant. Edmunds also praised the Endeavor’s car-like ride, and generous room for passengers, but was dismayed by the lack of cargo space. Car & Driver ranked the Endeavor below the same rivals in a 2003 comparison test, albeit ahead of the Buick Rendezvous, but still praised the Endeavor. The magazine’s reviewers were only disappointed by the lack of cargo space, especially considering the Endeavor didn’t have a third row of seats; they also found snow traction somewhat lacking. They loved the Endeavor’s crisp handling, quick reflexes and low-end torque, and even called the crossover’s interior luxurious thanks to its use of soft-touch plastics and other high quality materials. Considering the praise heaped upon it, the fourth-place finish was a bit puzzling but regardless, the Endeavor could deliver the goods.
I feel obligated to defend Mitsubishi products despite my sheer disdain of the company’s business decisions. The Endeavor wasn’t quite at the top of the class, but it was up there. Unfortunately, when you leave a car to wither on the vine for almost a decade, it’s not going to be as competitive at the end and people remember the recent past a lot more vividly than the decent past. Years later, authors from media outlets that praised said car at launch are quick to rewrite history, declaring it was never competitive. It’s also sad when a company, for whatever reason, produces a car that’s unsuccessful and bland, and critics argue that it would succeed if it had more pizzazz. Then, the company releases a car with pizzazz that is still unsuccessful, and suddenly that pizzazz is the problem! The Endeavor failed for two reasons, and the same rings true for the Galant (the Eclipse is another story). First of all, and most obviously, Mitsubishi didn’t update the damn thing. It stuck around with the same 4-speed auto from 2003 until 2012 when all of its rivals were getting 6-speed autos. Rivals were offering newer transmissions that helped get better gas mileage, and at the same time were increasing in torque and horsepower. I have always liked the Endeavor’s styling because it dared to be different in a segment that is generally a complete snoozefest. However, the Endeavor only ever received a mild freshening, and the quirky interior was never really changed. The lack of a third-row would have been more expensive to rectify, but it’s not as though a third-row is a prerequisite for success in this segment: look at the success of the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano.
The second reason it failed was simply because of the company from whence it came. Mitsubishi had been in major financial trouble since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, saddled with more than one trillion yen of debt. In 2000, DaimlerChrysler bought a controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. Daimler was the automotive industry equivalent of a wealthy benefactor who takes in troubled orphans and puts them to work in the salt mines. But even after the Germans exited the tie-up after refusing to help Mitsubishi out of its financial quagmire with truckloads of fresh Euros, MMC found financial assistance in Japan and returned to profitability in 2006. Did Mitsubishi splash any of this cash on its North American operations, such as more comprehensive mid-cycle enhancements and advertising for its Project America cars? No. Did it earmark money for replacements for those vehicles? No. Did it really make any effort to try and restore the residual values of its vehicles after the 0-0-0 debacle (no money down, zero per cent financing, no monthly payments in the first year) cost them millions when buyers defaulted on their shiny new cars? No. Now Mitsubishi North America is starved for product, and the few models they do sell are vastly outperformed by rivals, and not just in sales and average transaction price. You could write a book on this Japanese company’s Greek tragedy-esque history in North America.
There’s not much else to tell about the Endeavor’s story, other than its disastrous sales. Mitsubishi anticipated 80,000 annual units but its debut year saw just over 30k, and sales fell every year after that. There wasn’t even a 2009 Endeavor for the retail market, as Mitsubishi decided to retire it for one year and inexplicably sell only to fleets. Amazingly, that missing year of sales doesn’t even register much on the figures. That is how tragic the Endeavor’s sales have been. When the Subaru Tribeca outsells you, you know you’re in trouble. It is a sad story because in the early years, the Endeavor, like its Galant sibling, wasn’t average at best: it was average at worst. It just wasn’t excellent at best, and then the funding faucet was turned off. I will say this, though: residual values and spotty dealer network aside, I’d rather have bought an Endeavor in 2003 than most of its snoozy rivals. And with almost any other badge on the grille, this car would not have been the sales disaster it turned out to be.
Don’t shoot THIS messenger!
What did Mercury mean? Did a compact minivan best exemplify the virtues of the brand, or was it a sharply styled coupe? Was Mercury a brand for older people, or mothers and fathers who wanted a family car that was a little bit different? Ford didn’t seem to have an answer for these questions, so their mid-priced brand was somewhat of a blank slate for many years. That slate was traditionally filled with Fords that boasted full-length light bars or more chrome or a waterfall grille. However, sometimes Ford would bless their innocuous nonentity of a brand with a unique product. There was the Capri convertible of the early 1990s, for example, which had no equivalent Ford in North America. The late 1990s saw the Ford Probe successor, the Cougar, shipped over to the Mercury brand. Then came the Marauder in 2003, which despite its Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis origins, had no Ford equivalent. It was exciting and bold and utterly, utterly cool. It was also a flop.
