1999 Mitsubishi Montero Sport
1999 Mitsubishi Montero Sport Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
More sport and plenty of utility.
The Mitsubishi Montero Sport is a slightly smaller, sportier sport-utility than the big Montero. It combines the toughness of its big brother with good looks, while not skimping on luxury features or necessary ruggedness. Montero Sport is designed to deliver good ride quality and comfort on the road, while retaining the wherewithal to carry the more adventurous deep into the woods.
The so-called compact sport-utility market is a crowded field. Mitsubishi's five-passenger Montero Sport competes directly with the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Isuzu Rodeo and Honda Passport. Domestic contenders in this group include Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Jimmy and Oldsmobile Bravada. Mitsubishi's big seven-passenger Montero luxury sport-utility, on the other hand, carries a steeper price tag.
Stylists face something of a dilemma when trying to make a practical vehicle look dashing: The most efficient shape for carrying five people and luggage is a box. An engine has to go somewhere and the ideal home for it is in a smaller box. So the Montero Sport's basic design consists of two boxes.
But those boxes have been smoothed and rounded, giving the Sport a sleek, distinctive look. Initially, we found the Sport's high-body, low-top profile somewhat odd, but it has become familiar and attractive with time. The oversized tires and wheel opening extensions fitted to upscale Montero Sports serve to exaggerate the visual mismatch between body and roof line. But the design does set the Sport apart from the rest of the sport-utility pack.
Buyers seeking rugged looks combined with the utility of a large, efficient station wagon will gravitate toward the two-wheel-drive models. Those who want real off-road capability will opt for one of the four-wheel-drive models. Montero Sport's 4WD system includes a 2-speed shift-on-the-fly transfer case that provides low-range gearing for tough conditions and steep hills. For extreme off-highway adventures, a locking rear differential is optional.
The Montero Sport line is composed of six models: $18,750 ES, $25,390 LS 2WD, $26,570 LS 4WD (5-speed manual), $27,430 LS 4WD (automatic), $27,410 XLS 2WD, $29,340 XLS 4WD and the new $30,680 Limited 2WD and $33,070 Limited 4WD.
Three engines are available. The ES comes with a 134-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, two-wheel drive and a 5-speed manual transmission.
All other Montero Sports are powered by V6 engines and 4-speed automatic transmission -- though the LS 4WD can be ordered with a 5-speed manual.
Montero Sport LS and XLS are powered by Mitsubishi's 3.0-liter V6. Rated at 173 horsepower, the 3.0-liter engine is rugged and refined. We prefer it over the four-cylinder engine, finding that its increased trailer-pulling ability and all-around civility more than compensate for a decrease in fuel economy. (The 2.4-liter ES 2WD 5-speed is rated 22/25 mpg city/highway by EPA, while the 3.0-liter LS 2WD automatic gets 19/22. Probably because of its taller top gear, the LS 4WD with automatic gets 18/21, while the LS 4WD with 5-speed only gets 17/20.)
A larger 3.5-liter V6 is installed in the two Limited models and is rated at 200 horsepower. We have not yet tested one of these, but we suspect that the additional torque it produces (228 foot-pounds for the 3.5-liter versus 188 for the 3.0-liter) will be welcomed by owners who haul heavy loads, pull trailers or simply want some extra zip when merging onto freeways or travelling off road.
Other differences between the models are confined largely to varying levels of standard equipment and availability of options. All 1999 Monteros except the ES come standard with air conditioning.
The XLS, like the one we tested, comes standard with two-tone exterior paint, fender flares, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and door locks. These amenities can be added to the two LS versions at extra cost. Anti-lock braking systems are optional on the two-wheel-drive models (except ES) and standard when four-wheel drive is ordered.
In essence, the Limited draws from everything in the catalog. It comes standard with ABS, power glass moonroof, and keyless entry; Limited 4WD comes standard with locking rear differential, a rear-seat heater and heated mirrors. Limited models are the only ones with leather upholstery.
In contrast to its sporty exterior, the interior harkens back to the Montero's truck roots, with a large square dashboard holding essential gauges in front of the driver. Stereo and heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls are centered in the dash within easy reach of driver and passenger. Each of the four outboard seating positions has a hefty grab handle, an amenity much appreciated when riding off road. Mitsubishi's traditional Multi-Meter was one of the options fitted to our test vehicle; it carries compass, outside temperature, battery voltage and oil pressure readouts. A compass can be quite useful in the backcountry and, sometimes, in the big city.
Exterior style concessions haven't robbed the Montero Sport of essential interior space. Plenty of leg- and headroom has been provided for five passengers. Outward visibility is first-rate, though we're not completely sold on the dark-tinted privacy glass, which reduces visibility at night.
All Montero Sport models except the leather-draped Limited have good-looking cloth seats. They are well-padded and comfortable, and the range of adjustment for the front seats is sufficient to give most people plenty of legroom without cramping the folks in the back seats. Lots of luggage can be brought along; even with a full load of passengers on board more than 43 cubic feet of load space is available. Folding the rear seats down provides nearly 80 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
The Montero Sport's soft suspension, power steering and extensive application of sound-deadening materials make it a smooth highway cruiser. The high seating position is beneficial as well, putting the driver in a position to see over whatever blocks the path.
The Montero Sport is a class leader in both handling and ride quality. And thanks to its proven chassis hardware (a rugged box-section steel frame and hefty suspension pieces taken from the big Montero) and a generous 8.5 inches of ground clearance, the Montero Sport can be driven off road with confidence. If trail-busting is on your agenda, we suggest ordering the limited-slip rear differential and bigger wheels and tires.
Mitsubishi's four-wheel-drive system uses a traditional floor-mounted lever with which the driver chooses between 2WD, 4WD and 4WD Low. The 4WD positions are strictly for off-road use or when snow is heavy enough to allow wheel slippage in tight corners.
On the highway, the Montero Sport is a bit noisy; tire treads are the prime culprits at low speeds, joined by the engine when accelerating or cruising at high speeds. There's also a shortage of horsepower, which is addressed by the Limited model.
The Mitsubishi Montero Sport offers exceptional roominess, a high vantage point and comfortable seating. It has enough strength to pull a trailer or traverse unpaved ground with ease. It is comfortable and well-equipped. Add in its brawny good looks and the Mitsubishi Montero Sport is a good value.
Options As Tested
6-disc CD changer.
Montero Sport XLS 4WD.
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