2008 Mercury Mountaineer Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 9, 2008

The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer is what an Explorer looks like in lipstick and heels.

Experts from TheCarConnection.com offices have driven and evaluated various versions of the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer, including those powered by V-6 and V-8 engines. To help provide a well-rounded presentation on the Mountaineer, TheCarConnection.com's editors have reviewed the latest articles on the Mercury to provide this conclusive review. This review from TheCarConnection.com also compares the 2008 Mountaineer with other SUVs to give you clear advice even when other reviews might present conflicting opinions.

For the longest time, Mercurys have just been nice Fords. And so it is with the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer. It's really just a very nice Ford Explorerot that being a finely tailored Explorer is a bad thing as the Explorer is among the best of the mid-size truck-based SUVs.

So what are you looking at when you spy the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer? Well, it's an SUV that was completely redesigned in 2006 and offers buyers plenty of interior room with three rows of seats (the third row can be power-folding), V-8 power, all-wheeldrive, and a pleasant urbane exterior style. Canopy side curtain airbags and electronic stability controls help improve passive and active safety. Government tests indicate that the Mountaineer protects its occupants very well during crashes.

Now, for 2008, the Explorer-based Mountaineer gets a dose of technology as it adds Ford's SYNC, which uses a touchscreen and Bluetooth to control the vehicle's entertainment and communication systems. The Mountaineer also adds a capless fuel filler system, 20-inch wheels, and new option bundles like a Navigation package and the Moon and Tune Elite package.

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Otherwise, the '08 Mountaineer is basically a carryover. A 4.0-liter V-6 engine remains the standard powerplant, with a 4.6-liter V-8 as an option. The V-6 comes mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, while the V-8 offers a six-speed automatic. Available in rear- or all-wheel-drive versions, with either five- or seven-passenger seating, the Mountaineer comes with four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes. A DVD navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, heated leather seats, a moonroof, and power-adjustable brake/accelerator pedals continue to be optional.

The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer is available in base trim or as the up-level Premier edition.

Editors of TheCarConnection.com generally like the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer. It's screwed together tightly, and there are some nice details. Some quality gaffes remain, but Mercury is lightyears ahead of where it was just three years ago. The exterior styling is clean and uncluttered, with the chrome grille looking right at home.

The driving position is comfortable, and while the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer drives like a truck, it's stable and responsive for something that weighs 5,000 pounds. Some of the credit goes to the SUV's independent rear suspension. Editors from TheCarConnection.com fnd the V-6 engine noisier than the V-8, as the smaller engine has to work harder to keep the Mountaineer moving. As expected, mileage sn't impressive.

Feature-wise, the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer offers just about anything a buyer might want in an SUV, including rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a power-folding thirdrow seat (increasing the Mercury's seating capacity to seven).

This epiphany leads TheCarConnection.com’s experts to offer a very different set of competitors for your consideration (compared to the recommendations for the Mountaineer's twin, the Explorer).

GMC's Acadia is a crossover that rides on a carlike chassis. The Acadia offers more room than the Mountaineer, but the crossover's V-6 can feel a bit winded at times.

Toyota's Highlander is another crossover, this one based on the Toyota Camry/Avalon sedans. The Highlander's interior is a bit smaller than the Mountaineer, but it can seat seven in a pinch. This SUV offers one of the softest rides around if that's what you're looking for.

Honda's redesigned Pilot is another good choice and will seat up to eight. Like the Highlander, the Pilot is a crossover.

Two more crossovers from Mercury's parent, Ford Motor Company, include the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. These are two flavors of the same vehicle that offer more agile handling than the 2008 Mountaineer, but nowhere near the towing capabilities. These crossover twins also seat only five.

If you're not buying right away, you can also consider the 2009 Ford Flex. This is a crossover wagon that has a great sense of style and might be an excellent alternative to the Mountaineer. It arrives in showrooms later in 2008.

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2008 Mercury Mountaineer

Styling

A rugged but sophisticated style marks the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer, inside and out.

Though the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer may be just a very nice Ford Explorer, that’s not a bad thing as the Explorer is among the best of the mid-size truck-based SUVs.

