While most car enthusiasts remember the Mercury Marauder of 2003-2004, very few remember the stealth version of the Mercury Marquis that came before it: the 2001-2003 Grand Marquis LSE. The LSE we’re featuring today is the best version to obtain as it features the Panther platform’s new rack-and-pinion steering attached to a new stiffer frame.
The following excerpt from the August 2017 edition of Collectible Automobile Magazine provides a great overview of this model:
Announced at the 2001 Chicago Auto Show, the LSE was a new option package for the top-line Grand Marquis LS sedan. Hardware upgrades included the stiffer “Handling Package” suspension with tweaked springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars. In the back, there was a load-leveling air suspension. The beefed-up greasy bits worked with 16-inch “lacy-spoke” aluminum wheels that were shod with P225/60TR16 black-sidewall “handling” tires.
The Grand Marquis of the time ran a 4.6-liter V-8. In standard form, it was good for 220 hp, but adding dual exhausts bumped it up to 235 ponies. LSE ran the 235-horse motor and a 3.27:1 rear gear that Mercury claimed improved off-the-line acceleration.
The LSE package also extended to the Grand Marquis interior. In front were leather-clad bucket seats with eight-way power adjustment. In between them was a center console with a padded armrest, two storage bins, and a pair of cup holders. It also housed a leather-wrapped gear shifter that replaced the usual column-mounted lever to control the four-speed automatic transmission. Other creature comforts included power-adjustable pedals; automatic climate control; and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with buttons to adjust the radio, temperature, and cruise control. A Grand Marquis with LSE equipment started at $28,295.
When the LSE returned for 2002, it was as a stand-alone top-of-the-line model. Like other Grand Marquis variants that year, it added some new standard features including antilock brakes, traction control, and heated exterior rearview mirrors. LSE now priced from $28,625.
The ’03 model year saw the introduction of the 302-hp Marauder, but the whole Grand Marquis clan benefitted from some surprising updates. Exterior styling was nearly indistinguishable from 2002, but under the skin there was a new stiffer frame as well as reworked front and rear suspensions. There was also new rack-and-pinion steering that replaced the old recirculating-ball setup. Wheelbase was up fractionally to 114.7 inches from 114.3. The LSE returned to option-package status, then was phased out early in the model year. It resurfaced in 2005 without the buckets and console that lent a sportier air to the earlier cars.