2001 Montero Sport New Car Test Drive
With its lean, muscular lines, Mitsubishi's Montero Sport has long been one of the best-looking SUVs. Lately, however, Mitsubishi has been working to prove that beauty is more than skin deep. Last year, the Montero Sport benefited from interior refinements and a coil-sprung rear suspension. For 2001, the body has been re-engineered for greater safety, and both available engines massaged for lower emissions with better fuel economy.
Headlining the changes, however, is a new performance-leader 3.5XS model, which combines Mitsubishi's biggest engine with a unique exterior appearance and a surprisingly moderate sticker price.
If you're new to the Mitsubishi stable, don't confuse the Montero Sport with its older brother, the bigger and more radically styled Montero. The big Montero, with its 109.5-inch wheelbase, 104.6 cubic feet of passenger volume, and 5840 pound GVW starts near $32,000 and often tops $38,000 with all the options.
Our subject here is the junior-edition Montero Sport: 107.3-inch wheelbase, 93.6 cubic feet of passenger volume, and a GVW of 5000-5350 pounds. This is still no econo-SUV, however, with standard V6 power and a starting price close to $23,000.
For 2001, Montero Sport comes in a head-spinning five different trim levels, and each of these is now available in two-wheel or four-wheel drive.
ES, LS, and XLS variations are all powered by a 165-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. Even the $22,747 ES boasts a long list of luxury goodies. This model was offered only in 2WD last year, but is offered with 4WD for 2001.
Next up is the $25,627 LS, which adds rear privacy glass, more adjustments for the front seat, a 60/40 split rear seat, larger alloy wheels and, on 4WD versions only, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS. For $27,397, you get the XLS, with color-keyed fender flares and other style enhancements, plus a security system in case the wrong sort of people notice.
Topping the line is the $31,317 Montero Sport Limited, with four-wheel-discs and ABS on 2WD as well as 4WD models, a limited-slip rear differential, plus monochromatic paint, Infinity stereo, tilt-and-slide moonroof, LCD trip computer, leather upholstery, and other ultimate-luxury equipment. Powering the Limited is Mitsubishi's top engine, a 3.5-liter V6 producing 197 horsepower.
New for 2001 is the Montero Sport 3.5XS, which combines the big engine with a slightly-better-than-LS trim level, and sells for a more reasonable $26,637. (We and others had complained about having to buy the whole farm just to get the big mill.) The 3.5XS is distinguished by unique matte-black exterior trim and comes only in Solano Black or Phoenix Red. As with all of its siblings, both two and four-wheel drive are available.
Curiously, Mitsubishi expects about 65 percent of Montero Sport buyers to select two-wheel drive. Although truck-based and fully capable of 4x4 adventure, most Montero Sports will live out their lives as hip, luxurious, suburban station wagons.