Until now, it's been easy to compare the Mercury Mountaineer to its
near-identical twin, the Ford Explorer. Mercury's new 2006 Mountaineer,
though, would make a better comparison with the bigger Lincoln
New styling on the 2006 Mountaineer makes it
look more closely related to the rest of the Mercury family, including
the Milan sedan. Its square, utilitarian shape is still awfully similar
to the Ford Explorer.
The Mountaineer is still based on the same
platform as the Explorer. It looks pretty much like the Explorer, has
the same amount of space as the Explorer and is even assembled in the
same factories as the Explorer - Louisville, Ky. and St. Louis, Mo.
Despite the similarities, the Mountaineer
feels like it's moved into a new class well above its blue-collar
counterpart at Ford. It's like a Harvard Law School graduate who came
from a family of plumbers.
There are lots of little reasons for the
Mountaineer's sudden Lincoln-like qualities, but they all add up to an
overall sense of refinement and sophistication. It's a great feeling
that's often found in luxury imports from Japan and Europe but less so
in products of recent vintage from Ford Motor Co. - except for very
expensive vehicles like the Navigator.
To bring the Mountaineer closer to the
Navigator's level of style and comfort, Mercury created an all-new
interior, added some gee-whiz options, tweaked the exterior styling and
strengthened the chassis for a smoother, quieter ride. It's a huge
While the exterior is still nothing to brag
about - it's boxy and Explorer-esque with a few Mercury touches - the
interior is a work of art. Contrasting, two-tone seats and a stylish
dash covered with soft-touch materials make it feel perfect for driving
to an upscale shopping mall, not tacky or cheap in the slightest.
The door release handles are especially
noteworthy because of their unique design. They're shaped to match the
contour of a person's hand, making their unorthodox operation feel
natural and fluid as you lift it up by rotating your wrist backward.
That may sound awkward, but trust me. It's really cool.
On the downside, those same nifty door
handles mean the door pull has to be several inches lower than you'd
normally find it. That makes shutting the door a little more difficult
when you're seated, especially for shorter people who need to raise the
seat up high.
For buyers who can afford the gas and need
the towing power, a new V8 engine is a fantastic choice. It offers 292
horsepower and, when mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, feels
smooth as a kitten. Other refinements include better steering, ride,
handling and braking, including a stronger frame and all-new suspension
in the rear.
In the luxury department, several new
options move the Mountaineer closer to full-scale opulence. A DVD-based
navigation system is available for the first time in a Mountaineer, and
a rear-seat DVD player is a good feature for families.
A power deployable running board is another
attention grabber, as it moves a metal step downward for convenience
when you open the door. After you close the door, it neatly tucks away
underneath the vehicle for a clean, uncluttered look.
The Mountaineer starts at $29,795 for a V6
model with an automatic transmission or $35,195 with a V8. That's about
$2,000 more than the base Explorer but, perhaps more importantly,
$20,000 less than the Navigator.
What was tested: the 2006 Mercury
Mountaineer Premier AWD ($35,500). Options: Quad seating ($490), power
running boards ($695), premier nav/moon package ($2,845), adjustable
pedals with memory ($225), 18-inch cast aluminum wheels ($295),
rear-seat DVD player ($1,295). Price as tested (including $645
destination charge): $41,990.
Why buy it? It looks
and feels much more upscale than the blue-collar Ford Explorer, but it
doesn't cost much more. Compared to a super-luxo ride like the Lincoln
Navigator, it's a bargain.
James E. Bryson © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Ford Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
feels more like a true luxury SUV
2006 Mercury Mountaineer Premier AWD
2006 Mercury Mountaineer Premier AWD
Mercury Internet Media
2006 - 05
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2006 Mercury Mountaineer