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The 2003 Mitsubishi Montero

Automotive expert , Updated:

Photos by: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Mitsubishi's flagship

Among the seven models commercialized by Mitsubishi in Canada, the sport-utility vehicles are taking an ever larger part of the market. In facts, three out of seven models Mitsubishi makes are sport-utility vehicles : The Outlander, the Montero Sport and the Montero. The last being not only the largest of all, but also the most expensive.

In spite of a humble V6 engine, the Montero's direct competitors are the large American S.U.V. Dodge Durango and GMC Envoy XL. Its large size and third bench seat make this 7-passenger vehicle a category on its own.

Contrary to other Japanese sport-utility vehicles, the Montero is faithful to its utilitarian origins. Starting with an original design, four magnificent fenders, an aggressive front look, an abrupt windshield, rocker panels and a spare tire tailgate mounted give this vehicle a rough look affirming its off road qualities. Offered in nine colours, some available in two tones, and enriched of aluminum rims, anti-fug lights, monochrome style and lite step plates, the Montero has the look of a well off. By the way, the step plates are solely aesthetics as they rather constitute a obstacle to boarding. Its genuine function is actually to stain your trousers and to light them as you witness the mess. Despite this, one is to admit the killer look of the Montero.

A V8 engine option, not offered on the Montero, would have been nice to pull trailers and provide a superior torque such as the Dodge Durango's. The only available powertrain is a V6 3.5l developing 215hp paired up with a faultless 5-gear automatic transmission. Gear shifts are smoothless even gearing down. The standard Sportronic sequential mode is not very useful for city drives, but could reveal handy to beat an off road path without the need to shift. With only 215hp, the Montero seemed to me, at least on paper, underpowered assuming its substantial weight of 2100 kg. The impression remained on paper though as the engine amply respond to the vehicle's needs. On the performance side, a 0-100km/h in 11.8 seconds and reassuring accelerations with a 248 lb/ft torque at 3250 rpm are not bad. Like any S.U.V., the Montero isn't thrifty with gas. However, it remains acceptable with an average of 14.5 liters per 100 km in comparison to other S.U.V. and the thirsty Dodge Durango averaging 17 or 18 liters per 100km.

For the off road fans, the Montero is an admirable vehicle. While the common folks will use a two wheel drive or permanent four wheel drive mode, it is easy to switch to all wheel drive whether in high or low gear with the use of a lever located on the main console. With an imposing free play, protective plates keeping the mechanics secured underneath the chassis and an active antiskid system, the Montero offers exquisite off road qualities. Unfortunately, the standard Yokohama Goelander tires are inappropriate and tarnish the overall rating of this vehicle. For those expecting to be off road more often than never, I recommend to gear up with better tires. Otherwise, these tires are sufficient for a touring usage of the Montero as they provide comfort and soft rolling on paved roads and highways.