VOGA means fashion in Italian. It is no wonder why Ford designer Camilo Pardo, the designer of the Ford GT, chose this name when he introduced the upscale appearance package in 2006 on the vehicle named after the Italian fashion capital, the Mercury Milan. Since then Mercury has expanded the elegant VOGA line to include the Mercury Mariner crossover based on the Ford Escape.
Being an aesthetics package, the VOGA option is much more about design than function. In order to purchase the high-class VOGA equipped Mercury, future Mariner owners must first upgrade to a Mercury Mariner Premier, and then purchase the Moon and Tune package that includes a large panoramic sunroof and a seven speaker MP3 compatible sound system and much more.
Continued after the jump.
The exterior of our 2009 Mercury Mariner Premium with the VOGA feature package is covered in a bright white finish that Ford calls, white suede clear coat, a very chic name befitting such a stylish SUV. Due to the fact that almost all of the upgrades were made to dress up the vehicle, our Mariner handled like you would expect from a crossover. The seating position is high and the vehicle exhibits some body roll; however the new anti-roll bar and re tuned suspension do help to soften the vehicle’s ride.
The VOGA package is made up mainly of chrome accents to the exterior of the vehicle. The 17 inch wheels with VOGA center caps are covered in the shiny metal, so are the roof rails, grill and badges. There is even a chrome panel with “MERCURY” stamped into it covering the rear bumper. The only indication that this is not your everyday Mercury is the VOGA badge found right under the chrome Mariner letters on the tailgate.
Inside the first things that you notice are the VOGA logos embroidered into the cashmere colored leather seats that are held together with ash stitching. The only other cue that this is an exclusive vehicle are the special dark colored floor mats, that just like the seats, are adorned with the VOGA logo.
There are metallic trim pieces framing the large air conditioning vents as well as the base of the automatic shifter. That piece looks very sleek and elegant thanks to a thick polished metal strip that runs vertically up the back of the lever. Everything else is either made from rough or glossy black plastic. The dash is made from dull black plastic, whereas the door pulls and center stack are covered in a slick piano black finish; exactly what someone looking to purchase a “fashionable” Ford would expect.
Our Mercury Mariner was equipped with Sync. Developed in conjunction with Microsoft, Sync allows the driver to control the navigation and audio systems as well as Bluetooth devices with voice activated commands. Even though drivers will never have to take their hands off the wheel to fiddle with buttons again, the voice recognition software does take some getting used to.
Unlike most modern vehicles with complex infotainment systems, the Mariner unit is very well laid out. There are a lot of buttons, but they are not overwhelming, instead the dark tones help all the controls to blend together nicely into one user friendly unit.
The Mariner felt like there was a small V8 under the hood because the vehicle had great acceleration off the line and felt like it was making plenty of power. Although, once the over sized four cylinder engine was pushed, either around town or on the highway, the sound it made revealed that it was nothing more a hard working small displacement motor.
For 2009 the Mercury Mariner is powered by a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder that makes 171 HP and 171 lb-ft of torque. The new power plant is 11% more powerful than the previous 2.3 liter engine, while increasing fuel economy, if only by 1 MPG. The redesigned engine allows this Mercury to do something that is unthinkable, achieve better performance and greater efficiency (19/26 MPG).
Quite possibly the greatest attributing factor to the Mariner’s gas savings is the six speed automatic transmission. The 6th gear in the new gearbox is taller than 4th gear in the old four speed transmission; this allows for highway cruising at a lower RPM and therefore consumes less combustible.
The style of the VOGA crossover combined with the added power and economy makes this Mariner an attractive automobile. Ford also modified the exterior of the vehicle to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency as much as possible, by reshaping the front bumper and adding a lower chin spoiler, the blue oval aerodynamicists made the Mariner an efficient and powerful machine with a plush driver’s compartment.
Mercury designers have also added small flaps in front of the rear tires, a first for a Ford SUV, which improves the Mariner’s aerodynamics even further.
The keypad underneath the door handle is one of my favorite features on Ford automobiles. It forever eliminates the need to fiddle with keys when trying to unlock your vehicle, at least until they develop a smart access key like most automakers already offer.
The most visually interesting aspect of the interior is the contrast between the soft light surfaces of the headliner and upholstery and the dark charcoal black carpeting.
Simply put, Mercury may be asking a little too much for this Mariner. With the base vehicle starting at $22,650 and our VOGA edition optioned north of $31,000, the price for all that style is a little steep. For only a few dollars more, buyers could opt for the Mariner Hybrid, a vehicle that starts at just over $30,000.
No VOGA for Alaska.
Ford, what’s up with that?