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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,780
Price As Tested                                    $ 29,663
Engine Type                             3.0 Liter V6 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 181 cid/2972 cc
Horsepower                 (Calif. version)  165 @ 5250 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)             (Calif. version)  186 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.3"/66.7"/189.8"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4015 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  19.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P265/70R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                               Five-percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.51


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/21/19
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
Payload                                         1215 pounds
Towing capacity                                 5000 pounds
   * Multi-point fuel injection

For most, it's easy to understand the lure of the sport utility vehicle, or SUV. For one, it's roomy - lots of space inside. Secondly, it soldiers on through snow, ice and mud when other vehicles bog down.

So when Mitsubishi's Montero began to creep up into the $40,000 range, it created a new SUV, the slightly smaller Montero Sport. It comes in three degrees of trim: ES, LS or XLS, with two-or four-wheel-drive.

OUTSIDE - Montero Sport shares the long 107.3-inch wheelbase and wide stance of the more expensive Montero, but gives up six inches in height and length. Its lines are crisp and sharp, with bulging fender flares that give it a rugged, go-anywhere look, and the same applies to the optional oversized 265/70R15 tires mated to six-spoke alloy wheels. Our test vehicle came covered in a two-tone paint scheme with heavily tinted rear windows and a thin strip of chrome under the grille. This SUV sits over eight inches off the ground, so optional side steps on our test vehicle (not shown) made climbing aboard less of a chore. A rear- mounted spare tire carrier is also an option.

INSIDE - Its tweed-like upholstery grips the driver and passengers quite well, and its seats are suitable for most - even those of us with wider frames. Five passengers can squeeze inside, with the middle rear passenger position being the tightest. A manual height adjustment is standard on the driver's seat, but it's hard to raise or lower while seated. The reclining rear seats fold forward, increasing the cargo space to over 79 cubic feet, though lifting the one-piece rear hatch requires some strength. Lots of standard features make things comfortable inside, and on our LS models were an AM/FM cassette stereo, rear window defroster, wiper and washer, height adjustable steering column, variable speed intermittent wipers and a digital clock. There are lots of storage nooks and cubbies, both up front and in back, but the pop-out dashboard cupholders are flimsy and poorly located directly in front of the radio.

ON THE ROAD - The base model Montero Sport comes with a 132 horsepower 2.4 liter four cylinder engine. Ours, however, came with a 165-horse (173 outside California) 3.0 liter V6. It sports a single camshaft atop each cylinder head, four valves per cylinder and multi-point fuel injection. It produces good power for such a large vehicle, but the acceleration necessary for entering the freeway takes a heavy foot. The tradeoff is good gas mileage with 18/21 city/highway miles per gallon reported by Mitsubishi. Two transmissions are offered on LS models: standard on LS four-wheel-drive models is a five-speed manual, while a four-speed automatic is optional. Curiously, the automatic is standard on LS 2WD Montero Sport versions. Both shift smoothly and accurately.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Montero Sport is softly sprung and gives a relatively smooth highway ride, but is also very capable off-road. It uses independent double A-arm front suspension with coil springs, and a solid, truck-like rear axle carried on leaf springs. A conventional, floor-mounted transfer-case lever offers shifting between 2High, 4High and 4Low, depending on conditions. It also has the ability to be shifted "on-the-fly" by moving the lever between 2High and 4High while at speed, which comes in handy on snow-covered streets and highways. To engage 4Low, though, the vehicle must come to a complete stop. Traction-enhancing options include both a limited slip and locking rear differential. Braking hardware on LS 4WD models includes standard four-wheel disc brakes, with a multi-mode anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS, side-impact beams and child-proof rear door locks are standard.

OPTIONS - Convenience Package (cruise control, power windows/locks) $829; Appearance Package (alloy wheels/larger tires, special paint & trim) $1815; limited slip differential (w/interior multimeter and rear heater) $744; roof rack $260; floor mats $85; air conditioning $915.