The Mercury Mountaineer has always been a solid choice among midsize SUVs. At its debut, it offered good space for medium-size families, decent handling, tolerable ride quality and at least some semblance of off-road capability. These qualities have held steady through two generations. Although the Mountaineer is mechanically identical to the Ford Explorer and shares its trucklike chassis construction, Mercury has attempted to differentiate it over the years by specifying more standard amenities, softer suspension tuning and all-wheel drive instead of traditional four-wheel drive. For years, those virtues placed the Mercury Mountaineer in the upper ranks of midsize SUVs. This was especially true after its most recent 2002 redesign, which brought about a vast improvement in ride and handling. There have been a number of equipment changes to the Mercury Mountaineer since the current generation's 2002 debut. V8 models sold through 2005 made just 232 hp and came with a five-speed automatic. The Mountaineer's safety quotient rose in 2004 when Mercury added stability control as an option, and again in 2005 when it was made standard and packaged with Roll Stability Control. Standard side curtain airbags completed the picture in 2006; in previous years, they were optional so it's a good idea to make sure an individual Mountaineer has them. Microsoft's Sync system was added to the options list in mid-2008 and became standard on the Premier for '09.