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Ford Explorer's upscale twin is sorely in need of a redesign; it can't compete with its midsize SUV competitors.
Powerful V6 and V8 engines, good selection of features, four-wheel-drive versatility.
Few differences between Mountaineer and Ford Explorer, poor fuel economy with V8 engine.
Available Mountaineer SUV Models
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Mountaineer is uprated with new Premier and Monterey trim packages, which include tan leather upholstery, special paint, upgraded alloy wheels and wood grain dash trim.
The Explorer-based Mountaineer changes little for 2000. Marketed as an upscale SUV for women and families, the Mountaineer comes with either a 4.0-liter SOHC V6 or a 5.0-liter V8. While horsepower ratings are similar (the V6 makes 210; the V8 produces 215), the V8 does produce more useable torque at the expense of greater fuel consumption. Transmission choices still include a five-speed automatic for the V6 and a four-speed automatic with the V8.
Last year, the Mountaineer received new safety features in the form of optional side airbags and an optional reverse parking aid that warns of impending collision by signaling an audible beep. Braking was also improved in '99 with a larger brake booster and upgraded rear-brake calipers.
For 2000, the only major change is the addition of the Premier and Monterey packages. There's nothing really new included with the packages, but they do group a large selection of luxury features together. To differentiate Mountaineers with the Premier package, Mercury offers this vehicle only in a Spruce Green exterior color with Medium Prairie Tan interior. The grille, body-side moldings, liftgate molding and license plate shield, rear-quarter extension, running boards and front and rear bumpers are color-keyed to the Spruce Green exterior. Mountaineer Monterey, the other new version, has two-tone paint, chrome wheels and luxury interior touches.
If one orders a new-for-2000 package, the interior (already good in its own right) changes with the addition of special floor mats, leather-trimmed power-adjustable sport bucket seats and a wood-grain instrument panel.
Despite the luxury accoutrements, the Mountaineer retains a distinctly trucklike character, which could be a bonus or a demerit. It's tough and solid, though the steering is a little slow and ponderous and the body leans through tight corners. Braking is excellent and the suspension has a compliant attitude, but the truck can bounce around over rough pavement. For those living in cold-weather climates, or for those who actually intend to make use of the vehicle's off-road capabilities, there is a Control-Trac four-wheel drive option (with the V6) or a full-time all-wheel-drive option.
Like a lot of Mercury products and their Ford siblings, the Mountaineer's offerings aren't very different than the Explorer's. But that doesn't negate the fact that the Mountaineer is one of the best SUVs on the market. It has plenty of space for hauling people and gear through the suburban jungle. The Mercury's abundant standard features provide a great deal of comfort, and the strong engine choices are a bonus when passing at freeway speeds. If you like the Explorer but don't want to see your own vehicle every 10 minutes while driving, Mercury offers a unique alternative.
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