New Car/Review

1997 MITSUBISHI MONTERO LS

by Tom Hagin

Mitsubishi

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 28,410
Price As Tested                                    $ 32,210
Engine Type                            3.5 Liter V6 w/MPFI*
Engine Size                                 213 cid/3497 cc
Horsepower                                   197 @ 5000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               223 @ 3500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.3"/66.7"/185.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4425 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  24.3 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/75R15
Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/disc
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                Two-percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.48

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            16/19/17
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.5 seconds @ 80.2 mph
Max-towing cap.                                 5000 pounds
     * Multi-point fuel injection

With all its sophisticated technical gadgetry and luxurious upscale features, it seems as if the 1997 Mitsubishi Montero is best suited to cruise the boulevard than forge across rough country trails. It's plush, but make no mistake, it "four-wheels" with the best of them.

Our test LS model, which begins the two-model line, has been moved further upscale, and is now available with leather seating and a power driver's seat. The uplevel SR version has those items standard.

OUTSIDE - Mitsubishi made its Montero tall - very tall. It towers nearly ten inches over most of the current SUV crop, and there is lots of space between the top of the tires and the fender wells. This height allows for a superior view, though climbing aboard requires a big step up. Optional running boards make Montero look a bit more muscular, and getting aboard is made much easier. A full-sized spare tire is mounted to a one-piece swing-out rear door, as are a rear wiper and rear window defroster. Optional exterior equipment includes fog lamps, a spare tire cover, trailer hitch and a roof rack. An optional brush guard for the grille protects things up front if a romp in the woods is necessary.

INSIDE - Montero has a modern, practical interior, and all of its controls and switches are within easy reach. Its seating system is quite versatile, starting with its front chairs, which offer height adjustment, fold-down armrests, and a firm, supportive feel. Montero's modular seating gives owners the opportunity to haul passengers and cargo, though not always at the same time. It can haul a maximum of seven, but only with a set of optional fold-down rear jump seats. The middle row seats fold and "tumble" forward to radically increase cargo space. The LS model comes with standard features such as an AM/FM cassette stereo, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, cruise control and three electrical power ports. Our tester came with an optional Luxury Package, which added such items as a more powerful Infinity-brand stereo system, leather seating and a power driver's seat.

ON THE ROAD - The best news for 1997 is a new 3.5 liter single overhead cam V6 engine. It replaces last year's 3.0 liter V6, 177 horse engine, and the new version pumps out 200 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. Extra power under the hood of a 4000-pound SUV is important, especially when it comes time to launch into highway traffic. Another benefit is that the new torque figure is a significant gain over last year's version, and the extra "twist" it gives comes in handy when Montero is fully loaded and towing something heavy. It also gives it considerable more pep on the highway. We tested the same vehicle with the smaller engine few years ago and described it as somewhat underpowered. An electronic four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and the only gearbox available.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Its suspension layout can be considered to be today's basic SUV system: an independent front suspension with upper and lower A-arms and torsion bars, along with a solid rear axle supported by coil springs. It's very rugged and can handle almost anything the off-roader can muster. What's not-so-basic, however, is its Active-Trac four-wheel-drive system. This involves the use of a sophisticated two-speed transfer case that contains a viscous-coupled center differential, as well as an electronically-controlled front differential and automatic locking hubs. It can be driven in 4WD on wet or dry pavement, or shifted between 2WD and 4WD High and back again, at speeds up to 62 mph. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, and provided us with generally good stopping power, though we'd like to test a model equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS), as ours wasn't fitted this way.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact bars are standard; ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - The Preferred Equipment Package is $1,422, and the Luxury Package is $1,933. ABS comes with heated front seats and adds $1,402. The $1,955 Value Package incorporates air conditioning, keyless entry, alarm, floor mats, alloy wheels, locks, side steps, luggage rack, spare tire cover, CD changer and a cargo kit.

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