Archive for December 11th, 2011

Test Drive: 1997 Mercury Mountaineer AWD

On December 10, 2011, I test drove a 1997 Mercury Mountaineer at MMC Motors in Redlands, California. The Mountaineer is a two tone color in white and grey, with a grey leather interior. The asking price is $4,495 and has 119,000 miles. The engine is a 5.0 liter Windsor V8 engine (302 cubic inches) that produces 210 horsepower @4,500 rpm, and 275 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm. The transmission is a four speed automatic (I believe called the 4R70W) with all wheel drive. As you can see, it is identical to the Ford Explorer. The Mercury Mountaineer is basically a fully loaded Explorer under a different name plate. Unlike the Explorer, the Mountaineer’s V8 engine is standard. The Explorer has a standard 4.0 liter Cologne V6 engine with the Windsor V8 as an option. The Mountaineer also came with standard leather seats, two tone paint, and reflector lenses on the rear bumper. Even though the Mountaineer has more standard features to offer than the Explorer, sales were not great. More people still went with the Explorer. Perhaps the reason is because most people didn’t want to pay a base price of nearly $28,000 for an upscale Explorer, or because most people wanted a V6 and not a V8. The 1997 Mountaineer was the first production year and was the only model year that looked exactly like the 1995-1997 Ford Explorer. In 1998, the Mountaineer got a facelift in order to make it look less like an Explorer. The Mountaineer was redesigned in 2002 along with the Explorer, and when the Mercury brand ceased in 2010, so did the Mountaineer. Still, you will see more Explorers on the road than Mountaineers. Now let’s get back with the test drive. When I first saw the Mountaineer on the lot, it was in very good condition. The only exterior flaws that I saw were a dent on the rear tail lift, and some paint chipping on the front bumper. When the salesman got the keys, I observed the interior and it was very clean. The rear seats have no wear whatsoever, and the carpets had no visible stains. This vehicle was well cared for. When I popped the hood open, it wouldn’t stay up because the hood struts were broken, and there was no hood prop either. Another fault on the vehicle was the electronic driver’s seat, which can’t seem to move forward with one push of a button. If you push it constantly, you will be able to move it forward. Before I test drove the car, the salesman drove it to the gas station to fill it up. After that I was able to take a test drive, but it felt too short. I only made right turns on city streets, and the drive was no longer than two miles. This SUV is however felt really fast. I have only driven two suvs before this one; a 2000 Escalade and a 2001 Bravada. They were slow compared to Mountaineer. The steering was sharp, with good braking. I was thinking that the 5.0 liter V8 had more than enough power for city streets. I can imagine that the Mountaineer would be very good with towing trailers. Of course, with a big engine, it means more fuel consumption. This is a very impressive performing vehicle, not to mention that it was one of the cleanest cars I’ve seen from a small used car lot. Would I buy this Mountaineer? If I wanted a clean suv with a V8, yes I would. Even though I’d prefer something with under 100,000 miles, this would be an exception. I looked at the Kelley Blue Book suggested retail value, and in excellent condition, it is $4,840. The private party value in fair condition is $3,040. The asking price of $4,495 is fair, but I would make an offer of anything in between $3,500-$4,000. Overall, the Mercury Mountaineer is very powerful for its size and fun to drive. It is perfect for any occasion. You should just be aware that the gas mileage won’t be very high, but I’ve heard some people say that the Windsor V8 doesn’t suck up too much more gas than the Calogne V6. Both the Explorers and the Mountaineers of this age and older are becoming somewhat obsolete because of some reliability issues, and the Cash for Clunkers program that our idiot President Obama (excuse the political bias) enforced in 2009. Thankfully it didn’t last long. The Ford Explorers were the number one victims of the program. If you badly want a Mountaineer, start looking now, because there will be less and less in the near future.

Pictures taken by MMC Motors.


Test Drive: 1994 BMW 318is (E36)

On December 4, 2011, I test drove a 1994 BMW 318is Coupe at Jauregui Imports in Ontario, California. The car is in burgundy, with a beige leather interior. The car had 163,000 miles on it, and the asking price was $5,983. The engine is a 1.8 liter, 16 valve DOHC inline 4 engine that produces 138 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, and 129 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm. The engine’s codename is M42B18. The transmission was a 5 speed manual. I came across this car about three weeks prior to test driving it. I first saw it when I went to go look at a 1994 Infiniti J30t (I wrote an article about that one too). The two cars were at separate lots, but just down the street from each other. I didn’t really have interest in the BMW at first. I was in the Ontario again, and then I decided to give it a try. All I can say is that this car was falling apart when I looked up close. The exterior wasn’t beaten up too much, as it had a lot of chips and scratches in the paint, along with a dent on the left quarter panel that was the size of a baseball. I think on the passenger side skirt some paint was starting to bubble. If not then it was at least chipping. The rims on the car were hideous. They were some crummy looking aftermarket wheels from some brand I never heard of. If that doesn’t sound bad then you need to see the inside. The seats and carpeting were in good to fair condition, but both of the interior door panels were literally about to fall off! It was ridiculous! I couldn’t believe that the dealer didn’t do anything about this after they got the car. I told the salesman that I would want the door panels fixed if I bought it. He said that they would be after it was bought. Still, it just shows that the dealer doesn’t care about selling quality products. Not only that, but the sunroof couldn’t open all the way, the seatbelt was incredibly loose, the main a/c vent above the radio didn’t work, and because of its stupid custom shift knob, I couldn’t figure out where the reverse gear was. No doubt in my mind that this poor BMW was poorly cared for by the previous owner. I checked its smog history on, and there was a 5 ½ year gap when the car was not smogged. This is an indication to me that the car could have been abandoned at some point in time. I should have looked at the carfax report at the dealer; either way however, I knew this car had a rough life. Even though the car needed lots of repairs, it drove very well. The handling was great, and the shifting was fairly smooth. There was some wind noise coming from the driver’s side window. It wasn’t too loud, but it’d be a lot worse if it was driven on the highway. The radio and the speakers worked fine as well. It was quick when taking off from complete stops. Just because the car drove well, it doesn’t mean that it is reliable. I knew that this car would not at all be a good buy. After the test drive, I examined the rest of the car. As I’ve already mentioned, it does have chips, scratches, dents, and ugly wheels. There was also sun bake on the hood. The salesman wasn’t too pushy, but he was certainly hoping to make a sale and he thought that this car was perfect for me. Of course, many salespeople would say that to their customers. I just told him the car was okay. He said that he was willing to lower the price if I wanted it. After that I got his business card and I left the dealer. Overall, this car needed cosmetic and electrical work. The door panels were my biggest gripe about this BMW 318is. The price they were asking for this car is insane. The suggested retail on Kelley Blue Book was only $3335 in excellent condition. To me, I would pay no more than $2000 for this car. I felt sorry for it, and I hope the next buyer will take care of it. If I felt that this dealer really did care about what they were selling and they wanted to sell quality cars, I would recommend buying this car from them. That’s not the case with these guys. If you’re looking to buy an E36 3 Series, or any car for that matter, buy from someone that truly stands behind what they are selling.
Photos taken by Jauregui imports.