Perhaps Ford never really envisioned a high-performance V8 rear-wheel-drive sedan as being any kind of volume seller. They had tread this path before with the LTD LX of the 1980s, which was a low-volume model. Still, the Marauder wasn’t successful enough to warrant more than two model years on sale and 11,052 units.
I’ve driven a rental-spec Crown Victoria, so I will give a standing ovation to Ford’s chassis engineers for turning that smooth but floaty, flexy sedan – the whole body of which shimmied when I drove over a pothole – into the Marauder, which critics described as firm, flat and controlled. Ford made extensive suspension modifications to the Panther platform for the performance Mercury, including a new frame with straight side rails as well as strengthened crossmembers. There were also new shocks, firmer bushing, rear air springs, as well as front springs from the Police Interceptor Crown Vic. All of this wouldn’t have been too exciting with the standard V8, so the 32-valve, DOHC 4.6 V8 from the Mach 1 Mustang and the Lincoln Aviator was dropped in, mated to a four-speed automatic; the 4.6 put out 302hp and 310 lb-ft in the Marauder. To make sure nobody mistook this for a Grand Marquis, the Marauder received new bumpers front and rear with fog lights. The car, in true 1996 Impala SS and Grand National style, was available at first only in black (maroon and silver arrived later). Headlights and taillights were smoked to just within DOT guidelines. The only chrome found on the exterior was on the badges, the 5-spoke, 18-inch wheels and a thin strip around the glasshouse. This baby looked MEAN!
Inside, there was a full complement of white-faced gauges. The column-shifter was dumped, replaced with a floor-mounted shifter and console, where you could find the voltmeter and oil-pressure gauges (there wasn’t enough room up top). The crass fake wood also went to the dumpster, replaced with satin metal trim. You could get the leather in any color you wanted, as long as it was black.
The Marauder was no Model T, but sadly it wasn’t quite as exciting as its convincing inside-and-out makeover would suggest. However, where it did shine was in being quite a disciplined and athletic full-size sedan. Critics praised the variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering as being direct and communicative. The ride was firm but not unbearably so; the engine and exhaust were sonorous. Unfortunately, the Marauder didn’t feel as quick off the line as it “should” have, and the transmission seemed to be geared for economy, shifting up as quickly as possible. Car & Driver’s test car did 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, but it was fresh from the factory. The quickest stock 0-60 time I’ve seen was 6.8 seconds, which is better – after all, muscle car owners care about 0-60 times – but still slower than the 240hp Impala SS 3.8 Supercharged. Sure, the Impala was front-wheel-drive and far less special in appearance, but it showed that the mid-size and full-size sedan segments were in the midst of a horsepower war. The similarly rapid Mitsubishi Galant and Nissan Altima were also hitting dealer lots, and they had impressive performance in a cheaper, more fuel-efficient package.
Perhaps the Marauder should have had a bit more in the way of grunt? Perhaps, a 335-hp Eaton supercharged version would have delivered more thrills. Hell, why not chop the top and remove two of the doors? The 2002 Marauder Convertible concept, which debuted at the Chicago Auto Show just before the sedan hit dealers, was certainly a tantalizing proposal. I doubt it would have produced much more in the way of sales to guarantee all the extra development work required, but damn would it have been a sight to see on the roads!
The Marauder stickered at $35k, or around $5k more than a Grand Marquis LSE. The latter may actually be the rarer car, as it was a fully optioned-up Grand Marquis with bucket seats, dual exhaust, handling package and the 235hp V8 (instead of the base 220hp). $5k more for a bit more torque and a lot more horsepower doesn’t seem unreasonable, especially given the sheer presence of the car. No, the Marauder wasn’t quite the lairy beast it looked like it could be, nor was it the fastest full-size sedan, but it really wasn’t like anything else.
Obscure Rebadges – Part 5
Chevrolet Captiva Sport
Meet the only Opel sold in the US with Chevrolet badges. While the Astra sedan, Insignia and Mokka made their way to American shores with Buick badges, the Captiva Sport (nee Opel Antara) failed to make it to your local Buick-GMC dealer. It very nearly could have, however, until a last-minute decision.
