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Exterior Design: **
Sure, it's easy to pick on the Mountaineer, but that doesn't change the fact that it's not very pretty. The waterfall grille is kind of sharp, in a blue whale baleen plate kind of way. Otherwise the Mountaineer is identical to the Ford Explorer, which is a generically pleasant SUV. No, wait, the Mountaineer has some radical clear taillight lenses. Didn't that fad die when The Fast and Furious came out? (The first one.)

Acceleration: ***
The torquey, 292 horsepower V8 makes us understand why so many people put American flags on their bumpers. As nice as they are, the Honda Passport, Toyota 4Runner, and Nissan Pathfinder are two cylinders short. Anyway, the Mountaineer gets up out of its own way without any trouble.

Braking ***
I can't knock the brakes, but this is a big, heavy car. The fact that the Mountaineer stops at all, while kind of required, is an accomplishment. Basically there's nothing good nor bad about the brakes.

Ride ****
It's doubtful the owners of the Mountaineer will actually do much mountaineering. But when kept in its native habitat — interstate highways — the Mercury is plush, smooth, and incredibly quiet, even on Michigan roads.

Handling **
It's an SUV, and a truck-based SUV at that. Handling is not its strong suit. But oh, does it handle the groceries, and trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond!


Gearbox ****
Consider the following: The Explorer is kind of the like Camry of SUVs. Which makes it notable for what you don't notice. Thus, the Mountaineer (an Explorer clone) has a good gearbox only in the sense that it doesn't catch your attention.

Audio/Video ***
The Premier edition we tested came with navigation, but it's not a very good navigation system. The touch -screen menus are tedious and it makes using the radio more of a hassle than necessary. There's an optional rear-seat DVD system as well.

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Toys ***
Power-fold third-row seats, a reverse backup sensing system and power running boards. The running boards seem almost vestigial given the low step-in height, but perhaps that's a concession to the 55.1 year old average age of Mercury buyers. As an aside, that's a younger average than Buick's and Chrysler's.

Trunk ***
Everything folds flat, including the second-row seats, and there's actually usable space behind the third row, but nothing extraordinary to capture the extra star.

Value ****
This is a surprise. A similarly equipped Mountaineer Premier is actually cheaper than a Ford Explorer Limited, assuming no buying incentives. That doesn't exactly place Mercury slightly up market from Ford, but any time there's a deal to be had it should be applauded.


Overall ***
If you're going on price, the Mountaineer is a decent deal. But as we've already said, there's not really anything special to differentiate from an Explorer. And while both the Explorer and Mountaineer are good at what they do, they've evolved into glorified people-carriers, so the wasted space and fuel economy inherent to the SUV is met with little gain. It does, however, tow, so if that's something you're looking for in midsize SUV, then look no further.

[by Mike Austin]

Jalopnik Reviews: 2007 Mercury Mountaineer, Part 1 [internal]