According to sources from around the Web—and in the opinion of TheCarConnection.com’s editors--the Mountaineer’s exterior styling is clean and uncluttered, with the chrome grille looking right at home. Some reviewers, however, the one writing at Car and Driver, find that the Mercury Mountaineer "styling looks perhaps too familiar," which is not surprising; according to Automotive.com, the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 "shares much of its exterior design with the Ford Explorer." However, Kelley Blue Book does not necessarily consider this a : "the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer takes the rugged good looks of the Explorer and stamps Mercury's new styling theme on its sheet metal."

The Mountaineer’s interior sports a more urbane look than that of the Explorer, but it’s still straightforward, uncomplicated, and handsome. Kelley Blue Book says the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 "interior is beautifully arranged, with high-quality plastics and an intelligent dash design." Automotive.com says the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 dash is "trim and elegant and clearly communicates essential information...clean...with attractive, low-key, metallic accents." The reviewer at Mother Proof observes "opening...the doors on the Mercury Mountaineer elicits big wows everywhere we go."

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2008 Mercury Mountaineer

Performance

You'll like the way the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer drivesif you’re used to trucklike SUVs.

TheCarConnection.com studied reviews of the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer’s performance drove the new SUV, and found its performance to be predictably smooth, if not exciting. While it still drives like a truck, it's stable and pretty responsive for something that weighs 5,000 pounds.

The Mountaineer shares its engines with the Explorer. Automotive.com notes that "two [Mercury Mountaineer 2008] powertrains are available: a 210-horsepower V6 and five-speed automatic transmission and a 292-hp V8 with six-speed automatic," adding that the latter is the better choice "if you have a boat to tow and a family to haul." Car and Driver says "the V-8 is tons of fun in the Mustang GT, where it feels like there's an offensive lineman on meth under the hood, but in the [Mercury] Mountaineer, it's pretty snooze-worthy," although this reviewer "you'll definitely be able to put it to work, with a 6960-pound tow rating in all-wheel-drive V-8." About the smaller engine, Edmunds comments that the Mercury Mountaineer "210-horsepower V6 looks more underpowered with every passing year."

There are some complaints about the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 transmission; Edmunds reports that "a bit slow to downshift." Car and Driver elaborates: "downshifts all happen at their own pace; there's no sense in asking any of them to hurry, because the Mountaineer will just ignore you." ConsumerGuide adds "the transmission shift lever blocks easy access to some climate controls." Rear-wheel drive is the Mountaineer’s standard configuration; four-wheel drive is an option.

Gas mileage is middle of the road for the class and lower than the new generation of car-based utility vehicles. Automotive.com reports "with either engine, fuel economy is also generally less than in most crossovers...the V6 gets an EPA-estimated 14/20 mpg with 2WD, 13/19 mpg with 4WD." ConsumerGuide "an AWD V8 Mountaineer averaged 15.1 mpg."

For a truck-derived sport-ute, the Mountaineer has pleasant road manners. Automotive.com tells us that "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." ConsumerGuide, however, says this Mercury Mountaineer 2008 model is "among the best of traditional truck-type SUVs...compliant, and devoid of sloppy motions." Kelley Blue Book says the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer's "independent rear suspension provides it with great stability while cornering and the variable-rate power steering returns excellent feedback to the driver." According to Edmunds, "brakes, though adequate when it comes to stopping, have a spongy pedal feel."

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2008 Mercury Mountaineer

Comfort & Quality

A spacious, flexible cabin gives the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer plenty of room for adults and cargo.

The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer offers three rows of seating and a relatively plush interior, though as with most other SUVs, that third-row seat is a little tight for adults.

The Mountaineer’s basics give drivers some flexibility with people and cargo. Automotive.com reports that the "2008 Mercury Mountaineer offers three interior layouts: five-passenger, six-passenger or seven-passenger," along with "multi-adjustable front seats make for comfortable commutes." Cars.com says that "second-row seats can be ordered as either a bench or bucket seats," and Mercury Mountaineer 2008 Premier models "have reclining seatbacks." ConsumerGuide "plenty of room on comfortable seats...three adults can squeeze across in the roomy 2nd row," while amazingly, "third-row headroom is expansive, and legroom is surprisingly good." On the other hand, Kelley Blue Book that "the third row is narrow and low to the floor, making long trips uncomfortable for adults"--which is the usual case for SUVs.

