2006 Mountaineer New Car Test Drive
The Mercury Mountaineer has been updated for 2006 and much of what's new is promising. The revised and redesigned frame and suspension of the 2006 models bode well for improved ride and handling. A new, more powerful V8 and an even newer, six-speed automatic boldly suggest quicker response and smoother cruising. A heavily reworked interior ought to mean advanced user-friendliness.
One element that hasn't changed much is the exterior styling. This could be good, too, as it ensures retained value in new Mountaineers as well as those already on the road. Though attractive, the styling is not terribly exciting, however, tending more toward country-club sleek than off-road robust. And after four years, what once looked fresh and new doesn't any more. Minor tweaks here and there let cognoscenti distinguish last year's from this year's but the differences will slip right by most folks on Main Street, U.S.A.
The Mercury Mountaineer is, of course, a higher-end, paternal twin of the Ford Explorer. This is both good and bad. Overall, the Explorer is a superb product, but some of what isn't executed so well in the Ford version is shared with the pricier Mercury.
The interior door handles, for example, are so awkwardly configured that they immediately come up in conversations about these vehicles, and Mercury has already announced plans to redesign them. It's not all bad news for the 2006 Mountaineer cabin, however. In fact, there is much to love here. The dash is trimmer, more elegant, and it communicates essential information cleanly. Multi-adjustable front seats make for comfortable commutes. Passengers consigned to the third-row seats enjoy more legroom than their counterparts in other, seven-passenger SUVs in the class.
As for the mechanicals, everything works fine. The V6 returns essentially unchanged, although earning an extra mile per gallon in city and highway driving in the all-wheel-drive configuration according to government (EPA) estimates. The new V8 loses a mile or two per gallon in the rear-wheel-drive Mountaineer, but gains a couple miles per gallon in the all-wheel-drive package. This suggests the AWD versions are even more compelling than last year's.
The 2006 Mercury Mountaineer comes in one body configuration, a four-door, mid-size sport utility, but with three interior layouts, a five-passenger, a six-passenger or a seven-passenger. Two powertrains are available: a 210-horsepower V6 and five-speed automatic transmission carried forward from 2005 and a 292-hp V8 new for 2006 with six-speed automatic also new for 2006. Buyers have a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive ($2200). Three trim levels are available, Convenience, Luxury, and Premier.
The Convenience trim level ($29,150) comes with the V6 and is available only as a five-passenger. Standard features include air conditioning; leather-trimmed, Sport bucket seats with a 10-way, power driver seat (premium cloth with a six-way, power driver's seat is a no-cost option); leather-wrapped, tilt steering wheel; AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; cruise control; power windows, outside mirrors and keyless remote central locking; Class II towing package; P245/65R17, all-terrain, BSW tires on machined aluminum wheels; auto on/off headlights; and rear cargo management system. Options include the third-row, 50/50 split bench seat ($845); auxiliary climate control for the second-row seats ($650); adjustable pedals ($120); power moonroof ($850); roof rail crossbars ($60); fixed, color-keyed running boards ($465); Class III towing package ($150); Sirius Satellite Radio ($195); a higher-numerical 3.73:1 rear-axle ratio ($50); and special, cashmere, tri-coat body paint ($275).
The Luxury level ($31,150) also comes with the V6. Standard features over and above what's on the Convenience include 60/40 split, second-row seats with fold-flat third-row seats; automatic, dual-zone climate control; Audiophile stereo with in-dash, six-CD changer; leather-wrapped, tilt steering wheel with redundant audio, cruise and climate controls; heated, power outside mirrors; auto-dim inside rearview mirror; electronic information center; and fixed, color-keyed running boards. The third row may be deleted ($375 credit). Optional are second-row bucket seats that make it a six-passenger ($490); power third-row seats that fold flat ($495); heated, leather-trimmed front bucket seats ($395); adjustable pedals ($120); a memory feature ($225); a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with an overhead LCD screen ($1295); power running boards ($695); a navigation package incorporating the Audiophile stereo ($1995); and P235/65R18 all-season, BSW tires on machined-aluminum wheels ($295).
The Premier model comes with the V8. In addition to the features on the Convenience and Luxury models, the Premier comes with the power 50/50 split fold-flat third-row seats; auxiliary climate controls for the rear passengers; the Audiophile stereo; a six-way power driver's seat and four-way power front passenger seat; heated front seats; programmable remote garage opener; and satin-finish aluminum roof rails. Options unique to the Premier are a combination navigation and moonroof package ($1995); satin-finish aluminum 18-inch wheels with full-size spare ($595); and satin-finish aluminum roof rail crossbars ($60).
Safety features fitted on all Mountaineers at no extra charge include dual-stage front airbags, electronic stability control with rollover sensors, antilock brakes with brake assist, LATCH child safety seat anchors, and a tire-pressure monitor. Optional on Convenience and Luxury ($795) and standard on Premier is a Security group, with reverse sensing system and side curtain airbags for front and second-row seats. We recommend getting them. Wear those seatbelts because they're your first line of defense in an accident.