The Captiva Sport is the infamous Vue-ick, a planned way to avoid throwing out the competitive Saturn Vue out with the rest of the Saturn brand in the North American market by giving it to Buick with only detail changes. For whatever reason, after releasing only one teaser photo, the planned Buick crossover was cancelled. Those in the automotive press argued it was the negative reaction from them, as well as in the enthusiast community, to a clearly rebadged car being ported over from a dead GM brand to one that was undergoing a complete product renaissance, albeit one closely aligned with the European brand from whence the Vue came (the planned Saturn Aura replacement simply became the Buick Regal). So the Vue-ick was cancelled, and with it went both the existing mild-hybrid derivative as well as the two-mode hybrid option, which sadly never saw production nor use in the Equinox/Terrain. The Opel Antara wouldn’t stay down for long in the North American market, however. Chevrolet’s classy new Equinox and bold Terrain twin were selling up a storm, becoming one of GM’s most successful products in recent years with private buyers. The Antara/Vue was a solid product – perhaps a bit too solid, literally, with its 4000-pound curb weight – but with GM’s mass culling of brands during bankruptcy, it had nowhere to go. In a market craving crossovers, you can never really offer too many: look at Ford’s lineup. GM saw an opportunity to amortize the costs of Americanizing the Antara/Vue by tapping the high-volume fleet market. In 2012, the crossover was relaunched as the Chevrolet Captiva Sport – a moniker it also went under in South America – but was available only to fleets. By doing this, GM could protect residual values of its Equinox/Terrain crossovers without giving up the much easier fleet market.
The Captiva Sport’s standard powertrain is a 2.4 direct-injection four-cylinder, with 182hp and 172lb-ft, mated to a six-speed automatic. The Vue’s virtues remained intact, with pleasant handling characteristics, a quiet ride and available all-wheel-drive. The interior is a fairly pleasant place to be. It’s not as attractive inside as an Equinox, and the satin metal finish is very mid-2000s (I thought we had decided we want all our car interiors with smudge-y piano black trim now?), but it’s of decent quality. GM’s mid-2000s black-tie radio, which appeared in everything from Chevrolets to Saabs, takes pride of place in the middle of the dash. There is no fancy infotainment system here, or any touch screens or haptic feedback switchgear. If you want that business, pay the extra $10/day for a Ford Taurus Limited from the “Premium” category. It would appear for 2013, the V6 engine option was dropped, but that just means your Compact SUV rental will go more miles between gas stations on your interstate road trip.
This mid-size pickup truck, a thinly disguised Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, isn’t actually the most obscure rebadge of a mid-size GM truck. That honor would go to the delightfully named Cuckoo 4WD-C, manufactured in North Korea by Pyeonghwa Motors, the only company allowed to manufacture and sell cars in that country. They only produced a few hundred units of their entire model range last year, so the Cuckoo is as rare as, well, cuckoo bird’s teeth. The i-Series is less rare, but in the North American market it may as well be a Pyeonghwa Cuckoo 4WD-C.
Launched for the 2006 model year, the i-Series filled a gap in the Isuzu light truck lineup that formed when the Hombre pickup was axed in 2000. In previous articles in this series, we looked at the Axiom, VehiCROSS and Ascender, striking examples of the screwball nature of Isuzu’s light-truck lineup before their North American operations packed up in January 2009. By 2005, the brand was down to just the rebadged Ascender and i-Series in the North American market, selling through fewer than 300 dealers nationwide. As with the Ascender, the i-Series’ main point of differentiation from its GM counterpart was a toothy chrome grille. The i-270 had a 2.7 four and came only in rear-wheel-drive, extended-cab form; the i-350 had a 3.5 five and was crew-cab and all-wheel-drive only. The Colorado/Canyon’s problems were inherited, with a dismal interior and a lack of power; the 2.7 put out 175hp and 185 lb-ft, the 3.5 five 220hp and 225 lb-ft. Handling, however, was decent for a mid-size truck, and the transmissions, a 4-speed auto and a 5-speed manual, were adequate. 2007 brought more powerful engines, with a 2.9 four pumping out 185hp and 190 lb-ft and a 3.7 five with 242hp and 242 lb-ft. The warranty was still amazing as ever, with its 7 year/75,000 mile warranty term beating the equivalent Chevy’s 3 year/36,000 mile warranty. It was all for naught, though, if you didn’t live near one of Isuzu’s shrinking number of dealers. Few people were prepared to take the servicing and residual value risk, because the i-Series never topped 5,000 units annually during its three years on sale. And on that ignominious note, Isuzu withdrew from selling light-duty trucks on the North American market, although they had a hand in helping develop the upcoming and vastly superior 2014 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.
Have you ever seen an i-Series on the street? Rented a Captiva Sport? Would you have considered an Endeavor as your family vehicle, or a Marauder as your weekend toy? Share your thoughts.
Excellent, I imagine that those talking heads are on a road to nowhere.
Damn…now that song is in my head for the rest of the day….
THANKS DON !!
So to counter all the negativity what does Mitsubishi do? They give us this Outlander, with all that style I’m surprised they haven’t come up with a great marketing slogan, so they can have mine…
“Mitsubishi, welcome to the year 2000”
Heh, I know what you mean. I bought a 2010 Outlander last week, and although the 2010 has a more attractive front than the earlier ones, I can’t say I bought it for its looks.
