I have owned and driven anything from a Hummer H2 to a Ford Escape, to an Acura MDX and I praise Ford's engineers for the work put into this SUV. I own a 2003 Mountaineer Premier AWD V8 with stock GoodYear Fortera HL tires and this truck performs incredibly. I have a heavy foot and the 4.6L V8 suits my every need. I own a 21 foot boat and the towing abilities are great! Also, being in NC means I enjoy the Outer Banks where I regularly take to the sandy beaches and have NEVER gotten stuck. Even without the Explorer's AdvanceTrac traction control, the Mountaineer's full-time All Wheel Drive performs admirably in virtually any situation. I simply love this truck... 200000+ miles and no issues!!
I mostly use my Mountaineer for commuting, but have taken a couple of long trips, and love it for both. Things I love: comfort, turning radius, quality, sound system, ease of handling, reliability, ease of maintainence, and runs on regular grade fuel. My former cars were a Mercedes and BMW, and this is more comfortable, reliable, and economical to maintain than either. The paint doesn't chip or fade, and always looks great. 2 people have bumped into me and caused damage to their cars but no damage to mine. It's great going up mountains such as the Sierras. There are so many little well-thought out details. I have no complaints.
I bought my Mountaineer used with 40,000 miles on it. Other than a crack on the liftgate it was in great shape. I've always driven my vehicles hard and I can say for just being a 4.0L it is a workhorse. I've hauled thousands of pounds of supplies behind it in a trailer, driven off-road,done a few donuts, you name it. I bought it out of pure necessity having a third child on the way. This is my grocery/camping/work/family vehicle. I love the sound system and leather seats and 17 inch wheels. It handles great and has good power for passing. It has 109,000 miles now and all I've had to replace was an alternator. I also nailed a deer at about 50 mph and virtually no damage. I have no regrets.
Was looking for a 7 seater explorer of that age, stumbled upon the prettier sister vehicle at a dealership. Ours has been a solid, comfortable, trouble free vehicle. Looks nice, too. 22-23 mpg highway; decent for a heavy vehicle. Unfortunately I have had to have the rear bumper repainted twice; once was my fault (garage incident) and another parking lot incident. Goes like a tank in the snow (AWD). The downside to having such a nice SUV is that you can't really do the "utility" thing like you mean it. But at least it has more cajones than a minivan.
I have been very pleased with the ride, handling and performance of my Mountaineer, for an SUV. Fuel economy is great for the class of SUV it is in. I routinely get 19-21 MPG highway. My only gripe at all was with the design of the rear storage compartment. It should be able to go flat and not be on a slant. Aside from that minor beef it has given me 36K miles of outstanding service.