I was reluctant about buying this vehicle due to it's size and fuel consumption. Now....best choice I could have made. As far as the gas milage, it gets an average of 16.7 mpg normal driving and I got up to 21 mpg on the open road. When selecting an SUV, gas milage is normally not the deciding factor but if it is, 16-21 is not to shabby. I feel safe with teh wife driving in the rain or snow since it is all wheel drive, no need to lock it in and out of 4-wheel drive like the other SUV's. The space this thing has is great and the third row seating is a blessing when you have kids. It definatly has more room inside then any other SUV I have been in that was in it's class and has more interior style as well. It also has additional power outlests in the back for the kids and there games/DVD players. BUT, the best thing is...The wife loves it...BONUS points for Dad!!!
This is a very satisfying SUV except for the typical-of-the-class issue of less-than-great gas mileage (15-19, city-Hwy). I previously had a 1999 Eddie Bauer Explorer that also had V8 with fulltime AWD. I love the power and FTAWD but the suspension on this Mountaneer is so much more comfortable than that of the explorer. Yeah, it still feels like a truck but it's comfortable enough that I'm considering selling my car and driving it all the time. BTW, I purposely bought a model with cloth interior because I'm not crazy about leather and frankly, at least in cloth the seats on this model are more comfortable than those in the newer body style 2002-06.
As far as the what you can find for the price I would defiantly recomend the Mountaineer. I shopped for a long time before buying and am quite happy. Have taken a 400 + mile trip about a month in and had plenty of room for 4 people the dog and everything else. The usual concerns of the doors and handles are there, but not a giant drawback. Rides well and is very comfortable, we have all the options and there are no complaints. It would be nice to have more than one seat heater setting, but I am being picky. AWD drive and braking and accleration are all excellent. I live in WI and this is the first car with AWD and it makes a hudge difference, cuts my commute in hallf in the snow compared to my sentra. If you are looking at a full size SUV for the money you can't find anything better with the options. Compared to a honda or toyota to get the same options I would have had to spend at least 15,000 more. The biggest complaint is MPG, but I knew that going in so I can't complain too much. On the Hwy it is about 18-21 depending on speed and other conditions. City which is mostly what it is driven is about 14 on a regular basis - only a mile commute to work so it is not a big deal.