New & Used Mercury Mountaineer: In Depth
2002 Mercury MountaineerEnlarge Photo
Shopping for a new Mercury Mountaineer?
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The Mercury Mountaineer is a mid-size sport-utility vehicle, sold new from the 1997 through 2010 model years. It competed with mainstream SUVs like the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Honda Pilot, as well as the Acura MDX and Lexus RX and GX.
During most of its 14-year run, the Mountaineer was essentially a Ford Explorer, with Mercury badging, as well as some special trim and cladding, unique upholstery, and—for some model years—a somewhat better feature set. During some model years, the Mountaineer offered more meaningful differences, such as unique suspension tuning, different wheels and tires, and a road-oriented all-wheel-drive system.
The original Mountaineer made its debut for 1997, as a more upscale Ford Motor Company counterpoint to the Explorer. The fundamentals were all Explorer at that time, although it was offered with the 302-cubic-inch ('5.0') V-8 that wasn't available on the Explorer at that time. This generation was powered by that engine or a somewhat more efficient 4.0-liter V-6 that made the same 210 horsepower but slightly less torque. These versions of the Mountaineer tend to have a relatively soft and bouncy ride, and they're not great highway vehicles for that reason. Most Mountaineers from this era have either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, but there was a part-time, dual-range four-wheel system also offered.
Most Mountaineers you'll encounter on the used-car market will be from the 2002 through 2010 model years, when the Mountaineer received a makeover with the Explorer, giving it a somewhat smoother, more refined look, better ride and handling (thanks to an independent rear suspension), and either a 210-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 or a 240-hp, 4.6-liter V-8. These versions of the Mountaineer left any remaining truck associations to the Explorer and instead offered a choice of all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, plus plush interiors including available features like leather upholstery, navigation systems, and rear entertainment for the kids.
Power was bumped up to 292 hp for the V-8 in 2006, while Ford's Sync calling interface was added during the 2008 model year. Safety was emphasized—in these years following the Ford/Firestone recall issues (which the earlier Mountaineer had been affected by)—with electronic stability control made a standard feature across the lineup in 2005 and side-curtain airbags included for 2006. Later years of the Mercury Mountaineer stand as relative bargains on the used market--if you're willing to accept driving a retired badge.
The Ford Explorer received a radical redesign for 2011, as a more carlike crossover wagon; but this time the Mountaineer was discontinued.