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Mitsubishi Montero Limited (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Mitsubishi Montero Limited 
ENGINE:  3.5-liter SOHC V6 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 200 hp @ 5000 rpm/235 lb-ft @ 3000  rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  Five-speed automatic with Sportronic sequential manual shifter 
WHEELBASE: 109.5 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 188.9 x 73.9 x 73.1 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $36,717 

Mitsubishi redesigned its Montero in 2001 with a host of new features and great style. The old Montero, in my mind, was square, pretty utilitarian, didn't have much style, and had some quirky features to it.

The new Montero is more aerodynamic that its predecessor. Even Mitsubishi admits that the first-generation Montero was a "decidedly straightforward four-passenger device…it was designed with a T-square but it also had a surprisingly refined character." The second generation Montero was described as "hardly a Paris runway model in hiking boots." Bout both vehicles established loyal followings not only for what they had to offer but for the way they offered it.

This third-generation vehicle is all-new, with a longer wheelbase, wider track and space-efficient unibody chassis. It is now a mainstream sport utility with much better style. It still has several features that make it interesting.

First, the styling. Outside, the new Montero is far more aerodynamic than its predecessor. The Montero has a masculine look to it that is impressive. It has flares over all four wheels, especially in the front. The front flares are quite pronounced and almost look, from the driver's seat, as if the front end was mashed in a bit. The view is similar from the passenger side. This is quite disconcerting the first few times you see it, but then you realize that's the way the vehicle looks.

Instrumentation is fairly standard with a speedometer, tachometer, fuel level and water temperature gauges. There is a graphic readout over the center of the dash that tells you time of day, date, exterior temperature, interior temperature and direction the fan is blowing air. Below that is an excellent audio system with a stereo AM/FM radio and an in-dash CD player. As are most of our testers, this Limited version of the Montero was fully accessorized with anything you would want.

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that it rated at "only" 200 horsepower but feels like a lot more. I was surprised when I looked up the numbers, because the Montero definitely felt as if the engine was larger. We took the Montero on some back roads, some winding roads, and on interstates. This is a pleasant car to drive in all circumstances.

The engine is connected to the wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with a Sportronic sequential manual shifter. I am a big fan of selective stick shifts, but I don't see the need for one in a sport utility vehicle, which is essentially a truck and a vehicle that you're going to be using in off-road situations. Even when you're in severe off-road situations, you want a four-speed gearbox and not this kind. So I think it's a wasted accessory in a vehicle like this.

The week we had the Montero we had a horrendous snowfall, at least nine inches in my driveway. Since we had a driveway full of cars from children and relatives, the Montero was parked off to the side on the grass. In shoveling the drive, we put about two feet of additional snow behind the Montero. When I wanted to get out, I simply shifted into 4WD low and reverse and backed over all the junk that was behind the vehicle. Then I put it into 4WD high and drove away. The Montero did its job well as an off-road vehicle, at least in high snow.

There is excellent storage capacity behind the rear seats, and they fold down to increase capacity. Maximum cargo capacity is 96.4 cubic feet, with 42.1 cubic feet behind that second row.

Handling was excellent. We took the Montero on one of my favorite winding roads from my remote job location. We had passengers in the rear and front seats, and both were happy there were assist handles (or panic handles) over the doors to help them cope with my style of driving. There is a functional arm rest in the rear seat that holds a pair of cupholders and has a storage bin. There is also heating controls for rear seat passengers that proved to be popular.

Mitsubishi has done an excellent job with the Montero redesign. They took a vehicle that was more utilitarian than sporty and transformed it into a vehicle that is attractive and does an excellent job both as an on-highway and off-highway vehicle.