2008 Mountaineer New Car Test Drive
The Mercury Mountaineer is a traditional sport-utility vehicle. Essentially the Mercury version of the Ford Explorer, the Mountaineer is based on a truck chassis for improved towing and hauling capability. If you have a boat to tow and a family to haul, this is a good choice.
We found the Mountaineer cabin pleasingly quiet on the road. The dash is trim and elegant and clearly communicates essential information. 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. The second- and third-row seats fold down to reveal a useful rear cargo area. The front door handles and door pulls, on the other hand, are strangely placed and are at first awkward to use.
The V6 offers decent power and towing capacity. The V8 is better on both counts. Though they never feel quick, V8-powered Mountaineers are about as fast as anything in the class.
The Mountaineer offers a smooth ride, though it feels more like a truck than the latest crossover, or car-based, SUVs feel, with noticeable up and down motions on bumpy pavement. Mountaineer handles fairly well for a truck-based SUV, but is not as agile as many of the new generation of crossover SUVs. With either engine, fuel economy is also generally less than in most crossovers. It can tow a heavier load than a crossover can, however, and it offers better off-road capability.
At the start of the model year, Mountaineer carries over unchanged for 2007 save for different options groupings. Later in the model year, all Mountaineers will gain Mercury's capless fueling system, and two new options will be offered: 20-inch wheels and tires and the Mercury Sync communication and entertainment system.
The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer offers three interior layouts: five-passenger, six-passenger or seven-passenger. Two trim levels are offered, base and Premier. Base models come with five-passenger seating using two seating rows; Premier models add a third-row seat for seven-passenger capacity. Second-row bucket seats are available in place of the bench seat for six-passenger seating.
Two powertrains are available: a 210-horsepower V6 and five-speed automatic transmission and a 292-hp V8 with six-speed automatic. Base models are available only with the V6 and five-speed automatic. The V8 and six-speed automatic are optional for Premier. Buyers have a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The available all-wheel drive system can be driven on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing.
The Mountaineer 2WD ($26,050) and AWD ($28,345) come with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; six-way power driver seat'; leather-wrapped, tilt steering wheel with audio and climate controls; AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack; cruise control; power windows, heated outside mirrors and keyless remote central locking; trip computer; fog lights; Class II towing package; auto on/off headlights; roof rails; rear cargo management system; and P245/65R17 all-terrain tires on machined aluminum wheels. Later in the model year the base model also gets Ford's new capless fueling system.
Options include a Third Row Seat Package ($1495) that includes a 50/50 split third-row bench seat, a 60/40 split second-row bench with reclining seatbacks and auxiliary climate controls for the rear passengers; second-row bucket seats ($795); a Comfort Package ($1395) that has leather upholstery, heated front seats, 10-way power driver's seat, six-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and memory for the driver's seat; a Moon and Tune Elite Package ($895) with power moonroof with sunshade, Audiophile AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer and seven speakers, and Sirius satellite radio; power adjustable pedals ($195); roof rail crossbars ($115); fixed color-keyed running boards ($495); and a Class III towing package ($275); and rear obstacle detection ($295).
The Premier model is offered with 2WD and the V6 ($28,150), AWD and the V6 ($30,445), 2WD and the V8 (29,445) or AWD and the V8 ($31,740). Standard features over and above those of the base include leather upholstery; 10-way power adjustable driver seat; six-way power front passenger seat; 60/40 split second-row seats; fold-flat third-row seats; keyless entry keypad; auto-dimming rear-view mirror; and 235/65R18 all-season tires on chromed aluminum wheels.
Options for Premier consist of the Navigation and Moon and Tune Package ($2595), which adds a DVD-based navigation system with voice activation to the base model's Moon and Tune Package; an Amenities Package ($1295) with power-deploying running boards, a universal garage door opener and rear obstacle detection; Third Row Seat Elite Package ($1095), which adds a power-folding third row to the base model's Third Row Seat Package; rear DVD entertainment ($1195) with an 8-inch screen and two wireless headphones; and a Chrome Package ($495) with several chrome exterior cues.
Later in the model year, 20-inch wheels and tires and Mercury Sync will be offered. Sync is a hands free communication and entertainment system that works with cell phones and MP3 players.
Safety features fitted on all Mountaineers include dual-stage front airbags, torso-protecting front side airbags, and head-protecting side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. The curtain airbags have a sensor to activate in a rollover. Also standard are a tire-pressure monitor, antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation. Available as an option is rear obstacle detection.