Review: 2005 Mercury Mountaineer
Excellent ride and handling characteristics for a truck-based SUV, strong optional V8, comfortable cabin with user-friendly layout, good crash test scores.
Some low-grade materials, low resale value, confusing controls on high-line models, lousy fuel economy.
What's New for 2005
The AdvanceTrac stability control system has been improved with a new Roll Stability Control system and is now standard on all Mountaineers. A newly available Designer Series package includes suede interior trim, scuff plates and 17-inch chrome wheels. The roof rack has been redesigned, and now includes raised side rails. The 40/20/40-split second-row seat now has reclining outboard seats, and an eight-way power driver seat is available.
During the SUV boom of the mid-1990s, Ford realized it could sell more high-profit, luxury-laden Explorers if they were badged as Mercurys. Thus, the Mountaineer was created for 1997. Like most other Mercurys, this SUV was a restyled, repackaged version of the Ford, with unique front and rear styling and slightly different equipment. Since then, the Mountaineer has been a modest sales success. It also managed to escape the Explorer rollover debacle of 2001 with its image relatively unscathed, positioning it nicely for sales success with the 2002 redesign. As the Mountaineer is virtually identical to the Explorer in terms of hardware, your choice between the two essentially comes down to styling. The Mountaineer is a slick-looking truck with a slightly upgraded interior, but the more pedestrian Explorer offers a wider range of configurations. Most notably, the Mercury is available only with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), so those who need a dual-range four-wheel-drive system for off-roading will have to go with the Ford. However, the Mountaineer comes standard with third-row seating making it a solid choice for those seeking a versatile family vehicle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The Mountaineer is offered as a four-door SUV with three trim levels: Convenience, Luxury and Premier. Convenience is well equipped with such features as 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a third-row seat, air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and locks. Leather upholstery and a rear air conditioner are optional on the base model. Luxury models receive 17-inch alloys, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals and power seating with driver-side memory. The top-of-the-line Premier adds a power sunroof, reverse-sensing system, side curtain airbags, unique exterior trim and an upgraded stereo with an in-dash CD changer. Notable options on the Luxury and Premier include a DVD entertainment system for rear-seat passengers and a quad seating option that sets you up with second-row captain's chairs.
Powertrains and Performance:
As on the Explorer, the standard engine is a 4.0-liter single-overhead cam V6 good for 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. An optional 4.6-liter V8 is rated for 239 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is available with either engine. Properly equipped, a Mountaineer can tow up to 6,980 pounds.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a tire-pressure monitor are standard on all models, along with the AdvanceTrac stability control system that now includes a Roll Stability Control feature to help lessen the chances of a rollover accident. Luxury and Premier models come with power-adjustable pedals, which are optional on Convenience models. Standard on the Premier and optional on other Mountaineers is a security group with a reverse-sensing system and a Safety Canopy System that adds side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the Mountaineer received a four-star rating for the driver and a perfect five-star rating for the front passenger. In IIHS frontal offset crash testing, the Mountaineer earned a "Good" rating (the highest possible) and was named a "Best Pick."
Interior Design and Special Features:
The interior is simple and straightforward in design, with room for seven adults and comfortable seats that offer a commanding view outward. Some controls are placed in odd locations and are difficult to use, and not all of the materials used in the cabin impart a sense of quality. With the third-row seat folded, the Mountaineer offers 44.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity; drop the second-row seats as well, and you've got 81.7 cubes at your disposal.
More softly tuned than the Explorer, the Mountaineer is designed to spend far more of its time on the pavement than on the dirt. A four-wheel independent suspension gives the Mountaineer a firmly buttoned-down ride and keeps the tires in contact with the road surface even over rough bumps. Either engine is powerful enough to keep up with traffic, but the V8 is more refined and offers more grunt off the line. Handling is excellent, as the Mercury feels predictable and stable in corners and higher-speed turns.