SUVs play the auto industry’s hottest game of one-upmanship. Each new entry has to supersede the prevailing state of the art for any chance of success. A case in point is the all-new, 2001 model third-generation Mitsubishi Montero. It’s not only larger, it’s also built using more space – and weight-efficient unibody construction. It has an advanced independent rear suspension, an interior loaded with entertaining features, and a hideaway third-row seat.
The Montero’s size places it somewhere between a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Ford Explorer – at the high end of the midsize class. There’s room for seven with two buckets up front and two bench seats in back. Pull a couple of levers to swing the third row under the floor and hinge the second row forward – you can carry enough marine gear for a two-week vacation. Access the cargo hold via a large side-hinged door loaded with a full-size spare.
Thanks to the integrated body and chassis assembly, the new Montero is lighter and stiffer in construction than the model it replaces. Add to that a new independent multilink rear suspension, a carryover control-arm front suspension, and coil springs, and you’ve got the makings of a plush ride. Engineers have calibrated the suspension so that this SUV’s ride is almost like a Cadillac.
The drive-line is equally impressive. Four-wheel drive, automatic transmission, and a 200-hp, 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6 come standard. Spring for the Limited Edition and you get a four-mode transfer case and five-speed sequential-shift transmission. Extra gears and lower curb weight help make up for the lack of a V-8.
To check the validity of the new Montero’s 5,000-pound maximum tow rating, we hooked up a MasterCraft ProStar 190 on a single-axle trailer and headed for a launch ramp. With that 3,320-pound load, full-throttle acceleration was a leisurely 23 seconds to 60 mph, but the engine and transmission worked together in sweet harmony. There’s so much traction available as a result of a new limited-slip rear differential that engaging all-wheel drive was superfluous on the ramp. The big Yokohama M+S radials dig in and haul you out of the drink without hesitation.
A special Sportronic mode for the five-speed automatic transmission lets you control gear selection with a light tap. You can start quickly on slippery terrain or hold each gear in hill country. Ratio splits are notably closer than with ordinary four-speed automatics so the engine never runs out of breath.
Any complaints? Trailer motion has a tendency to jiggle the tow vehicle. The soft suspension settings that are so pleasurable when not trailering can’t provide that Rock-of-Gibraltar feel you’d like to have when your mirrors are filled with a heavy boat and trailer.
|Engine||3.5-liter SOHC V-6|
|Net torque (ft-lb/rpm)||235/3000|
|Front suspension||control arms, coil springs|
|Rear suspension||independent multilink, coil springs|
|Brakes (front/rear)||vented disc/ vented disc; standard four-wheel ABS|
|Tires||Yokohama Geolander, P265/70SR-16 M+S|
|Curb weight (lbs.)||4,675|
|Towing capacity (lbs.)||5,000|
|Cargo capacity (max. cu. ft.)||96.4|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||23.8|
|Estimated city/highway towing fuel economy (avg. mpg)||10|
|Price (as tested)||$36,392|
LAST WORD. Expensive, but bold styling, advanced features, and thoughtful refinement justify the new Mitsubishi Montero’s price.