1998 Mitsubishi Montero Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D 4WD

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1998 Mitsubishi Montero
Ray Thursby

Evolution in the sport-utility world has led to the appearance of three distinct vehicle breeds. The first, and

oldest, is the rock 'em, sock 'em go-anywhere type, as typified by the Jeep Wrangler. In time, the piano-case-on-wheels

variety followed, slightly less stark and capable of holding more passengers and cargo within a station wagon-like

body. The most recent arrival is the luxury sport-utility, which combines the toughness of the first two with liberal

helpings of style and luxury.

Mitsubishi has long been a player in the second category with its Montero. It's rough and tough, always ready to

take a pounding. But, even when laden with the luxury features customers have come to expect from their sport-utilities,

it sits low on the style scale, and that has kept some buyers away.

Rather than replace a successful product (which the Montero assuredly is), Mitsubishi chose to supplement the big

box with a slightly smaller, more modern version. Enter Montero Sport, a hybrid drawing from the best of two breeds.

While the big Montero offers luxury, the Montero Sport provides value and a muscular, aggressive persona.

The sporty, five-passenger Montero Sport goes up against rivals such as Nissan's Pathfinder and Toyota's 4Runner, both recently redesigned, and the all-new Isuzu Rodeo and Honda Passport. Other choices in this group include Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy Blazer, GMC Jimmy, Oldsmobile Bravada and Ford Explorer. The big seven-passenger Montero luxury sport-utility, on the other hand, retails for $33,975, and travels in the well-respected company of the Lexus LX 450, Land Rover Discovery, and Infiniti QX4. Walkaround
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, as always, a box. An engine has to go somewhere too, and the ideal

home for it is a smaller box. So the Montero Sport's basic design consists of two boxes.

But those boxes have been smoothed and rounded here, giving the Sport a sleek, distinctive look. Overall, the

styling is a success, though some viewers may find the chopped-top appearance strange at first. The oversized tires

and wheel opening extensions fitted to upscale Sports serve to exaggerate the visual mismatch between body and roof

line. We found it more attractive as familiarity increased because the Montero Sport's design sets it apart from the

rest of the sport-utility pack.

Buyers looking for a rugged look with the utility of a large, efficient station wagon will gravitate toward the

two-wheel-drive models, the base ES and the more powerful LS.

Those who 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 choice of a limited-slip or a locking rear differential is available.

Two engines are available. The base model, the Montero Sport ES, is fitted with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine

that develops 134 horsepower and a 5-speed manual transmission.

All other Montero Sports are powered by a 173-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. Those models are: LS 2WD, LS 4WD, XLS 2WD

and XLS 4WD. All of them come with a 4-speed automatic transmission, except for the LS 4WD, which can be ordered

with a 5-speed manual.

Mitsubishi's V6 is a rugged, refined engine. 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.)

Other differences between the models are confined largely to varying levels of standard equipment and the

availability of options. The top-of-the-line XLS comes standard with air conditioning, power sunroof, two-tone exterior

paint, fender flares, cruise control, leather upholstery 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

and standard when four-wheel drive is ordered. (The base ES doesn't offer ABS). Interior
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: speedometer, tachometer, fuel level and water temperature

gauges, plus a bevy of warning lights. 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 oil pressure gauges can be useful whenever the engine

is running out of oil.

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 have good-looking cloth seats except the XLS, which comes with a good-looking leather interior. Seats 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. Driving Impressions
By class standards, 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.

Real-world use tends to highlight the best and worst features of sport-utilities, however, so bear in mind that

comfort and softness are relative terms. The Montero Sport's ride quality does not achieve passenger-car levels.

Neither does maneuverability. You will get jiggled around somewhat by rough pavement, and will need to be aware of

handling limitations if sudden, evasive action is needed on the highway. Tight parking spaces will highlight the

large turning radius.

Driven appropriately, however, 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 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 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. These traits are common to most

sport-utilities, so they'll come as no surprise to the experienced SUV owner. Just allow extra room for passing maneuvers. Summary
Like its big brother, the Montero, 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. The Montero Sport adds muscular good looks. We think it deserves serious consideration.

Model as tested
Sport XLS
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Sakaogi, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
6-disc CD changer, Accessory Package (roof rack, rear wind deflector, floor mats, cargo cover), remote keyless entry system

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
3.0-liter sohc 24v V-6
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
ABS, air conditioning, tilt steering column, AM/FM stereo, split/folding rear seat back, front/rear mudguards, 265/70R-16 tires, alloy wheels, fender flares, side steps, chrome grille, cruise control, power windows, mirrors and door locks

Engine & Transmission
3.0-liter sohc 24v V-6
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
173 @ 5250
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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