What's New for 2002
Mercury has overhauled their Mountaineer for model-year 2002 in an attempt to make it more car-like than ever before. Among the improvements are a 2.5-inch wider stance for improved handling and roominess, a new independent rear suspension that improves ride and handling, while at the same time accommodating a standard third row of seats, larger door openings with a lower step-in height, standard six-way power adjustable driver's seat and optional power adjustable pedals. With this year's redesign, Mercury is trying to further differentiate the Mountaineer from its look-alike cousin the Ford Explorer.
Mercury's Mountaineer debuted several years ago as an upscale version of the best-selling Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle. The problem was, Ford's Explorer could be just as luxurious as the Mountaineer and, in some cases, was even more expensive. For 2002, Mercury has attempted to further distinguish their sport-ute from the popular Explorer. The result is a fine SUV, with improved handling characteristics and generous feature content.
This near-luxury sport-ute comes with either a 4.0-liter V6 making 210 horsepower or a 4.6-liter V8 pumping out 240 ponies. Both engines come mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The new V8 offers copious and refined power delivery, but unimpressive mileage numbers.
Mountaineer has been redesigned inside and out, and the results are pleasing. Now easily distinguishable from the Explorer from the A-pillars forward, its "New Edge" theme makes use of a satin-finish grille and bold headlamps. Meanwhile, the interior gets satin-aluminum trim accents, lending a distinctive, high-tech flavor to this former Explorer clone.
Improvements to the Mountaineer are much more than cosmetic, however. An all-new independent rear suspension featuring a unique porthole-in-frame design debuts this year. This setup allows the rear floor to drop 7 inches - thereby making room for a third-row seat - while increasing ground clearance to 9.2 inches. At the same time, ride and handling have been dramatically improved. The Mountaineer now feels more stable on the road and exhibits flatter cornering characteristics. A 2.5-inch wider stance improves handling even more, while increasing interior room.
Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) have also been improved in the 2002 Mountaineer. A 50-percent reduction of air leakage into the truck's cabin and a refined automatic transmission make for a more serene driving environment, although some vibration from the available all-wheel-drive system does intrude through the floor.
New convenience features in the Mountaineer include a standard six-way power adjustable driver's seat, along with optional adjustable pedals, heated front seats and heated exterior mirrors. Among the Mountaineer's new safety features are optional side curtain airbags, a stiffer body shell and a lower front bumper for improved crash compatibility with other vehicles. Later in the model year, rollover protection sensors, and a new AdvanceTrac traction/stability control system will also be available.
The Mountaineer's strengths lie in its feature content, powerful engine choices and improved rear suspension. There are plenty of SUVs on the market, but if you want an Explorer, yet can't stomach the thought of owning the golden retriever of sport-utility vehicles, the Mountaineer just might float your boat.