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Ford Explorer's upscale twin is sorely in need of a redesign, which will come next year.
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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Not much changes for 2001, as Mercury's Explorer clone has a new child safety-seat tether anchor system. The rest of the vehicle is all carryover.
Mercury's Mountaineer debuted several years ago as an upscale version of the best-selling Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle. It seems the folks at Mercury wanted to get a piece of the ever-expanding luxury-SUV cash pie. The problem is, Ford's Explorer can be just as luxurious as the Mountaineer and, in some cases, is even more expensive. On its own, the Mountaineer is a fine sport-ute, with lots of power and plenty of gadgets to tinker with; next to the Explorer, it just seems...redundant.
The Explorer-based Mountaineer changes little for 2001. 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 pushrod V8. While horsepower ratings are similar (the V6 makes 210; the V8 produces 215), the V8 does produce more useable torque. Transmission choices still include a five-speed automatic for the V6 and a four-speed automatic with the V8.
For 2001, the Premier and Monterey feature-vehicle packages are once again available. They 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 has two-tone paint, chrome wheels and luxury interior touches.
If one orders a Premier or Monterey, 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 appointments, 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 good for this class of vehicle. 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 with the V8.
Like a lot of Mercury products and their Ford siblings, the Mountaineer's offerings aren't very different than the Explorer's. The Mountaineer's strengths lie in its feature content, powerful engine choices and large cargo area. There are better SUVs on the market (Nissan's Pathfinder comes to mind), but if you want an Explorer but don't want to see your own vehicle every 10 minutes while driving, Mercury offers a unique alternative.
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