Mercury Mountaineer storage space is decent, according to Automotive.com, who reports that a "second- and third-row seats fold down to reveal a useful rear cargo area." ConsumerGuide says that the Mercury Mountaineer 2008's rear "separate-opening hatch glass is handy, but the hatch itself is weighty to open or close...second- and 3rd-row seats fold nearly flat for ample cargo room." However, "aside from a large console box, interior storage is meager."

Opinions on cabin materials are fairly consistent from what we've seen at TheCarConnection.com. The interior Mercury Mountaineer materials "are generally nice, though there are some plastics that smack of cost-cutting," according to Automotive.com, which adds that "front door handles and door pulls are strangely placed and are at first awkward to use." ConsumerGuide is less than complimentary, saying that Mercury Mountaineer 2008 interior materials are "mostly solid-feeling...many surfaces are hard plastic, however, which we deem inappropriate given Mountaineer's upscale intentions."

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2008 Mercury Mountaineer

Safety

The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer does a superior job of protecting its occupants.

Only the vehicle's top-heaviness and tendency to roll--typical of all SUVs--keep the experts at TheCarConnection.com from giving the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer a perfect 10 in the safety category.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer five out of five stars for front and side impact protection, but only three stars for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which conducts more rigorous tests, the Mountaineer its top rating of "ood" in frontal offset tests, but the second-highest rating of "cceptable" for side impact tests. In rear impact tests, however, the Mercury Mountaineer receives the lowest rating of "oor."

Kelley Blue Book reports that the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 "has an impressive array of safety features, with crumple zones in the front fenders, three-point seat belts at all positions and a side-curtain airbag system that deploys to cover seventy-five percent of the side glass area," plus the "standard Safety Canopy airbag system protects passengers in the event of a rollover or side collision." According to Cars.com, "antilock brakes, side-impact and side curtain airbags that protect first- and second-row occupants are standard" for Mercury Mountaineer 2008, "as is an electronic stability system." Automotive.com adds that safety features fitted on all Mercury Mountaineers include "curtain airbags [that] have a sensor to activate in a rollover, a tire-pressure monitor, antilock brakes with brake assist [and] traction control." This source also mentions that the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 stability control has rollover mitigation, which uses traction control and stability control to lower the risk of a rollover.

ConsumerGuide reports that Mercury Mountaineer "outward visibility is hindered somewhat by thick roof pillars, but the 2nd- and 3rd-row headrests fold to reduce the obstruction"; in any event, Kelley Blue Book notes an "optional Reverse Sensing System alerts you to objects behind the vehicle that are out of the range of the rearview mirror" available for the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer.

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2008 Mercury Mountaineer

Features

The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer brings the latest features to its options list, despite its traditional shape and mission.

The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer has a lengthy list of standard features and a handful of cutting-edge options that put it near the top of the SUV class.

Kelley Blue Book says "the entry-level [Mercury] Mountaineer provides a long list of standard equipment, including a V6 engine, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, SecuriLock passive anti-theft system, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), two-row side-curtain airbags, rear defroster, power windows, power locks, dual-heated power mirrors, illuminated entry with remote and driver's door keypad, fog lights, automatic headlamps, AM/FM stereo with CD, power driver's seat with manual lumbar support, cruise control, tire pressure monitor, 17-inch machined-aluminum wheels and a rear wiper/washer." Automotive.com adds that the base 2008 Mercury Mountaineer also gets a "trip computer; fog lights; a Class II towing package; auto on/off headlights; roof rails; a rear cargo management system; and all-terrain tires on machined aluminum wheels" as standard equipment.

According to Cars.com, Mercury Mountaineer 2008 "option packages...bundle various features, such as heated seats and a voice-activated navigation system." Mercury Mountaineer 2008 options "include a Third Row Seat Package 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," according to Automotive.com, which adds that the Mercury Mountaineer 2008 Comfort Package offers "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," and the poeticallynamed Mercury Mountaineer Moon and Tune Elite Package the powered moonroof and deluxe audio system (of course).

Sirius Satellite Radio and power-adjustable brake/accelerator pedals continue to be optional on the Mountaineer, and new for 2008 is Ford’s SYNC entertainment controller, which pairs Bluetooth technology, a USB interface, and the vehicle’s audio system to control MP3 players, cell phones, and if ordered, the navigation system.

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8.2
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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 9
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