On the topic of future CC Classics, I also looked at a peugeot 4007, which is identical to the Outlander from the firewall backwards, but with a peugeot diesel engine and Dual-clutch transmission. Nicer to drive than the outlander, but they’re vanishingly rare over here, despite peugeot being a fairly popular brand. A few years down the line there’s gonna be some big bills to do with either engine or transmission, and they’ll probably disappear completely. From NZ anyway.
The Peugeot engine is shared with most european Ford products vanish? very unlikely.
It’s a great engine – I’ve always loved Peugeot diesels. And the transmission was great to drive. But Kiwi’s are very wary of Peugeot spare prices, and I don’t think I’ve seen another one on the road. This one was an ex-lease 2010, really nice condition, but had been sitting on the yard for 3 months when I looked at it. I just had a look at the worldwide sales figures for 4007s on Wikipedia, and they’re really low. Much as they are good cars, you’re not going to be seeing any on the road in 15 years time.
Yeah spares from France are pricey fortunately my car is old enough to be able to get spares from other makers I have Italian rear brake shoes Chinese front rotors and pads and very very cheap.
Peugeot and Citroën parts ? Try this guy, a very experienced PSA (parts) specialist. Shipment worldwide, order online. His website in English: http://bartebben.com/home.html
Still looks better than the 2014 Highlander.
You think so? Either way an odd looking vehicle
I never understood something. The Impala SS of the 90s was an instant classic, but the Marauder was a flop. I recall reading Marauder road tests where they were underwhelmed by the car’s power. 302 horses would seem good, but they seemed to be available at higher revs which the transmission conspired to lock you out of. The car seemed to leave the impression of all hat and no cattle, as the Texas saying goes.
To me though, the Marauder makes it on looks alone.
I think the RWD Impala SS did a better job of delivering the kind of grunt people expected. Its version of the LT1 sacrificed a certain amount of maximum horsepower for a fat swell of lower-range torque, sort of like the old L98 350 in earlier Corvettes. The Impala felt stout in a way the peakier Marauder didn’t.
Also, the Impala SS came out in an era when affordable cars, especially sedans, didn’t have the kind of grunt they did 10 years later. When any number of Japanese sedans have 240+ horsepower V6s with similar real-world performance, the thrill isn’t really there.
I will concur that the Marauder is better looking than the Impala SS. The SS did do a decent job of dressing up the last-generation Caprice, but it still looked like a blue whale in a sport coat.
The difference between the Impala SS and Marauder is easy: the torque of a large 5.7L pushrod V8 easily beats that of a small 4.6L DOHC in a large, domestic sedan. It was the modern equivalent of a 1965 LTD with a 289.
If Ford had went with the 5.4L engine from the F-150 Lightning, instead, things might have been different. But the Marauder at least looked good.
the 5.4 wouldn’t fit in the Panther cars; it was too wide to be able to deck the body onto the frame. the engine would have had to have been installed off-line at much greater cost.
Either way, people weren’t expecting something this (comparatively) gutless after the Impala, nine years prior.
They did it with the 2002 Ford Falcon, because Ford Australia rejected the 4.6 because of the lack of torque. I am guessing that the Terminator Cobra program was not on the cards when that decision was made. There were special rub pads installed in critical places to prevent damage when the engine was installed, it also sat a little higher and further forward than the previous 302.
Standard cars got the 3 valve 5.4 with roughly 300hp, the XR8 and GT got the quad cam 32v with 350 & 390hp. I’ve seen a manual 2003 XR8 run a 13.6 second quarter mile, it was standard except a K&N filter, even had standard tires. The Falcon even with the iron block 5.4 was ~250lb lighter than a Marauder.
@rudiger, not quite. 4.6 stock was like a 289 2brl in a LTD, 4.6 in the Marauder was more like a K-code 289 in an LTD (although not that one was ever built.)
Don’t malign the 289, it could be made to rev to 7,000 rpm without exploding with no internal strengthening necessary. Just adequate fuel delivery and exhaust modifications.
Point is still the same – the 289 (and the 302 we had in our 1969 Ford pickup while I was growing up) didn’t have that off-the-line grunt of a higher-displacement motor.
I’ve never liked the 4.6 for this same reason. I have an LT1-powered 1997 Trans Am, as well as a 460-equipped 1990 F350 that both have gobs of low-end torque.
The old maxim, “People buy horsepower but they drive torque” really holds true. They LT1 had less horsepower then the Mercury but the torque curve was as sweet as pie, traditional Detroit syrupy, Velveeta torque. That is what buyers expect of RWD V-8 sleds.
That kind of fat torque only came to Japanese V-6’s with the introduction of variable valve timing around 2000 or so.
+1 I still think the Marauder looks great.What a shame it flopped,after it was pulled from production Mercury was on death row.
