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"Imagine yourself in a Mercury," reads the ad copy. Well, how about getting people to imagine that Mercurys aren't just tarted-up Fords with different trim and higher prices? That's the challenging task facing the folks in charge of marketing the refitted, revised and updated 2002 Mercury Mountaineer SUV.
As in previous years, the "entry luxury" 2002 Mountaineer shares much of its fundamentals (basic structure, common drivetrains, etc.) with the Ford Explorer. It also comes equipped with a greater abundance of included equipment than standard-issue Explorers, such a six-way power driver's seat and automatic transmission. Nothing new there.
But for 2002, the Merc at least looks quite different for the first time. This is mostly due to the toothy front-end treatment — extra large upper grille with vertical slats set off by large headlamp assemblies that end in a Kabuki-like taper. It's the most Japanese-looking Ford, er Mercury, ever to hit the showrooms. And it's wholly distinct from the still-traditional appearance of the '02 Explorer.
Other styling cues that separate the Mercury from the more run-of-the-mill Ford include the use of faux (that's Euro-speak for "fake") brushed aluminum for the taillight protectors and other exterior trim pieces, such as that big grille. The idea is neat and it looks great from ten yards away. But upon inspection the material is clearly plastic, not metal. The problem with this is that while it gives the truck a neato industrial/techie look, the material is relatively fragile and probably quite easily damaged. For taillight "protectors" (and the grille) that's kinda silly. A shopping cart bumping into the tail-light "protectors" could crack them without much trouble. A minor impact would surely break the probably very expensive grille. They're purely cosmetic. Real aluminum or some other metal alloy would have been a much better choice.
Inside, the same "brushed aluminum" plastic pieces are used to trim the dash and controls. Again, it looks neat, but to get an idea of how much better it could have been had Ford, er Mercury, used the real deal — actual metal — check out the Audi TT.
2002 Mercury MountaineerEnlarge Photo