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Mitsubishi Montero Sport XLS 4WD

by Carey Russ

Mitsubishi Full Line Video footage (20:02)

Superficially, the new 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport doesn't seem to have changed much from last year. Don't be so easily fooled. Sure, its general shape hasn't changed any. The new front styling is not a radical change from previous models. And, while freshened at the rear also, there is no difficulty in identifying it.

But, step inside. Better yet, go for a ride. Get someone else to drive, and enjoy the ride from the back seat. Right. Enjoy. Rear seat. In a truck. Thanks to a new rear suspension, it's actually comfortable. While still a solid axle for ruggedness, multi-link location and coil springs have replaced the previous leaf springs. It makes a world of difference in ride quality, and improves handling. When the 2000 Montero Sport was introduced to the press last summer, I rode in the back seat from Bodega Bay, California, to San Francisco. I don't usually have the chance to be a passenger, let alone to ride in the "less comfortable" seats in a vehicle, so I gladly took the opportunity. I had driven the Montero Sport the day before, and it did indeed seem more compliant and comfortable. But a hour and a half in the rear seat of an SUV can be punishing. Not in the new Montero Sport.

There are other changes to the lineup as well. The four-cylinder models are gone, as is the manual transmission. All 2000 Montero Sports have a V6 engine, of 3.0-liters capacity for most and the 3.5- liter from the Montero for the premium Limited model. The entry-level ES is offered in two-wheel drive form only. The LS, XLS, and Limited are available with two- or four-wheel drive. An interior freshening adds convenience, with details depending on model. All are well- equipped, and the Limited verges on the luxury class.

A new Montero Sport XLS with 4-wheel drive is sitting in my driveway at the moment. It's comfortable and versatile. I can flip and fold the rear seat out of the way and put my bicycle in the back without removing the front wheel. I can get five people inside and have room left over. And I don't have to call a harbor pilot for docking maneuvers, it's not too big to park easily. It's also has road manners among the best in the SUV class.

APPEARANCE: From the front, the new Montero Sport XLS is better-defined and more aggressive, thanks to a new grille and bumper fascias. The grille's black crosshatching echoes the Mitsubishi triple- diamond logo in its center, and chrome trim around the bottom and surrounding the headlights adds a touch of upscale elegance. The plastic-coated bumpers are a contrasting color to the main bodywork, and blend well with the fender flares, lower side trim, and running boards. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels with high-profile all-weather tires are standard on the XLS, and fill the wheel wells. The rear has been restyled, with bright new taillights.

COMFORT:  The 2000 Montero Sport's restyled interior has a very upscale look. Its two-tone color scheme adds a perception of spaciousness, which is no illusion. It seem larger than the "big" Montero, if not as opulent. Leather seating and an excellent 8-speaker Infinity AM/FM/CD stereo are part of the "Premium Package", and help bring the XLS so outfitted almost up to Limited trim. The seats are very comfortable -- even, as noted, the rear seat. The rear seat has a 60/40 split. The cushion flips up, and the back folds down for a long, flat cargo floor. Two storage compartments under the rear cargo floor can hide small items. Air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, and door locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, and a cargo shade are just some of the standard features with the XLS trim level. Good placement of easily-used controls, handy storage compartments, and conveniently-located power points add to the Montero Sport's usefulness.

SAFETY: The 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport XLS has dual front air bags, side-impact protection, and an engine immobilizer to help prevent theft.

ROADABILITY: The Montero Sport was already one of the best medium-sized sport-utilities in the ride and handling departments, and the new rear suspension just makes it better. It's isolated from the frame by a sophisticated system of bushings and mounting brackets, and the sturdy fully-boxed ladder frame is likewise isolated from the body, lessening shock impacts from road (or off-road) bumps. Even in four-wheel drive form the Montero Sport is wider than it is high, so it doesn't feel tippy. It doesn't corner like an Eclipse, but, then, an Eclipse is not a happy vehicle on a rutted fire road. With over eight inches of ground clearance in 2x4 or 4x4 trim, the Montero Sport can handle any sane off-road task in comfort. The shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system is easy to use.

PERFORMANCE: The Montero Sport XLS's 3.0-liter V6 produces 173 horsepower, with 188 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is good for its class, as is fuel economy. Four-wheel drive models, and all Limiteds, have four-wheel disc brakes instead of the disc/drum setup of 2WD versions. Some SUVs seem to have railroad-class stopping distances. Not the Montero Sport. Towing capacity is a healthy 5000 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS: There is more to the new, improved 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport than meets the eye.

SPECIFICATIONS Base Price               $ 29,327 Price As Tested          $ 31,982 Engine Type              single overhead cam, 24 valve V6 Engine Size              3.0 liters  / 181 cu. in. Horsepower               173 @ 5250 rpm Torque (lb-ft)           188 @ 4000 rpm Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled                      automatic Wheelbase / Length       107.3 in. / 181.1 in. Curb Weight              4,075 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower    23.6 Fuel Capacity            19.5 gal. Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires                    P225/70 R16 Yokohama Geolander Brakes, front/rear       ventilated disc/solid disc,ABS standard with 4WD Suspension, front/rear   independent unequal-length A-arms with                          torsion bars/solid axle with 3 locating links and coil springs Ground Clearance         8.7 in. Drivetrain               Front engine,on-demand four-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed      17 / 20 / 18 0 to 60 mph                   10.7 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.)               17.9 sec Towing Capacity               5,000 lbs. Coefficient of Drag (cd)      0.51 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium Package -- includes: Infinity AM/FM/CD stereo, leather-trimmed seats, limited-slip differential, power sunroof                 $ 2,655 Destination charge            $    455