The big reason that the Marauder lacked the acceleration was the bean counters. From the beginning its father, Steve Babcock, designed to have 4.10 gears filling it’s 8.8″ rear axle. That was one of the reasons for the extremely tall rear tires (245/55-18 28.5″) they came from the factory with. However the bean counters decided that would hurt CAFE too much and required the gear ratio be changed to 3.55. For what ever reason they kept the 28.5″ tires. The standard CV/GM/TC of the era left the factory with 26.6″ tall tires. That ~2″ difference in height meant that the effective gear ratio of the Marauder was actually higher (lower numerically) than the HPP’s base 3.23 ratio and even worse than the HPP’s optional 3.55 ratio. With the higher RPM power band of the 32v 4.6 it seriously hurt the 0-60 times. The quick fix is to substitute 27″ tall 255/45-18 tires all around, but that is only a good option for the early 300a cars that didn’t have traction control. The other fix is to switch to the 4.10 gears Steve designed the car for.
The transmission programming didn’t help in every day driving either.
The other thing that literally choked the Marauder’s performance was that the bean counters forced the H-pipe from the standard 4.6 dual exhaust to be used. It measures a measly 2″ while the pipes on either side of it are larger. I’m sure the Mustang camp also had a say as they didn’t want large 4dr sedan posting higher HP numbers. Those who have done dyno testing have found that just replacing the H pipe with a 2.5″ unit gets an extra 15-20 ponies to the rear wheels vs stock. Account for the drive train losses and the Marauder could have had an advertized HP of around 325.
Very interesting; that would at least give the car’s designers a bit of the credit they deserve.
GM did a great job disguising Caprice underpinnings on the 94-96 Impala SS, so that there was no mistaking it for Grandpa Joe’s Caprice Classic with crush velvet seats.
It was also endowed with a torquey V8 that was derived from the one in the Corvette. The term 4 door Corvette was bandied about during those years in regards to the Impala and it was true. That car had some serious grunt.
The Marauder was one of those why bother type cars. It had a powerful engine but looked too much like a regular Grand marquis. In fact you could get a black GM with a black leather interior (which save the tiny rear spoiler, chrome grill and silver trim on the body) looked enough like a Marauder. To me it is not Fords 7 years to late answer to the 96 Impala but Ford’s answer to GM’s putting a big ass V8 in a 2WD trailblazer and slapping SS on it. Like GM with that TB, Ford made the Marauder look too much like a regular lesser GM
I test drove a Marauder and was underwhelmed. To make up for the lack of grunt, they gave the car too much throttle on initial tip-in. Just touching the accelerator would launch the car abruptly, which made it hard to drive smoothly around town. At the same time, there wasn’t much punch available when power was needed for passing. The automatic seemed calibrated to keep revs low for fuel economy purposes, which worked against the strengths of the engine, which wanted to be wound up a bit.
They may have showered attention on the chassis and suspension, but aside from the leather seats and center console, the interior was Plain Jane Panther, and it screamed 1979, from the chicklet stereo controls to the acres of charcoal-colored vinyl.
The B-Body Impala had its faults, but it at least felt special to drive. The Marauder did not.
This should have been my kind of car, but I had a hard time getting excited about it.
The ’92 “aero” CV and MGM were the slow death of the consumer versions of these cars. They didn’t catch on well with their old constituency, nor a new one. When they moved the CV to the MGM body in 1998, the combined look became that of the generic American cop, cab, fleet car.
By 2003, nobody was excited about this 11 year old body, even if it is about the nicest looking version of it.
I think I see where Ford was coming from. They saw that the Impala SS that was dropped after ’96 was trading at handsome prices as a used car. With the Panther, Ford had something GM didn’t, so they thought they had a shot at creating their own classic. They learned a few things from GM, such as putting in a floor shifter the first year out.
But, nobody came. The practical minded older consumer that was still buying a few MGM cars didn’t see the point. As a 39 year old with a biggish family, this should have been my next car, but I couldn’t get past the fleet car looks, and my wife would have put me in a retirement home and found a stud with flashier wheels. The fact that a Chrysler Concorde would have been enough to qualify as flashier speaks volumes about this car.
Still, the convertible is an eye catcher, and if it was a half-way comfortable 5 passenger, it would have been the first such convertible since 1976.
The convertible with a truly fresh and decently styled body? It would probably still be in my garage.
> By 2003, nobody was excited about this 11 year old body
Mostly this. I don’t know if anyone was ever excited about this body, but by the time the Marauder came out the car was old and tired-looking inside and out, even with the upgrades.
And if you did like the look, you could pick up a very similar cheap CVPI at a police auction instead of spending $35K for what was still fundamentally a grandpa mobile. Tough sell.
I think the main problem was too many years in between the Impala SS and the Marauder, plus the recognition of the Chevrolet name vs. Mercury and Impala SS vs. Marauder, which was more of an obscure muscle car/performance nameplate. Even if you really didn’t know much about cars, you KNEW what an Impala SS was.
