When we last tested the Mitsubishi Montero Sport three years ago, we called it the first real competitor to the domestic SUV leaders. But after living with one for a year, we also recommended that Mitsubishi do something to improve the harsh ride, and also boost engine power. Well no one can say that Mitsubishi doesn’t listen, because the 2000 Montero Sport has a bigger engine, and an all-new rear suspension. So, is the Montero Sport now an even bigger threat to home-grown sport-utes?
Well, the 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport’s new level of refinement certainly has elevated the mid-size SUV stakes. Plus, it has done so without sacrificing the rugged, truck-like characteristics we think should be at the heart of every true sport-ute. And the Montero Sport’s new attitude is immediately telegraphed through its freshened exterior styling.
The massaged grille is bolder, but also more raked, giving it a sleek look that complements the new bumper with its built-in, bullet-style, fog lamps. While the Limited model, like our tester, uses a new monochromatic look, available Limited-specific Glacier White Pearl paint, and polished 16 inch wheels.
Inside, our Limited had the leather trim package that includes manually adjustable, heated front seats. They are orthopedically designed for greater all-terrain comfort, and now provide the driver adjustable lumbar support.
The clear, legible gauges, smooth rotary-style climate control switches, and powerful Infinity AM/FM/CD player stereo that drives 8 speakers, are neatly incorporated into the tasteful two-toned instrument panel.
As before, rear seats offer the kind of head, leg, hip, and shoulder room needed to provide fine comfort for two adults in all cases and three, in a pinch. Further back is 43.4 cubic feet of cargo space, expandable to 79.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Up front, the 4-cylinder is history as all models are now V-6 powered. Standard in the ES, LS, and XLS models is a 3.0 liter, SOHC, 24-valve unit that produces 173 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. A beefier 3.5 liter, SOHC, 24-valve V-6 pumps out 200 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque for the Limited edition. Both engines feed through a 4-speed automatic transmission, which is now the only transmission available.
This combo pushed our 4,260 pound tester to 60 in a sedate 10.1 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 17.5 seconds at 79 MPH. But all that weight pays off at speed by giving the Montero Sport excellent stability and solidity.
Some of which is lost, however, under heavy braking, with the ABS-equipped ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes bringing us down from 60 in 123 feet. Our drivers noted the sudden weight transfer to the front tends to loosen the rear end somewhat. A tendency that also showed up during a run through our low speed slalom, due mainly to high-profile tire rollover and a rather soft steering feel. A combination that frequently shows up in truck-based sport utes and is not unique to the Montero Sport.
Out on the highway, however, the Montero Sport’s unequal-length double A-arm and torsion bar front suspension, coupled with the new 3-link, coil spring suspension that replaces the leaf spring set up at the rear, does a superb job of soaking up any pavement irregularities thrown its way. Front and rear stabilizer bars also lend a hand.
But it’s off road where the Montero Sport really shines. The tough, fully boxed ladder frame provides an excellent foundation for the extra-long travel independent suspension as it charms its way through deep ruts and over boulders.
Montero Sport continues with a part-time, shift-on-the-fly 4X4 system with free-wheeling front hubs and a 2-speed transfer case. No electronic controls here. Engagement is by way of a serious-looking console-mounted shifter. A new limited-slip differential is standard on the Limited models and optional on XLS.
The Montero Sport also shines in the pricing department. All models, with the exception of the entry level ES, come in either 2- or 4-wheel drive. So there should be a Montero Sport to match your personal taste and bank account.
The ES 4X2 starts at $22,982. The LS 4X4 carries a base price of $27,262, while the base price on the more upscale XLS 4X4 is $29,782. Pricing on the top-of-the-line Limited begins at $31,812. Add $1,235 for the leather seating package to that figure, and our tester goes out the door for $33,047.
With each redesign, many of the leading SUVs seem to be sticking more to the roads as they make their way to the market’s summit. Montero Sport owners, on the other hand, continue to be armed with the confidence of knowing that they can easily handle the rugged shortcuts. Only now, the shortcuts may become their routes of choice.
Engine: 3.5 Liter Sohc 24-valve V-6
Torque: 228 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 10.1 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 17.5 Seconds @ 79 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet