Full 2008 Mercury Mountaineer Review
What's New for 2008
Standard equipment and package content changes mark the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer. Leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control are no longer standard on the base model, and the Premier trim goes without such previously standard items as the power-folding third-row seat, parking assist and heated front seats with memory. They now become options. A "Mercury Sync" system debuts later in the year; it allows drivers to easily control cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices through voice commands and the vehicle's control inputs. Other changes include newly optional 20-inch wheels and a capless fuel filler (both with late availability).
The Mercury Mountaineer was created at a time when the Ford Explorer was the hottest thing since the planet Mercury. The Mountaineer provided a different styling take and a slightly more upscale interior than the Explorer, and its available all-wheel-drive system helped make it more appealing to people who just wanted all-weather traction rather than the pretentious off-roading ability of true four-wheel drive.
Today's 2008 Mercury Mountaineer utilizes the same philosophy, but a decade later, rising gas prices and the equally rising popularity of crossover SUVs have dimmed its light considerably. No longer is the Explorer the number-one-selling sport-utility, and the Mountaineer's fortunes haven't fared any better. Still, this big Mercury has some desirable attributes, such as good on-road manners, lots of available luxury features and a smooth, comfortable ride. The Mountaineer can also tow up to 7,220 pounds when properly equipped, double what most crossovers can handle.
In our opinion, the 2008 Mercury Mountaineer is still a solid pick among the "old regime" of truck-based, quasi-luxury SUVs like the Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Commander, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner. This is especially true for family buyers mainly interested in an SUV for around-town use. But compared to top seven-passenger crossovers like the Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia and Toyota Highlander, the Mountaineer's only significant advantages are its higher towing capacity and potentially lower discounted price. As such, we think most shoppers looking at a Mountaineer will likely be happier with a midsize or large crossover instead.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mercury Mountaineer is a midsize SUV available in base and Premier trim levels. Rear-wheel drive is standard on both trims, with all-wheel drive optional. Base models seat five and include plenty of equipment including 17-inch wheels, a six-way power driver seat, cruise control, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls and a CD player stereo with auxiliary audio jack. Optional is a Third-Row Seat package that adds a fold-flat 50/50-split rear bench and auxiliary climate control. Base Mountaineers with the Comfort package receive leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 10-way power driver seat, a six-way power passenger seat and dual-zone climate control.
The Mountaineer Premier comes standard with the third-row seat and most of the equipment from the Comfort package. Optional on the Premier is a Third-Row Seat Elite package that includes a power-folding feature for the third row. Also available are power-deployable running boards, rear parking assist, heated front seats, a navigation system and a rear seat DVD entertainment system. A Moon & Tune Elite package is available on both trims and includes a sunroof, upgraded stereo with in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio preparation. Any Mountaineer that has three rows and leather seating can opt for second-row captain's chairs that drop passenger capacity from seven to six. There is also a towing package available on both trims, and Mercury says the Sync system and 20-inch wheels will be offered later in the model year.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine is a 4.0-liter V6 good for 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. The Mountaineer Premier trim level can be equipped with an optional 4.6-liter V8 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 Mountaineer can tow up to 7,220 pounds. An all-wheel-drive, V8-equipped Mountaineer takes about 8.3 seconds to reach 60 mph. This is a respectable number, but competitors like the Toyota 4Runner are considerably quicker. Fuel economy ratings for 2008 are about the same, regardless of the drivetrain configuration you choose -- 13 mpg in the city and 18-20 mpg on the highway. These numbers are worse than those of three-row crossover SUVs like the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9.
All major safety features come standard, including antilock disc brakes and a stability control system with a rollover sensor. Airbag coverage includes front seat side airbags and first- and second-row side curtain airbags. Other SUVs include curtain airbags for all three rows.
Reverse parking sensors are optional on the Premier model but not available on the base Mountaineer. Power-adjustable pedals with memory are optional on all Mountaineers. The Mountaineer fared quite well in crash tests, earning a perfect five stars across the board in all National Highway Transportation Safety Administration frontal- and side-impact tests. It also earned the top rating of "Good" in frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mountaineer's two-tone interior offers an effective blend of style and functionality, with room for five, six or seven passengers, depending on how you equip it. You'll find some low-grade materials here and there, but overall, the cabin is attractive and solidly constructed. Two adults can ride in the third-row seats on short trips, and children will be content sitting back there. Choosing the third-row option slightly reduces available cargo space. Seven-passenger Mountaineers max out at 83.7 cubic feet of cargo space, while five-passenger versions offer 85.8 cubic feet.
More softly tuned than the Explorer, the 2008 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. Generous cabin insulation results in a highway ride that's as quiet as it is comfortable. Handling is pretty good for a traditional SUV, as the Mercury feels predictable and stable in corners and higher-speed turns. Many crossover midsize SUVs are better, though, offering a more carlike driving experience. Either engine is powerful enough to keep up with traffic, though the V8 is more refined and offers more grunt off the line while providing about the same fuel economy. Competitors' V8s feel stronger still, though.