New Car/Review

1999 Mitsubishi Montero

By Tom Hagin

Mitsubishi Full Line factory footage (11:59) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 33,530
     Price As Tested                                    $ 38,110
     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                                       10.7 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.5 seconds @ 80.2 mph
     Max-towing cap.                                 5000 pounds

     * Multi-point fuel injection

The Mitsubishi Montero has been imported to this county since the early '80s when it was a short, square two-door, with a look not unlike a telephone booth on wheels. Its 1988 redesign added two more doors and a fresh style that is still good looking 11 years later but logic tells us that it must be close to the end of its production cycle.

Until recently, it was offered in base LS and uplevel SR form. But now Mitsubishi has simplified the Montero lineup by offering just one model with optional equipment packages.

OUTSIDE - Montero's restyle a few years back brought its looks more up-to-date, but since then, many of its competitors have moved on with more daring styling. A 1998 freshening brought new bumpers, fenders and side steps, but the SR model, with its bulging add-on fender flares, has been discontinued. The full-sized Montero is still one of the tallest SUVs sold, towering almost a foot above most of the boulevard cruisers on the road. Its safari styling is equally at home on the African savanna as in the supermarket parking lot. A full-sized spare tire is mounted to the swing-out rear door, which makes it necessary to give it a healthy slam to shut. Alloy wheels and oversized P235/75R15 mud-and-snow tires are standard equipment.

INSIDE - Montero's tall seating gives a commanding view of the road. Supportive captain's chairs have fold-down armrests that split a large center console that has lots of storage. The dashboard is tall and well- equipped, though a bit less gadgety than before with the deletion of an inclinometer. It retains the multimeter from previous years, which includes a compass, outside temperature gauge, and volt and oil pressure gauges. There is a second-row bench seat that holds two large adults comfortably but three across is tight. Two more optional jump seats fold from the sides of the rear cargo area, but they're best suited for use in a pinch. The sliding rearmost windows are a welcome feature. Standard features such as power windows and door locks, cruise control, air conditioning and an AM/FM cassette stereo make the driving experience more comfortable, and there is a host of optional luxury, convenience and performance equipment too numerous to list.

ON THE ROAD - Montero is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 engine. It puts out 200 horsepower and 228 lb-ft of torque which is about the minimum power requirement for a big, heavy SUV. California versions produce slightly less power due to emissions regulations. The engine is an all-aluminum design with single overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder and the combination provides acceptable acceleration. The more powerful twin-cam version of this same engine which had powered the now- discontinued Montero SR is unavailable. An electronic four-speed automatic remains, as does the excellent four-wheel-drive system, with its viscous center differential and the ability to driven comfortably in 4WD on wet or dry pavement. It can also be slipped from 2WD to 4WD and back again at highway speed, which comes in handy when driving on alternating patches of dry pavement and snow.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Montero sits atop a full frame, the most rugged construction available, with a sophisticated independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms, torsion bars and tubular shocks. The rear suspension is a live, or solid, axle carried by coil springs and locating links. Stabilizer bars are used front and rear to reduce body roll in turns. An optional system adds a three-mode shock absorber adjustment. A switch on the center console allows the suspension to be set in soft, medium or firm modes. On road or off, the ride quality is very good compared to other SUVs on the market. An optional locking rear differential enhances grip on slippery pavement. Large disc brakes are at all corners and are connected to a multi-mode anti-lock braking system (ABS) that works in either two or four-wheel-drive modes.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Premium Package: $1100. Luxury Package: 2826. All-weather Package: $774. Value Package: $1120. Trailering kit: $252.

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