Used 2003 Mercury Mountaineer Review

Edmunds expert review

Stylish and safe, the Mercury Mountaineer is the more distinctive looking of Ford's midsize SUV twins.

What's new for 2003

The Mountaineer comes in three different versions for 2003: Convenience, Luxury and Premier. Mercury has added standard equipment this year, including security approach lamps, automatic headlamps, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, heated exterior mirrors and power-adjustable pedals. Luxury models receive color-keyed running boards and an Audiophile sound system as standard, and Premier adds to that a power sunroof and a Security Group that includes a Safety Canopy system of head airbags and rollover protection sensors bundled with a reverse-sensing system. Inside, Mountaineers get new trim for the doors and dash, a three-point seatbelt for the center of the second-row bench and an easy entry/exit system for the third-row seat. Luxury and Premier models can be outfitted with a new DVD entertainment system for the rear seats and a tire pressure monitoring system. A leather-upholstered center console cover is added and leather is a no-charge option for Luxury and Premier models.

Vehicle overview

Introduction: 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 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.

The Mountaineer has been a modest sales success. It also managed to escape the Explorer rollover debacle of 2001 relatively unscathed, positioning it nicely for sales success with the 2002 redesign.

As the 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, but the more pedestrian Explorer offers a wider range of models and versatility.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The Mountaineer comes in three flavors: Convenience, Luxury and Premier. Convenience is already well-equipped, and Luxury models receive 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, dual-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable pedals and an Audiophile sound system as standard. Premier adds to that a power sunroof and a Security Group that includes a Safety Canopy system.

Notable options include an available DVD-based entertainment system for rear-seat passengers and a tire pressure monitoring system. Both are available on Luxury and Premier models only. Powertrains and Performance: Like the Explorer, the standard powertrain is a 4.0-liter single overhead cam V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. This engine makes 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. A 4.6-liter V8 is optional, rated to make 239 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is available with either engine. Properly equipped, a Mountaineer is able to tow up to 7,300 pounds. Safety: Mercury includes many safety features on the Mountaineer. ABS-equipped disc brakes and power adjustable pedals are standard on all models, while the Premier trim adds a reverse-sensing system and a Safety Canopy System of head airbags and rollover protection sensors. A tire pressure monitoring system is optional on Premier models, and a Security Group including the reverse-sensing system and Safety Canopy System can be added to Convenience and Luxury models. However, the Mountaineer cannot be equipped with a stability control system, like its twin, the Ford Explorer.

In crash tests conducted by the NHTSA, the Mountaineer received a four-star rating for the driver and a five-star rating for the front passenger. Side impact crash test results are not available for this truck. This SUV receives a three-star rating for rollover tendency, which is better than average for this type of vehicle. In IIHS offset crash testing, the Mountaineer gets a "Good" rating and is called a "Best Pick." Interior Design and Special Features: The interior is simple and straightforward in design, with room for seven adults and comfortable seats that offer a commanding view outward. Some controls are placed in odd locations and are difficult to use, and the materials used in cabin construction sometimes don't impart quality. A DVD-powered entertainment system is a new option this year, and, unlike the Explorer, the Mountaineer comes standard with a third-row seat. Driving Impressions: More softly tuned than the Explorer, the Mountaineer is designed to spend far more of its time on the pavement than on the dirt. The independent rear suspension gives the Mountaineer a firmly buttoned-down ride and keeps the tires in contact with the road surface even on rough bumps. Either engine is powerful enough to keep up with traffic, but the V8 is more refined and offers more grunt off the line. Handling is excellent, predictable and stable in corners and higher speed turns. The all-wheel-drive system works well, but the Explorer's Control Trac 4WD system is just as effective.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.