Full 2009 Mercury Mountaineer Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Mercury Mountaineer gets the Sync multifunction voice control system, a capless fuel filler, satellite radio and a 20-inch-wheel option. The updated navigation system also allows the option of Sirius Travel Link, which can provide current traffic conditions, gas prices for nearby stations and even sports scores and movie listings.
In a shameless (and savvy) exhibit of capitalism, Mercury brought out its Ford Explorer twin, the Mountaineer, when the Ford's popularity was sky high. 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.
Nowadays, however, these corporate cousins no longer enjoy such a large slice of the family SUV pie, as more space- and fuel-efficient crossover (car-platform-based) SUVs have become the vehicles of choice for most families. That's not to say that the burly Mountaineer doesn't have its own charms, such as good on-road manners, lots of available luxury features, a smooth, comfortable ride and a towing capacity of up to 7,220 pounds, which is double what most crossovers can handle.
And compared to the "old guard" of trucky SUVs that includes the Chrysler Aspen/Dodge Durango, Jeep Commander, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner, the 2009 Mercury Mountaineer continues to be a top choice for on-road comfort. But newer seven-passenger crossovers like the GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander all beat the Mountaineer at its own game. The Mountaineer's best times are behind it, and we think most shoppers will be happier with a midsize or large crossover instead.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 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 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 with an auxiliary audio jack. Optional is a Third-Row Seat package that adds a fold-flat 50/50-split rear bench and auxiliary climate control. Also available on the base trim is the Comfort package that provides 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 adds 18-inch wheels, running boards, aluminum side mirror caps, dual-zone air-conditioning, leather seating, 10-way power driver seat, reclining second-row seats, a third-row seat, satellite radio and the Sync system that allows voice control of music and cell phones.
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. The optional Moon & Tune Elite package includes a sunroof, an upgraded stereo with a six-CD changer and satellite radio. Optional on the Premier is the Voga package, which includes chrome wheels and exterior trim, cashmere leather seats and unique cabin accents. Also available on the Premier is a Third-Row Seat Elite package that includes a power-folding feature for the third row and auxiliary rear climate control. A Moon & Tune Elite package with a navigation system and Sirius Travel Link is also offered. Other main options include a rear-seat entertainment system, power-deployed running boards and heated front seats.
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.
We've timed a V8-equipped AWD Mountaineer at 8.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, a respectable number, though rivals like the Toyota 4Runner are quicker. Fuel economy ratings for a rear-drive V6 Mountaineer are 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined, while the V8 is actually better at 15/21/17 mpg. Opting for 4WD lowers the ratings for both engines by a few mpg. All these mileage figures are considerably lower than what's provided by top three-row crossover SUVs. Properly equipped, a Mountaineer can tow up to 7,220 pounds.
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. However, other SUVs include curtain airbags for all three rows. Reverse parking sensors are optional but only on the Premier model. Power-adjustable pedals with memory are optional on all Mountaineers.
The 2009 Mercury Mountaineer fared quite well in crash tests, earning a perfect five stars across the board in all government 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 2009 Mercury Mountaineer is designed to spend even more of its time on 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 actually providing better fuel economy. Competitors' V8s are stronger, however.