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Mercury Grand Marquis LS is Mercury Division's top-of-the-line model. And

what a showoff it has become. The '92 model sports an entirely new exterior.

It's not just a cosmetic touch-up, but a complete redesign, and it takes

Mercury's high-profile model out of the realm of the boxy and into the modern

world of sleek and aero.

Along with its sister car the Ford Crown Victoria, it is the very last of

Ford Motor Co. cars to yield to the aerodynamic clarion call. The result? One

of the best-looking, quietest and most efficient large cars in the automotive

industry.

Not only is the new sleek exterior pleasing to the eye, it is functional.

The air-drag coefficient (Cd) has been lowered from its 1991 rating of 0.45 to

a slippery 0.36 for the newly designed 1992 model. The functionality of the

air-drag reduction is very noticeable in the quieter interior (the wind flows

smoother over low Cd surfaces and therefore doesn't create as much noise) and

no doubt also contributes to the car's upgraded 1992 EPA mileage rating.

For another thousand bucks or so, one can step up from the Ford Crown

Victoria to the Mercury Marquis. Is the move worth it considering that these

are identical cars except for trim and other minor changes sported by the

Marquis?

Well, as much as I liked the Crown Vic, I think the Mercury Marquis goes it

one better. I prefer its interior, which is neatly arranged and cleaner; the

strip of simulated wood across the dash gives it a touch of richness. And I

personally like the exterior refinements that make this a Marquis and not a

Crown Vic.

The Marquis boasts one of the largest trunks in the business, nearly 21

cubic feet. What's more, it's easy to load and big enough to accommodate

luggage for the six passengers it is capable of carrying. EPA's overall

interior volume index is 111.4 cubic feet; that makes for a big car in anyone's

book.

The Marquis is offered in two models: the entry-level GS and the

high-profile LS. Base price for the LS is $19,789. Our as-tested model totaled

$25,918. That price included a raft of options: a preferred equipment package

($2,199), leather seat trim ($555), electronic instrumentation ($516), six-way

dual power front seats ($489), a trailer tow package ($490), anti-lock brakes

with traction assist ($1,035) JBL sound system ($488) - you get the idea.

Power for the Marquis is provided by a 4.6-liter, OHC V-8 that is rated at

190 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and has a maximum torque rating of 260 foot pounds

at 3,200 rpm. Choose the optional dual exhaust system and you get an

accompanying boost in the horsepower to 210, with torque going to 270.

The fuel economy isn't bad either; although the new engine boasts a

40-horsepower increase over the previous model's engine, it still gets better

fuel economy than its less-powerful ancestor.

EPA rates the Marquis at 18 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. Our week with the

car averaged 19.7 mpg. Not bad considering it was mostly city driving.

This is a quiet and powerful engine and is coupled to a four-speed automatic

overdrive transmission. But as nice and as smooth as the combination is, it's

going to get even better. The middle of the model year - just about now,

actually - will see the '92 Marquis outfitted with a new electronically

controlled automatic transmission.

The upgrade will result in even better fuel economy because EPA estimated

mileage increases to 19 mpg/city and 27 mpg/highway. And - if it's possible -

the new transmission will provide the Marquis with even smoother,

less-noticeable shift points. Might be worth waiting for.

The newly redesigned Mercury Marquis is, in my opinion, one of the best

things Ford has come up with since it introduced the Taurus. For those of you

who think American-made - I know, I know, it's made in Canada and has a number

of foreign-made parts in it -- means inferior, slip behind the wheel of this

big cruiser and I'll bet you change your mind fast.

Comments by my wife Rogga: If you're

looking for superb luxury in a quiet and smooth-riding car that still gets

decent gas mileage you won't have to go much further than the Mercury Marquis.

Although the options on our tester prodded its price up to over $25,000, it

seems to me to be one of the best larger cars we have ever tested that checks

in at a base price under $20,000.

The interior is immaculately tailored and seems to fit and work with

precision and ease. There's plenty of room, even for tall ones.

Kyle, at 6 feet 1 inch, never complained when he had to sit in back and even

offered that it was much like riding in a limo. That's high praise coming from

a teen-ager enamored with sports cars and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Comments by my 17-year-old son Kyle: Why

does Ford make two identical cars and call them by different names? Wouldn't it

be cheaper and smarter to make only one model? Or maybe I have a lot to learn

about marketing.

Each week Bob Sikorsky test-drives a vehicle furnished by a

manufacturer or a local dealer, with the understanding that Sikorsky will

report what he likes and what he doesn't like about each vehicle.

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NUMBERS AND DOLLARS

Name: 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis LS

Base sticker price: $19,789

Price of test vehicle: $25,918

Engine information: 4.6-liter, OHC V-8, 190 hp at 4,200 rpm; torque equals

260 ft. lbs. at 3,200 rpm

Compression ratio: 9.0:1

EPA estimated mileage: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway

Fuel system: sequential electronic fuel injection

Transmission: 4-speed automatic overdrive

Steering: power recirculating ball

Brakes: power-assist 4-wheel discs

Curb weight: 3,768 pounds

Length/wheelbase: 212.4 inches/114.4 inches

Suspension, front: independent S.L.A., coil springs, stabilizer bar

Suspension, rear: four-bar link, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Trunk area: 20.6 cu. ft.

Coefficient of drag (Cd): 0.36

Safety features: optional anti-lock brakes with traction assist,

driver's-side air bag, optional passenger's-side air bag, childproof rear door

locks.

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