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Stylish and safe with seating for seven, the 2006 Mercury Mountaineer is a good bet for family shoppers who want a little bit of everything in their SUV.
Excellent ride and handling characteristics for a truck-based SUV, strong optional V8, comfortable cabin with user-friendly layout, standard Roll Stability Control.
Low resale value, lousy fuel economy.
Available Mountaineer SUV Models
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The Mercury Mountaineer features a number of significant improvements for 2006. Styling has been updated with a bolder grille treatment, a new tailgate and more attractive taillights. Interior furnishings get an upgrade, too, and additional sound insulation results in a supremely quiet cabin, while a stiffened frame and new shocks provide even better ride and handling characteristics than before. Mercury says it has tweaked the 4.0-liter V6 to cut smog-forming emissions by 74 percent and expects it to achieve ULEV-II status. A new three-valve 4.6-liter V8 replaces last year's two-valve version. With 292 horsepower (up 52 from last year's) and 300 pound-feet of torque, the engine raises the V8 Mountaineer's tow limit to 7,300 pounds and delivers 10-percent better fuel economy. Front-seat side airbags, AdvanceTrac stability control and Roll Stability Control are standard on all Mountaineers and a navigation system and a power-operated third-row seat are new options.
During the SUV boom of the mid-1990s, Ford realized it could sell more high-profit, luxury-laden Explorers if they were badged as Mercurys. Thus, the Mercury Mountaineer was created for 1997. Like most other Mercurys, this SUV was a restyled, repackaged version of the Ford, with unique front and rear styling and slightly different equipment. Since then, the Mountaineer has been a modest sales success. It also managed to escape the Explorer rollover debacle of 2001 with its image relatively unscathed, positioning it nicely for sales success with the 2002 redesign.
As the Mercury Mountaineer is virtually identical to the Explorer in terms of hardware, your choice between the two essentially comes down to styling. The Mountaineer is a slick-looking truck with a slightly upgraded interior, but the more pedestrian Explorer offers a wider range of configurations. Most notably, the Mercury SUV is available only with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), so those who need a dual-range four-wheel-drive system for off-roading will have to go with the Ford.
For 2006, the popular Mercury SUV gets revisions that keep it ahead of the pack. Although it doesn't qualify as a full redesign, the '06 Mountaineer is quieter, more powerful, better-handling, better-equipped and several rungs higher on the safety ladder than the 2005 model. Highlights include a new three-valve 4.6-liter V8 borrowed from the Ford Mustang, extra sound insulation that significantly reduces cabin noise levels and a stiffened frame that provides an even more compliant highway ride than before. Safety-conscious buyers should take note that not only are front-seat side airbags and conventional stability control standard across the line, but so is the Volvo-engineered Roll Stability Control system, which provides additional protection against rollover accidents. The 2006 Mercury Mountaineer is a fully modern vehicle that merits consideration by anyone looking for a spacious yet agile SUV that can transport a family of five in stylish comfort and haul serious amounts of cargo.
The Mercury Mountaineer is a midsize four-door SUV offered in three trim levels: Convenience, Luxury and Premier. Convenience is well equipped with such features as 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, leather seating, air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and locks. Luxury models receive dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded audio with a six-disc CD changer and a third-row seat. The top-of-the-line Premier adds a reverse-sensing system, heated seats and upgraded trim. Notable options include a DVD entertainment system for rear-seat passengers, power-deploying running boards and a navigation system.
The standard engine is a 4.0-liter V6 good for 210 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. An optional 4.6-liter V8 is rated for 292 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard with the V6, while the V8 comes with a six-speed unit. Both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available with either engine. Properly equipped, a Mercury Mountaineer can tow up to 7,300 pounds.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a tire-pressure monitor are standard on all models, along with the AdvanceTrac stability control system and Roll Stability Control, which uses a gyro sensor to calculate the SUV's roll speed and angle. If the system determines a rollover is imminent, AdvanceTrac takes corrective action to help avoid it. Standard on the Premier trim level and optional on other Mountaineers is a security group with a reverse-sensing system and a Safety Canopy System that adds first- and second-row side curtain airbags and a rollover sensor that keeps the airbags inflated longer in the event your Mountaineer does roll over. The 2006 Mercury Mountaineer has not yet been crash tested, but last year's model fared well, earning four to five stars in all NHTSA frontal- and side-impact tests, as well as a top rating of "Good" in IIHS frontal-offset testing.
The interior is simple and straightforward in design, with room for seven adults and comfortable seats that offer a commanding view outward. Materials are attractive, and cabin noise is minimal. It's feasible to carry two adults in the third-row seats, but choosing the third-row option also reduces available cargo space. Seven-passenger Mountaineers max out at 82.8 cubic feet of cargo space, while five-passenger versions offer a more competitive 84.7 cubic feet.
More softly tuned than the Explorer, the Mercury Mountaineer is designed to spend far more of its time on the pavement than on dirt. A four-wheel independent suspension gives the Mountaineer a firmly buttoned-down ride and keeps the tires in contact with the road surface even over rough bumps. Either engine is powerful enough to keep up with traffic, though the V8 is more refined and offers more grunt off the line. Handling is excellent, as the Mercury SUV feels predictable and stable in corners and higher-speed turns.
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