Introduction

Mitsubishi Montero continues to provide the tailored comfort, convenience and gracious toughness that its buyers seek in their sport-utility vehicles.

The Montero is one of the most versatile trucks in its category. It offers serious off-road capability and a sumptuous interior. It's an all-weather highway cruiser and a part-time backcountry buster. It offers a smooth ride, whether on the highway or on rippled dirt roads.

Model Lineup

The 2002 Montero is available in two models: XLS ($31,687) and the fully loaded Limited ($35,797).

All Monteros are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine.

XLS is supplied with a four-speed automatic transmission, part-time 4WD and a two-speed transfer case.

Limited comes with a five-speed automatic with a Sportronic sequential shifter and ActiveTrac electronic full-time AWD coupled with a torque-sensing automatic limited-slip differential. Limited comes standard with the sunroof, leather interior, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, heated mirrors, fog lights, chrome exterior accents, premium audio and the LCD Information Center, which includes the aforesaid compass and readouts for outside temperature, date and time.

New option packages are available for 2002. XLS now offers a Touring Package ($2230) that includes a power sunroof, rear air conditioning, upgraded seat trim, an upgraded Infinity audio system with seven speakers and a CD player, power antenna and limited-slip differential.

The Limited model can be equipped with a Premium package ($1,200) that includes automatic front air conditioning controls, rear air conditioning with mid-cabin controls and a power front passenger seat.

Walkaround

Montero's aerodynamic front end reminds us of its stellar record in the Paris-Dakar raid where on numerous occasions the Montero raced to victory across the Sahara. Bulging fenders and side cladding gives it a rugged and sporty look. The current Montero does not look as tall and boxy appearance as earlier renderings but its square-jawed, can-do demeanor makes clear that it still intends to be seen as a real truck.

The rear gate opens out from the driver's side like a door. It would be more convenient here in the U.S. if the door swung from the other direction, particularly when picking people and their luggage up curbside at the airport. The spare wheel is mounted on the outside of the door, conserving interior space. This also eliminates struggling underneath the truck for the spare if you have a flat. A roof rack is standard, though this one does not feature adjustable tie-downs.

Don't confuse the Mitsubishi Montero with the smaller Montero Sport. The Montero is bigger and more luxurious. The Montero has a nicely molded massiveness that commands respect on the road. This apparent massiveness is no illusion: Redesigned for 2001, this newest-generation Montero is 4 inches wider and 2 inches longer (both in wheelbase and overall length) than before. And it's built on a unitbody chassis. Yet despite being slightly taller, the new model's step-up entry is conveniently 2 inches lower than was the pre-2000 second-generation version.

Interior Features

Montero offers a thoroughly sumptuous interior. The power driver's seat in the Limited offers good lumbar support, and the Limited's pleated leather upholstery is positively elegant.

Outward visibility is excellent. The steering wheel in the Limited is a very thick wood unit with leather grips, an exceptionally handsome piece. Power windows feature an auto-down for the driver only. Montero's cruise control is mounted on the steering wheel for fingertip convenience.

Instruments are white-on-black and businesslike. Full instrumentation features an array of small gauges with square bezels, including fuel and water temperature. An indicator denotes whether the transfer case is in 2WD, 4WD, and whether the differential is locked for maximum traction.

An LCD Information Center in the middle of the dash is surrounded by handsome dark wood. Besides denoting time of day, outside temperature, the date and your present heading, it notes your fuel range based on present mileage.

Montero Limited features the excellent Mitsubishi/Infinity audio system, just the thing for making long drives seem shorter. Controls for heating and air conditioning use the usual three-knob arrangement for selecting temperature, fan level and mode. A Limited Preferred Package features an automatic climate-control system.

A third-row seat, bringing the Montero's capacity to seven. The third row provides tight seating best suited to children and can be stowed or removed completely.

Four cupholders are provided, two in front, two in the rear. Grab-handles are provided at all four doors. Two auxiliary power outlets for running auxiliary electrical equipment were provided, one on the dash and one inside the tailgate. Also in a compartment inside the rear door is an impressively complete tool kit.

Driving Impressions

The Mitsubishi Montero offers excellent capability in severe backcountry terrain and a smooth ride both on the highway and on washboard-rippled dirt roads.

Rated at 200 horsepower, Mitsubishi's 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 engine is glass-smooth and free of vibration. It delivers a full 235 foot-pounds of torque at 3500 rpm, good for off-road driving, accelerating away from intersections, and climbing long, steep grades. Responsiveness on the highway is typical of current SUVs, neither blisteringly fast nor annoyingly slow.

