Mercury has had something of an image problem for the past two decades. Is it an entry-level luxury brand, or a gentleman’s performance division? Is it both? Neither? Ford has wrestled with this question since the early 90’s, when the last of the sporty “SuperCougars” rolled off the line. But perhaps no car better epitomizes the failed potential of the Mercury brand better than the late-model Marauder.

Watch these commercials for the Marauder’s launch, and you’ll see Mercury trying to evoke the performance car image from their storied past. And truthfully, Mercury was a major player in stock car and drag racing in those early years. The original Marauder was slick, fast, and the perfect mobster car. But when Ford evoked the name in 2003, it was based on the aging Panther platform shared by the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis. Hardly the best platform for performance. Had it gotten the supercharged engine found in SVT Cobra cars, it might have been a different story.

The Marauder fell flat on its boring face after just three years on the market. It was heavy, underpowered, and underwhelming…just like the rest of the Mercury lineup. It tried too hard to cater to both those seeking thrills and those wanting a smooth ride. Since then the Mercury lineup has languished with uninspired models whose makers barely bother to differentiate from the less-expensive Ford or more-expensive Lincolns.

But there remains hope for the Mercury brand. Ford is reportedly selling off Volvo to Chinese carmaker Geely for $1.8 billion. Ford isn’t going to shutter Mercury until it gives the brand one last go-around. The Blue Oval supposedly has a special c-segment car planned for a fall unveiling that will bring back some of the performance enthusiasm once associated with Mercury. Is it too little, too late? Or will names like Marauder, Cougar, and Comet have social relevance once again?

Only time will tell.

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