The Marauder does throw off a cool Steve McGarrett vibe though…..
CC effect! I read this article and then left for work. Five minutes from my home I spotted a black Marauder!
Impala SS is a nameplate revered by those growing up in the 60’s. Marauder, not so much. The fact that so little of the Mercs were built will give it instant CC status; you just don’t see these on the roads. At least I think so. There really is nothing that makes it stand out; for all you know, did you just pass a Marauder or or Montego AWD?
A Marauder and a Montego look no more alike than a ’96 Impala SS and a W-Body Impala.
Had a series of rentals on the east coast last year, and one of them was a Captiva. The car was such a burden to drive, compared with other modern cars, I had to go “what the heck is going on” and Googled it, finding out it was fleet only. No doubt, as anyone who test drove something else would not have picked one of these. Not a good way for GM to demonstrate its competency, in the rental fleets.
I think the Marauder suffered from the expectations generated by the first Taurus SHO, which had mind bending engine performance from an upgraded car. The Merc got the upgrade in the car, but after the big buildup to the roll out, the engine performance was underwhelming. With all the Panther love of late, these should be coveted some day.
I have always wanted a hot-rodded Marauder daily-driver to park next to my Mustang and Raptor in my fantasy garage. The Marauder is fairly inexpensive so I could pick one up pretty easily, but my wife thinks they are ugly “old man cars” so no go!
But I always thought this would be a great car to fix what the factory did wrong… a supercharger would solve the HP issue, and swapping in a manual would make a very entertaining package. Make mine black with the wheels and chrome blacked out and you get a budget SRT8. And as a bonus people get out of your way in traffic because it looks like a cop car.
” And as a bonus people get out of your way in traffic because it looks like a cop car.”
As a former owner of an ex cop-car what I found was that people slowed down to the speed limit while also forming a block of cars pacing each other that you couldn’t get past. Most annoying.
+1 I had two:
9c1 Caprice and P71 Crown Vic
DItto. Newer Crown Vic (for the time) and 12+ year old Gran Fury. Great driving cars, but this is the tradeoff.
As someone who has racked up a couple hundred thousand miles in a Panther I’ve found that yes people seeing you come up on them do slow down, put on their seat belt and then move over. Never have I had the problem of people forming a blockade.
My daughter even prefers to drive our GM over our other cars just for the fact that it makes people get out of her way.
I’m not sure we’ll be photgraphing SUV’s, CUV’s 30 years from now for the same reason we rarely get station wagon photos today. A box is a box. The Marauder, definitely.
“A box is a box”. That’s what they said about the Valiant in the 60’s. Nobody then could possibly imagine a slant six-cult, or that the Valiant would be the car of choice for something called Hipsters or whatnot. People are nostalgic, and what they are nostalgic about is what surrounded them as kids. The first generation Thunderbird may be a style icon of the fifties, but what people are really talking about is tri-five Chevies. Because it’s a good car, and they were everywhere in those days. People in thirty years may look at a Lamborghini Reventon at Pebble Beach, but what they will really be waxing nostalgic about is the Jeep Cherokee their grandfather took them for a spin in at the farm. The kids growing up today will talk about the cars of today like people of today are talking about the cars of yesteryears. And this site is almost entirely dedicated to that kind of nostalgia. Just look at what cars are selling today, and that’s what they’re gonna talk about in thirty-forty years….
It should also be noted that in the ’60s, the classic car experts openly mocked the idea that anyone would ever consider the ‘mass-produced junk’ of that era to be worth anything. The more enlightened pundits would allow a few very narrow exceptions, but cars like the Pontiac GTO or Camaro were definitely not on those lists.
Some of that changed after the smog and bumper standards went into effect because there was much wailing about the end of an era and a lot of grim prognostication about the future of the automobile in general, but it really wasn’t until the ’80s and ’90s when ’60s iron started becoming really collectible.
In general, people are for obvious reasons most familiar with the cars that were around in their relative youth. I don’t see that changing.
My problem with the Marauder and Grand Marquis LSE and Crown Victoria Sport LX was I always felt that the LSE and LX engines, axle ratios, suspension and transmission tuning should have been STANDARD. The base car was so boring.
The Marauder on the other hand, I’ve often wondered if it would have sold better as a Crown Victoria SVT or as a Ford labeled Galaxie 500.
Mitsubishi was more interesting as a company back when it sold a V6 Gallant (not available during the last years of production), Montero, and Montero Sport.
The Captiva is an odd duck. I’m starting to see a few on the used market and I wonder what it is doing to Chevy’s reputation when those buyers should really be buying Equinoxes or Terrains.
You are spot on with both points on the Marauder.
The Captiva is not a good name for a vehicle; it’s too close to Captive. Captive to what? Rental fleets? Horrid driving characteristics? A confined space?
