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Mercury: The All-New Mercury Mountaineer

The 2002-model Mercury Mountaineer will not be confused with any other SUV on the road. It is all-new, including a dramatically different design inspired by contemporary architecture, and major improvements in package, suspension, powertrains and safety.



"An overriding goal throughout Mountaineer’s development was to boldly and clearly set the vehicle apart from its cousin vehicle, the Ford Explorer. In addition to its unique appearance – designed to be urban, sophisticated and modern – Mountaineer also is distinctive under the skin. Its unique all-wheel-drive system offers outstanding traction and handling both on- and off-pavement – and works without any input from the driver," said Jennifer Moneagle, Mercury group brand manager.

Mountaineer also has its own differentiated driving personality, including different shock valving and tires from Explorer. Mountaineer’s tires were specially chosen – as road tires versus all-terrain tires – to better fit the Mountaineer’s optional all-wheel-drive system and the way consumers use this vehicle.

These changes are combined with an all-new short- and long-arm independent rear suspension and independent front suspension design.

Powering the Mountaineer is a sophisticated new V-8 engine, which delivers 240 horsepower, an increase of 25 horsepower over the previous V-8.

Inside, Mountaineer passengers will have more room to spread out. The passenger compartment is two inches wider than the previous model and, for the first time, has a standard third row of seating – enough for seven adults. The extra space is made possible by a 2.5-inch wider track and efficient packaging of the new independent rear suspension. The new Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) allows the back seats to fold down to create a flat-surfaced cargo area. Additional storage is located beneath the rear cargo floor.

Mountaineer offers one of the most comprehensive safety and security packages available. This includes a new industry-leading Safety Canopy system, which includes side-curtain air bags (available at launch) and rollover protection (available later in 2001).

Expressive Design

Contemporary architecture was one of the inspirations behind Mountaineer’s unique exterior and interior styling. Unlike any other SUV on the road, Mountaineer features highly geometric, machined surfaces and bold-edged curves. The use of satin-aluminum finishes creates a modern, technical theme.

Designers considered great contemporary buildings and other structures as a theme for creating Mountaineer’s new look. The architectural design is intended to reflect the target buyers’ cosmopolitan tastes and preferences.

The styling is forward-looking and expressive, keeping with Mercury’s brand identity. The vehicle stance is wide and purposeful. The beltline flows toward the back and is slightly higher in the rear – 15 millimeters – just enough to be noticeable.

The technical, geometric theme continues into Mountaineer’s wide lower-body cladding, standard roof rack and optional running boards.

Front and rear fascias are integrated to complement each other. Tighter manufacturing tolerances help these units flow visually into the fenders for a more finished appearance than bolt-on bumper units.

Satin-aluminum accents are carried through to the inside, particularly around the instrument panel. The instrument cluster features white analog dials highlighted with satin-aluminum pointers edged in red.

Functionality also was an important factor when designing the Mountaineer. The innovative rear liftgate is designed to be easy to use. New body-color grip-through door handles add a robust appearance while offering greater ease of use, as well as a quality and more comfortable feel.

Unique Driving Character

An optional all-wheel-drive system is the foundation for Mountaineer’s distinctive driving character on and off the pavement. Under normal driving conditions, torque is distributed 35 percent to the front and 65 percent to the rear, which minimizes understeer.

Whenever the system senses wheel slip or a loss of traction, it transfers torque through a viscous coupling to the tires that have traction. In extreme conditions, virtually all available torque automatically can be sent to the front or rear wheels by the viscous coupling. The system has no switches or levers and needs no driver intervention. Most often, the driver won’t even feel the system working.

Mountaineer benefits from an all-new short- and long-arm independent rear suspension (IRS) and independent front suspension design. IRS is very stable against lateral forces – eight times stiffer laterally than comparable solid-axle, leaf-spring designs. At the same time, the system allows for better longitudinal-force compliance, which improves the vehicle’s ride comfort by isolating and reducing the forces that are transmitted to the frame through a traditional leaf spring suspension.

Tires can have a dramatic effect on handling and responsiveness, so 16-inch P245/70 all-season road tires are unique to Mountaineer. Available in standard blackwall or optional outline-white-letter trim, the tires respond quicker to steering inputs – enhancing driver feel – without introducing harshness over uneven pavement.

The tires are mounted on 16- by 7-inch machined aluminum wheels. The lightweight wheels help reduce Mountaineer’s unsprung weight and enhance suspension response.

Mountaineer comes with a choice of two engines, both meeting Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards. The standard engine is an improved 4.0-liter SOHC V-6, which generates 210 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of peak torque. A more powerful 4.6-liter V-8, with all-aluminum construction and overhead-cam design, is optional. The sophisticated 4.6-liter engine, with coil-on-plug design, offers 240 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque – and will go 100,000 miles before its first scheduled tune-up under normal driving conditions with routine fluid and filter changes.

Mountaineer will offer flexible fuel capability with the standard 4.0-liter V-6 engine later in 2001. The Mountaineer Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) can operate on gasoline or a blend of gasoline and ethanol. The use of E85 fuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 20 percent, compared with gasoline.

Mountaineer offers impressive standard towing capability. The receiver hitch is built into the frame and has a Class II towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. An upgraded towing package, which includes a limited slip rear differential, provides Class III/IV towing capability of up to 7,300 pounds.