The Limited's five-speed automatic transmission features a Sportronic mode that allows the driver to manually select gears. But like most of these Sportmatic-like systems, selection is not linear and direct. In other words, it makes a decision about just how soon it will downshift after you've asked it to. Also, because it operates with a torque converter, you don't have the solid geartooth-to-geartooth control you would have with stick. But since there is no stick Montero, this is an okay compromise, especially since it doubles as a full-time automatic when you're stranded in drive-time bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Montero's well-specified suspension is gently forgiving and smooth on the highway. Road feel is never very lively in SUVs, but the Montero's rack-and-pinion steering is a big improvement over the previous-generation's recirculating-ball setup. Cornering response is predictably ponderous and there is the inevitable sensation of great bulk when driving this 4675-pound truck.

The Montero features big ventilated disc brakes front and rear, necessary to haul this truck down from highway speeds, and they work well. ABS comes standard.

On rippled washboard dirt surfaces, the Montero exhibited no axle-tramp, that disturbing resonance typical in solid rear axles where the back wheels bounce so busily that they begin to steer the rear end. On washboard, the Montero's rear wheels maintain full directional control. This stability on washboard surfaces is a benefit of the Montero's fully independent multi-link rear suspension. Mitsubishi's compliant springs and shocks soak up most of this motion, producing a very smooth ride.

On really steep descents and climbs in backcountry terrain, the Montero's V6 and low-range transfer case are superb, allowing excellent control when going downhill and providing plenty of torque for creeping back up. Even over tall rocks on one side or the other, the Montero kept its poise, proving that it can go where many lesser four-wheel drive vehicles would be creaking and groaning and complaining bitterly.

Mitsubishi joins the trend away from the classic body-on-frame construction of most trucks toward unitbody construction. Not only is this the direction taken by a long list of car-based SUVs, but it's also the direction being taken by such renowned off-road vehicles as the 2003 Range Rover. Jeep uses unitbody construction for its highly capable Grand Cherokee. This newest-generation model is the first Montero to be built on a unitbody. The advantage here is that a unitbody is both lighter and tighter, greatly reducing the likelihood of squeaks and rattles over the truck's lifetime. To further civilize the new Montero, its front and rear suspension are mounted to subframes, isolating road noise and impacts from the cabin and producing a quieter, more relaxing ride. Technical matters like these may seem dreary, but their reward is a considerable advance in comfort for Montero occupants both in the present and over the long haul.

The front suspension is by double wishbones, and the rear uses a multi-link system; it's the supplest combination, excellent on the highway and off the beaten path. The new suspension has more vertical travel than before, allowing it to soak up big jolts with ease. Montero is one of the first production vehicles in the world to use carbon-fiber driveshafts, which are much lighter than steel, reducing the truck's overall weight. More important, crushable carbon fiber manages a crash impact far more effectively than the unbending mass of a steel driveshaft; so it's safer.

Summary

Mitsubishi Montero is a highly capable off-road traveler with luxurious accommodations. It costs considerably less than luxury vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser. The Montero is also thoroughly capable as an all-weather family vehicle. This is among the best-equipped and most versatile sport-utilities available.

 


Model Line Overview

Model lineup: XLS ($32,687); Limited ($35,797)
Engines: 3.5-liter 24-valve V6
Transmissions: 4-speed automatic; 5-speed automatic Sportronic
Safety equipment (standard): dual front airbags, ABS
Safety equipment (optional): N/A
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Nagoya, Japan

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Limited ($35,797)
Standard equipment: air conditioning, electronic full-time AWD, two-speed transfer case, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, power driver's seat, alloy wheels, premium audio, LCD Information Center (compass, outside temperature, date, time, fuel range), remote keyless entry, stowable third-row bench seat, cruise control, limited-slip rear differential and sunroof
Options as tested (MSRP): N/A
Destination charge: ($560)
Gas guzzler tax: N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $ 36,357
Layout: four-wheel drive
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 200 @ 5000
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 235 @ 3500
Transmission: 5-speed Sportronic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 13/18 mpg
Wheelbase: 109.5 in.
Length/width/height: 188.9/73.9/73.1 in.
Track, f/r: 61.5/61.5 in.
Turning circle: 40.0 ft.
Seating capacity: 7
Head/hip/leg room, f: 38.9/56.0/42.7 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: 37.7/55.0/37.6 in.
Head/hip/leg room, r: 35.3/43.0/19.4 in.
Trunk volume: 82.0 cu. ft.
Payload: N/A
Towing capacity: 5000 (with trailer brakes) Lbs.
Suspension, f: double wishbone
Suspension, r: multi-link
Ground clearance: 9.3 in.
Curb weight: 4675 lbs.
Tires: P265/70R
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity: 23.8 gal.

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of July 16, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-55-MITSU - www.mitsubishicars.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.


 

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Copyright © 1994-2009 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

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