I agree that they should have offered a Galaxie 500 stable mate. Heck the Marauder was already using the CV trunk lid and tail lights so substitute a new grill, new bumper covers, a different wheel design and use the CV LX-Sport upholstery and you are good to go. Of course they were worried about CAFE so they really didn’t want to sell too many of them. The real intention was to have a Halo car that would get someone like me to come to the Mercury store and pickup a Mountaineer or Sable for the wife after drooling over the Marauder.
I love reading this series! These are the kind of cars I’m always fascinated by. Keep up the good work, William.
To me, the overall look Ford and Mercury of the 1990s (and the leftover look into the 2000s) was just one big, fat yawn. I never ‘got’ the Crown Vic / Mercury Grand Marquis. Both were essentially a functional, high-volume cop car mated with a bar of soap, removing any possible edge, creating an intensely boring design-by-committee appearance meant to neither offend nor inspire anyone at all. The Mercury Marauder was simply a beefed up version of the same boring product. On the flip-side, the Ford cars of today amaze me at every turn. Fusion and Taurus in particular (stealing cues and grill lines from Aston Martin) are the best versions of those two models in their histories. A Mercury Marauder based off of today’s Taurus would look as mean as it was meant to. It’s a shame that the Marauder name was wasted on such a boring looking car in the early 2000s.
You get a Captiva from Opel, really? We get our Captiva badged as a Holden from Daewoo of Korea, same car? I wonder.
Isuzu and Chevrolet/Holden Colorado are not the same vehicle, operations were seperated according to GM.
Marauder, couldnt care less I’d prefer a turbo Falcon, real performance and handling.
Same thing with the lame Impala I’d much prefer V8 RWD from Holden using the entire Corvette powertrain not just some parts of it with suspension and steering to cope already installed.
‘Our’ Captiva is Hecho en Ramos Arizpe, Mexico in the same plant that made the Saturn Vue and Chevy HHR.
Hey KiwiBryce, did you get the same recent (aborted) Opel launch over there?
Not sure GMNZ got the rights to rebadge anything they imported Holden after Opels flopped in the early 90s, unlikely they’d bother again.
GM Aust made a disastrous effort one or two years ago here. Tried to push the German angle against the small/mid imports.
Tagline on their ads: Wir Leben Autos. Standalone dealers. There’s a dealership up the road that stopped halfway through the effort. New building and sign and its gone back to a used Honda lot.
Liquidation sale happening right now if you want…
FWIW, I thought this model looked good.
A friend of mine had a narrow ‘escape’, and bought a Holden Cruze instead of the Opel Astra.
The Captiva is an interesting case in Australia, when it was first launched the Opel Antara version was positioned at the top of the range Captiva Maxx, above the Daewoo/Chevrolet ‘normal’ Captiva. A few years down the track, after I doubt they sold too many Maxxes, an update of the vehicles saw it return as the entry-level “Captiva 5” with the 4cyl, underneath the “Captiva 7”.
There can’t be too many about-faces that dramatic.
Have not seen one in person, but some L-M dealers actually put ‘carriage roofs’ on Maurauders to sell to old timers. Some pics were posted on Panther/Ford forums
Anyone ever seen an MM like this?
Viktor Yanukovych Jr. would approve of a black on black Marauder.
Also, I think that some Korean luxury and near-luxury cars could be future CCs. Within 10 years, these went from being the automotive equivalent of a cheap suit to being serious competition for Buick, Lincoln, Lexus, and Acura with styling and features in line with the Germans at between half and 2/3 the price.
I saw a Maurauder about six months ago. At the time I didn’t realize it was actually something different than a Grand Marquis, but just someone’s idea of how to try to make a base Grand Marquis into something more badass, then I looked it up and realized it was legit from the factory. Learn something new every day.
Granted its not mentioned here, but I saw what I thought was a little red midsize with a cloth top. I thought, “Who the hell puts a cloth top on a Regal?”
Nope, it was a Cadillac Catera. Had never seen one so altered and doubt I ever will again. Too bad I didn’t have a camera on me, it was “interesting” to say the least.
I see a few Captiva Sports around OHare airport and go ‘ick, ick, ick’. Most outdated ‘truck’ built today. If I had a rental car reserved, and got one of these, I’d demand a refund!
I think GM boss Ms. Berra should kill these off asap, they are the Azteks of today.
And 4000 lbs?
