What's New for 2010
Other than the deletion of a few option packages and some equipment reshuffling between trim levels, the 2010 Mercury Mountaineer is unchanged.
What happens when you take an Explorer and slap a Mercury badge on it? Why, you get the 2010 Mercury Mountaineer, of course. Aside from minor styling and equipment differences, the Mountaineer is basically an Explorer by another name, which means it's a holdout from that bygone era when all SUVs employed tough body-on-frame construction. One notable difference is the Mountaineer's optional full-time all-wheel drive (the Explorer typically offers a true 4WD system with a low-range transfer case) that hints at its slightly more upscale intentions. This is an SUV for the suburban set. Trouble is, there are a slew of car-based crossover SUVs on the market now, and just about all of them are better choices for the suburbs than the dated Mountaineer.
The one thing the Mountaineer unequivocally has going for it is towing capacity. With a maximum rating of over 7,200 pounds with the optional V8, the Mountaineer can tow as much as some pickup trucks, whereas crossover SUVs typically top out at less than half the Mountaineer's limit. If you plan on towing trailers or boats on a regular basis, the Mountaineer actually makes sense. As vehicular workhorses go, this Mercury is pleasantly refined and luxurious.
As modern SUVs go, however, the 2010 Mercury Mountaineer is mostly outclassed. Its available all-wheel-drive system is matched by every notable crossover SUV, and a crossover's car-based chassis will always trump the Mountaineer's truck-style underpinnings when it comes to negotiating bumps and corners. Performance and fuel-efficiency are issues as well: The base Mountaineer's archaic 210-horsepower V6 is put to shame by virtually every other six-cylinder engine currently available, and neither the V6 nor the optional V8 comes close to matching the typical crossover SUV's fuel economy.
The Mountaineer does have some old-school SUV company. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Borrego, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner can all be counted as spiritual brethren, proving that there's still a market for nature-oriented 'utes even in this day and age. And for on-road use, the Mountaineer is actually a pretty good pick among this group. But the Mountaineer's on-road bias means you really should cross-shop it against crossovers more than traditional SUVs. And in this case, there are simply better choices than Mercury's rebadged Explorer.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 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 stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. Optional is a Five-Passenger Value Package that adds power-adjustable pedals, driver memory functions, reverse parking sensors, running boards, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear manual climate controls, leather upholstery, heated power front seats, satellite radio and the Sync voice-activated communication and entertainment system. The Seven-Passenger Value Package features the same roster of goodies and tacks on a 50/50-split manual-folding third-row bench. Additional options include a sunroof and a tow package.
The Mountaineer Premier comes standard with 18-inch chrome wheels, rear parking sensors, aluminum-trimmed heated exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, aluminum roof rails, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear manual climate controls, leather upholstery, heated power front seats, driver memory functions and Sync. Options include 20-inch wheels, the tow package, power running boards, a power-folding third-row seat, a rear-seat entertainment system, second-row fold-flat bucket seats and a voice-activated navigation system with DVD audio and video capability, an internal hard drive, 10 gigabytes of music storage and an integrated real-time traffic feature that also provides local gas prices, movie times and sports scores.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Mountaineer's standard engine is Ford's 4.0-liter V6, which makes a lackluster 210 hp and a more respectable 254 pound-feet of torque. The Mountaineer Premier can be equipped with an optional 4.6-liter V8, which puts out a peppier 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.
A V8-equipped AWD Mountaineer required 8.3 seconds to reach 60 mph in our instrumented testing. That's not bad, but the Toyota 4Runner is quicker, and many V6-powered crossovers put up comparable numbers. EPA fuel economy estimates for a rear-drive V6 Mountaineer are below-average at 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined -- the V8 is actually better at 15/21/17. Opting for 4WD predictably lowers the ratings for both engines. Properly equipped, a rear-wheel-drive Mountaineer with the V8 can tow up to 7,220 pounds.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes and stability control with a rollover sensor. Airbag coverage includes front-seat side airbags and first- and second-row side curtain airbags, but airbags are not provided for the third row.
The 2010 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, but dropped to "Acceptable" (second-best) in side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mountaineer's two-tone interior blends style and functionality with ease, and there's room for five, six or seven passengers, depending on your preference. The optional Sync phone/MP3 voice activation and hard-drive-based navigation systems are both effective and modern, but the rest of the cabin is decidedly dated. Most of the climate and audio controls include lots of similar-looking black buttons, while there are also some low-grade materials here and there.
Two adults can ride in the third-row seats on short trips, and children will be content sitting back there. The third-row option reduces available cargo space, but only slightly: Seven-passenger Mountaineers top out at 83.7 cubic feet, while five-passenger versions can swallow 85.8 cubic feet.
Tuned for on-pavement use, the 2010 Mercury Mountaineer features a four-wheel independent suspension, which results in pretty good ride and handling characteristics for a traditional SUV. Still, crossover SUVs are notably better in both respects. Thorough sound insulation gives the Mountaineer a quiet highway ride, and the V8 is smooth and reasonably powerful. The V6, however, is disappointing, trailing rival V6-equipped models dramatically in both power output and fuel economy.