Package and Ergonomics

Mountaineer’s second-row seat is split 40/20/40, which offers ease of access to the third row and the ability to customize the storage area for long or odd-sized cargo. Both the second- and third-row seats fold down to create a flat-floored cargo area. One-handed controls fold the second-row seat completely out of the way for entering or exiting the third row.

In addition, small items easily can be loaded through a new rear liftglass, which has been designed to allow a liftover height virtually identical to that of a shopping cart for loading groceries and cargo. The liftglass section also no longer needs a handle to open. It opens with a touch of a dedicated button on the key fob, while leaving the passenger doors locked.

Ergonomics and functionality are at the heart of many of the vehicle’s design features. For example, the most frequently used controls, such as radio buttons, are in the driver’s line of sight. Likewise, the optional electronic message center is mounted high, for ease of use. Even the coat hooks have been redesigned to accommodate wider, plastic clothes hangers.

Safety, Security and Convenience

Mountaineer and the new Explorer are the first Ford Motor Company SUVs with new head-and-chest side-curtain air bags. The head-and-chest side-curtain air bags deploy from the headliner across approximately 75 percent of the side glass area to help protect first- and second-row occupants in the outboard seating positions during a side-impact collision.

An electronic rollover sensor – available later in 2001 – provides further protection by measuring whether the vehicle is tilting, how fast the lean angle is changing, and whether the combination means the vehicle might roll over.

If a rollover situation is predicted by the system, it deploys the side-curtain air bags to help prevent passengers from being ejected from the vehicle. The air bags remain inflated for up to 6 seconds – far longer than conventional air bags – to provide additional occupant protection. The location of the air bags and the physics of the deployment are designed to help reduce the risk of injury.

Second-generation front air bags also are standard for the driver and passenger, and a Personal Safety System will be available later in 2001. The Personal Safety System uses dual-stage driver- and passenger-air bags that deploy differently based on several factors, including crash severity, front row occupant safety belt usage and driver seating position.

Front row occupants benefit from safety belts with pretensioners that tighten the belts in the first moments of a crash and an energy management system that slowly pays out safety belt webbing during an incident – to help prevent injuries. Tethers and anchors in all second- and third-row passenger positions offer secure attachments for child safety seats.

Mountaineer’s four-wheel disc brakes have a three-channel antilock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). It works continuously by measuring braking force versus traction and allocating brake force to the wheels that have the best grip for stopping – even before the ABS system kicks in. The front rotors are ventilated and have stiffer calipers for better performance and feel.

These active protection systems augment Mountaineer’s robust fully boxed frame, which was designed with energy absorbing crush zones in the front rails. Steel bars inside the doors provide protection in side impacts. Head restraints in all seating positions help to prevent neck injuries.

At the same time, the design team made Mountaineer more friendly to other vehicles on the road by lowering its bumper beam height 65 millimeters – more than 2 inches – to be on par with most passenger cars.

Security features include the SecuriLockTM engine immobilizer system. Only users with the vehicle’s authentic key – which contains a computer chip embedded in it – can start the vehicle.

A battery saver feature automatically turns off interior, courtesy and cargo lights approximately 10 minutes after the ignition key is turned off and the last door is closed.

For better driver comfort – particularly for very tall or short statured drivers – power adjustable accelerator and brake pedals are available, while the Reverse Sensing System serves as a parking aid. Mountaineer’s leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes, using a single control lever. The front seats offer a wide range of adjustment, including manual lumbar and optional power controls for both the driver and front passenger.

New dual-zone climate controls are available, and an auxiliary climate control system is available for the rear seating area.

Vehicle serviceability also has been improved. Annual estimated service costs improve nearly $100, or 15 percent, compared with the previous model.

Noise, Vibration and Harshness

Mountaineer’s revised body shape, coupled with improved sealing and literally thousands of noise-control measures, result in a substantially quieter passenger cabin. Key to the improved sound quality is the new, fully boxed frame, which improves rigidity, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels and vehicle responsiveness.

Mountaineer’s frame is 350 percent stiffer torsionally and 26-percent improved in vertical and lateral bending – which contribute to the vehicle’s improved NVH levels. In addition, Mountaineer has new micro-cellular body mounts, new-design door and liftgate edges, new engine, transmission and exhaust mounts, a revised engine intake system, added insulation throughout the vehicle, a laminated steel dash with magnesium cross bar and a 50-percent reduction in air leakage – all of which add up to luxury-vehicle quietness and NVH levels.

The vehicle meets more than 1,000 internal checks for sound quality and NVH. This intensive focus on noise control amounts to an overall 6 to 8 decibel improvement in noise levels. Such an improvement is equivalent to cutting the sound pressure in half. Even a 3 decibel decrease is quite noticeable.

The Customer

Introduced in 1996, the Mountaineer has been a popular choice in Mercury showrooms. To date, approximately 170,000 vehicles have been sold, and sales continue to grow.

For the 2002-model year, the distinction between Mountaineer and Explorer is more dramatic than ever – in design, dynamics and feature content.

"Mountaineer’s forward-thinking design appeals to sophisticated individuals who are looking for an expressive, accomplished SUV," said Christine Moore, Mountaineer brand manager.

These customers want innovative features that provide solutions to their everyday needs.

More affluent and accomplished, the target customers have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to set themselves apart from the crowd. Their vehicle needs to satisfy both their practical and emotional side.

Available in dealerships beginning in early 2001, the 2002-model Mountaineer will be built at Ford Motor Company’s Louisville, Ky., and St. Louis, Mo., assembly plants. Production begins in late 2000.

December 2001

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