The trend in sport-utility vehicles these days is to make them more car-like when it comes to ride, handling, and creature comforts. Yet buyers still want an SUV to be tough enough for extreme weather and roads. Now, successfully blending car performance with robust truck abilities is no small feat, yet that’s just what Mitsubishi’s new mid-size Endeavor promises. So, let’s see if this crossover SUV delivers.
Mitsubishi is no stranger to SUVs, and has been providing Americans capable people- movers since 1983 and built a reputation as offering some of the most robust of the mainstream imports. So, the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor couldn’t stray too far from that rugged SUV heritage just to add a little car-like comfort and convenience.
The first thing we noticed about this crossover SUV is that it stands tall, with an aggressive posture, a broad split grille like the smaller Outlander, pronounced fender arches, beefy 17-inch wheels, sturdy luggage rack, and a hatch with separate opening glass above a step bumper. All very SUV like. Yet, styling is modern, sophisticated, even excessive. Thus, more like a car. Indeed, while Mitsubishi’s other mid-size SUV, the Montero Sport, is a true truck with body-on-frame, the Endeavor’s unibody is derived from the next generation Galant sedan. That also allows the Endeavor, in LS, XLS, and Limited trim, to be built at the Galant’s Illinois assembly plant. Mitsubishi’s first North American made SUV.
The powertrain is also a crossover. The engine, borrowed from the flagship Montero, is a 3.8-liter V-6 with single-cam 24-valve aluminum heads. Output sounds unspectacular at 215- horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission is a four-speed automatic, but with manual shift capability.
Two-wheel drive Endeavors are front wheel, not rear wheel driven. And all-wheel drive is the optional traction system, not true four-wheel drive. The Endeavor uses a straightforward viscous coupling with 50/50 torque split under dry conditions. So, with no low range, and despite a healthy 8.3-inches of ground clearance, you don’t want to take Endeavor too far off-road.
But then that’s the trade off Mitsubishi was willing to make to give the Endeavor the car- like performance now increasingly in demand. Indeed, in our track testing, except for tall vehicle lean and body roll, the Endeavor performed like a well balanced front-drive sedan. It’s light on its feet, with crisp turn ins and minimal front plow. The speed sensitive rack-and-pinon steering is mounted low on the front cross member and delivers above average feel, especially on center. There is a tight, got-it-together response as you see-saw the wheel. And, even in emergency maneuvers, the Endeavor acquits itself well. An anti-skid and traction control system can be added to the Limited as a cornering safety net.
Remember we weren’t impressed with the power numbers for Endeavor’s V6? Boy, did we change our tune when we put the pedal down. Smoothly leaping forward, the Endeavor returned a sport-sedan-like 0-60 time of 7.6-seconds. That’s faster than the more powerful Honda Pilot. The quarter mile average, 16.2 seconds at 84 miles per hour, is also impressive.
Away from the track, we tested Endeavor on roads that varied from glass smooth to asphalt marbles. The combination of responsive powertrain, and all-independent suspension, struts in front and multi-links in the rear, manhandled whatever came our way with no more fuss than a well engineered family sedan. Ride may be a little soft for 4x4 purists, but then they aren’t the target audience. Although, we wish all vehicles had brakes this good. The four-wheel disc returned a commendable 60 to 0 average of 123-feet. Twin piston front calipers are aided by ABS which is standard with all-wheel drive.
Open the doors of the Endeavor, and its split personality also springs forth, with more of the over-the-top style that separates this 5-passenger SUV from rivals. Standard driver’s seat height adjustment and a tilt steering wheel make it easy to find a comfortable driving position. Seat heat is standard on Limited, while all models have side impact airbags. Main gauges overlap, Porsche-style, with XLS and Limited adding a large center display for compass, climate, and audio systems, which are easily mastered from a center stack that sticks out as the center of attraction. The stereo sits nice and high, while the Limited’s automatic climate controls are very intuitive.
The 60/40 split and reclining rear bench seat is comfortable, supportive, and sized for six- footers, while the flat cargo area will hold 40.7 cubic-feet before you put the seats down, and a smallish for its class 76.4 cubic-feet of stuff when you do. Fuel use is typical for a mid-size SUV. 17 City and 23 Highway for our 2-wheel drive tester. 19 was our real world average.
When it comes to price, Endeavor is definitely more truck than car. The base 2-wheel drive LS begins at $26,192. But the heart of the volume will be the all-wheel drive XLS at $30,492, and $33,792 for the Limited all-wheel drive.
Given that what is and isn’t a crossover SUV is a fuzzy concept anyway, it’s clear to us that the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor mixes the most desirable attributes of a car and truck better than most. Indeed, giving up only extreme off-road capabilities in exchange for top-notch, car- like, all-weather street performance seems like a compromise that most could ‘‘Endeavor’’ to live with.
Engine: 3.8-Liter, 24-valve V-6
Torque: 250 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 84 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet
EPA Mileage: 17 MPG City 23 MPG Highway
Motorweek's Mileage Loop: 19 MPG Mixed City/highway