After four years in its current skin, the time has come for a mild redo of the Mercury Mountaineer. More precisely, the time is this fall, when the revised 2006 Mountaineer arrives in showrooms (along with the Ford Explorer, of course). The Mountaineer's changes are both mechanical and cosmetic. Taking the mechanical first, the most noteworthy is a more powerful, optional V-8. Still at 4.6 liters, the new SOHC engine has three valves per cylinder and greatly increased output: 292 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque (up from 239 hp and 282 lb-ft). The new V-8 also mates to a new automatic transmission, with six forward speeds instead of five. All this provides added incentive to bypass the Mountaineer's base powertrain, a 210-hp 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic, both unchanged for '06. Further mechanical tweaks were visited upon the frame (strengthened), the suspension (retuned), and the brakes (enlarged).
The Mountaineer also has two splashy bits of new technology first seen on the Lincoln Navigator: power-deployed running boards, which tuck up neatly against the body when retracted, and a power-folding third-row seat, which is also split 50/50 for greater versatility. The cabin has undergone a wholesale redesign, with an attractive new instrument panel, a console-mounted shifter, redone door panels, and new upholstery, including a very cool two-tone leather and suede option. Outside, the changes are more subtle. A new front end features a taller grille and Mariner-like satin-metal trim in the center of the bumper. The lower body cladding has lost the strange hash-mark ridges of the current Mountaineer. Eighteen-inch wheels are a new option.
We expect that the majority of these changes will also appear on the '06 Explorer, but we'll have to wait for the New York show this spring to learn the specifics.