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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Mercury Mountaineer Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Mercury Mountaineer Overview

Still a Contender

The Mountaineer was the first Mercury to wear the company's new waterfall grille and sculpted headlamp treatment. This look, which is now showing up on everything from minivans to full-size sedans, is but one of the many styling cues set in motion by the current Mountaineer. As Mercury continues to grow its product line, the Mountaineer plays a critical role as the only upscale SUV currently on sale in the company's showrooms.

That the Mountaineer shares most of its mechanical and structural design with the Ford Explorer is no great secret. What separates the Mountaineer from its more prolific twin is its elegant styling and high level of standard and optional equipment. The Mountaineer employs elements of modern architecture throughout its design; this can easily be seen in the tastefully lower body cladding, waterfall grille and headlamps and in the ribbed rear tail lenses; the Mountaineer's excellent fit and finish add to the desired look by providing extremely tight tolerances between its body panels. Completing the Mountaineer's sculpted appeal is a handsome set of 16-inch dual six-spoke alloy wheels.

Mercury continues its modernist theme inside the Mountaineer, where you'll find a dapper two-tone interior highlighted by brushed aluminum accents. The steering wheel houses touch controls for operating the audio and cruise control, a nice feature that allows you to adjust the volume or change stations without having to remove your hands from the wheel. You'll find the white faced instrumentation to be legible and well placed, though you may find the long stalk-mounted shift lever and aging Ford audio and ventilation controls to be a bit dated.

The Mountaineer's leather front seats—a no charge option on Luxury and Premier models—are very comfortable and the rear-seat passengers will find they have excellent head and legroom. New for this year are standard power-operated adjustable foot pedals; this feature—in conjunction with the tilt/telescopic steering wheel—is especially nice for shorter drivers because it allows them to operate the vehicle without having to be dangerously close to the steering wheel's airbag.

Another alluring feature of the Mountaineer is its standard third-row seat that can be folded flush into the floor well, negating the need to lug a heavy seat in and out of your SUV whenever you require more space. Though only two persons can fit in the Mountaineer's third seat, they will find it fairly comfortable and capable of accommodating adults. The Mountaineer's second-row seats are divided into a 40/20/40 configuration that allows ease of entry and exit to the third-row seat. This setup also extends the flexibility of your cargo hauling ability by allowing you to fold down just the center section while leaving room for two passengers on either side of the pass-through. You'll find this feature most useful when you and three friends want to hit the ski slopes without having to strap your skis and poles to the roof rack. For 2004, you can now opt for second-row captain's chair seating on Luxury and Premier models.

You'll be happy to discover that the Mercury engineers spent just as much time on the engine, suspension and drivetrain as they did on the Mountaineer's cosmetics. The standard 4.0-liter V6 engine now produces 210 horsepower and though an accomplished performer, the V6 has to work hard to move the Mountaineer's considerable weight; this engine is best suited to two-wheel drive models that don't have to tow or carry full loads a majority of the time. The optional 4.6-liter V8 is the better choice here. With 238 horsepower and a significantly greater torque rating, the V8 moves the Mountaineer with the authority the design seems to exude-and you'll find the towing capability to be one of the best in its class. Another good option to consider is the Mountaineer's on-demand all-wheel drive; the system is permanently engaged but only comes online when wheel slippage is detected.

On the road, you'll find that the Mountaineer delivers on all points. Its independent rear suspension provides it with great stability while cornering and the redesigned variable-rate power steering returns excellent feedback to the driver. The ride is as soft and controlled as any full-size sedan and you'll find the Mountaineer's cockpit to be amazingly quiet and rattle free. Mercury has spent considerable time and money in an effort to reduce noise, vibration and harshness and the payoff is evident. The division has also greatly increased occupant safety by designing built-in crumple zones into the front fenders, outfitting the interior with three-point safety belts at all positions and offering a side-airbag curtain that deploys to cover 75% of the side glass area, helping to protect the rear passenger from head injury or ejection. The system, known as the Safety Canopy, even possesses a complex computer sensor that can detect if the vehicle is about to roll over and deploy the airbag before the wheels leave the ground. Unlike a standard airbag, the side curtain airbag on the Mountaineer stays inflated for a few seconds to ensure additional protection. New this year is the addition of a tire pressure monitoring system and the availability of AdvanceTrac on the 4x2 models. In addition to its long list of standard equipment, the Mountaineer offers some very impressive options such as a rear-seat DVD entertainment unit, reverse sensing system, audiophile 6-disc in-dash CD player and a power glass moonroof.

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