As an owner of a 2003 Marauder, I can agree with almost everyone’s observations. The high revving engine has no torque, tip-in is nasty, it was based on a 10 year old CV/MGM design that soldiered on for another 9 years. I passed on it when brand new and waited for the Chrysler 300C to hit the market. Once I saw the abysmal quality of that car’s interior I found a used Marauder in KC-MO and flew out to buy it sight unseen. I’ve had my Marauder for almost 10 years now. That panther body has grown on me considerably. The greenhouse and rear quarters are very elegantly rendered. The slightly swollen body sides and delicate wheel lips really set off those oversize tires. Did you know they shaved down the inside edges of the wheel lip to fit those 18″? One of my favorite perks of owning the Marauder- the kids get it. Whenever I valet park it- it is usually in the front line-up with the exotics. That speaks to its pontential as a future CC.
It is surprising that younger people like it and even know what it is. One time I was getting gas and the lady next to me started telling me how it was her 15 year old son’s dream car and took a picture or two of it.
However teens seem to get the Panther in general as most of my son’s friends have commented favorably on the collection of Panthers in my drive way even if most of them don’t know the difference between the Marauder and Grand Marquis.
The trimmed fender lips are interesting because they aren’t necessary with the tire sizes they were shipped with at the as shipped ride height. Maybe Steve had originally specified wider tires. I am thankful that they did it though since it allows wider than stock tires to fit even after lowering.
Right after our last snowstorm, I let the 17 year old neighbor kid scoop out my driveway. When I brushed all the snow off my red ’03 LX Sport, he went nuts and was all over it. He told me that all his friends want one of these sport versions of the Panther.
I have had the car since September and it seems that a week doesn’t go by when a young guy wants to know all about my car. I’ve never had a car that attracted so much attention from the under 30 male crowd before.
Yeah – they get it.
Yes – these are future collectables.
These Panthers do what all the Panthers should have done, ride and handle perfectly and offer a better looking exterior with smoked glass and little chrome. These Panthers don’t handle like their siblings, they handle like real cars.
My neighbor has had a garaged Marauder since ’03, which rarely leaves that garage. But – he paid a whole lot of extra money over what I did.
With the Marauder, I just don’t see ‘muscle car’ at all. In the history of last acts of desperation, this seems like one of the most feeble of all. The droptop concept might have drummed up some interest…even a 2-door model would have drawn a line in the sand. But if Ford was really serious about revitalizing Mercury, they would have started by greenlighting the Forty Nine concept as a Merc. The same formula would work for Lincoln if only they took the basic design of the mid 60’s suicide door Conti and brought that out. The Mustang platform or the Panther could support these easily.
The Endeavor is a total snoozefest, but as was mentioned it was pretty representative of whats going on at Mitsubishi. A better example is the Eclipse. The 1st and 2nd gen models are legendary in the tuner community. The GSX is the holy grail, but even the base models are desireable now. What they did with the 3rd gen was the nail in the coffin. Not only did they castrate and pork up the Eclipse, the final insult was taking the same formula that once made it such a desireable car and applying that to a frumpy low rent sedan to make the Evo.
The Eclipse/Evo story is exactly how NOT to build street cred. The Eclipse was the halo car in ’98. Looks, speed, handling, good build quality and tons of aftermarket support made for a car people were breaking their necks to go out and buy in the ’90s. By gen 3 no more awd, no more turbo, a softer suspension, awkward looks and a flabby V6 meant that the younger crowd stayed away in droves. All of this x5 for the Sebring/Stratus coupes over at Mopar. The Evo seems a total slap in the face. Its like Mitsubishi was saying ‘you can look decent or you can go fast but you cant do both’. By gen 4 the bodystyle improved, the v6 was stronger for sure but it wasn’t the drivers car from long ago. Mitsu even showed a ralliart eclipse concept using the Evo’s drivetrain…which is how the top Eclipse SHOULD have been all along!
For the life of me, Ill never understand why a hi-po Evo and Eclipse weren’t offered side by side. The Evo has its fanbase but nothing like the 1st 2 Eclipses. Seems that there’s definitely a need for the Evo (high performance but in a more family friendly package) but the hardcore enthusiasts wont want to settle for a fast taxi. The cost of offering the turbo/awd drivetrain in both would have been easily amitorized with higher sales of both.
Now that I have a little more time a couple of corrections on the Marauder. There was another color available Dark Blue Pearl, the rarest of them all with only 327 produced. There was also another interior color available, Light Flint, a grey color, which was more common on the non black cars.
Wow that has to be the one and only 2005 GM LSE I have ever seen. Those are really neat with there distinct rims and of course the Marauder floor shifter and seats. Stupid me had the chance to buy a really clean 2002 dark blue LSE with only 41K miles in super shape for only 4500 bucks but alas it wasn’t meant to be as another savvy car guy snapped that puppy up before I could even gather my thoughts.
I used to live in Daytona Beach, Florida and would see a number of Captivas. The first time I pulled behind one, I immediately pulled out my iPhone and looked up what the heck a Chevy Captiva was at the next intersection.
We would see a number of Nissan X-Trails that Canadians would drive down for vacation…I initially figured it was something that wasn’t sold in the US. Well, I was sort of right.