2001 Mitsubishi Montero Review
Longer, wider, taller … and swell-er.
The business end of the new Montero is its 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 engine. Typical of Mitsubishi powerplants, this 200-horsepower unit is vibration-free and glass-smooth. And because the Montero purports to be a truck, the V6 delivers a full 235 foot-pounds of torque at 3500 rpm.
The Sportronic manual/auto transmission, which comes on the Limited model, is a five-speed that allows you to manually select which gear you want. But like most of these Sportmatic-like systems, selection is not linear and direct. In other words, it makes a decision about just how soon it will downshift after you've asked it to. Also, because it operates with a torque converter, you don't have the solid geartooth-to-geartooth control you would have with stick. But since there is no stick Montero, this is an okay compromise, especially since it doubles as a full-time automatic when you're stranded in drive-time bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Responsiveness on the highway is typical of current SUVs, neither blisteringly fast nor annoyingly slow. And while there is the inevitable sensation of great bulk driving this truck, the Montero's well-specified suspension is gently forgiving and smooth on the highway. The 2001 model is also the first Montero to use rack-and-pinion steering in place of the previous recirculating-ball system. Road feel is never very lively in SUVs, but this rack-and-pinion is a step in the right direction. Cornering response is predictably ponderous.
The new Montero features big ventilated disc brakes at both front and rear, necessary to haul this 4675-pound truck down from highway speeds, and they work well. ABS comes standard.
Mitsubishi designed this truck to be both a pavement cruiser and an off-road marauder. So just on the off chance that you are the rare one who likes dirt roads and rocks, we took the Montero into some severe backcountry terrain. First, we tested it on rippled washboard dirt surfaces so typical of back roads. Thanks to its fully independent multi-link rear suspension, the Montero exhibited no axle-tramp -- that disturbing resonance typical in solid rear axles where the back wheels bounce so busily that they begin to steer the rear end. On washboard, the Montero's rear wheels maintain full directional control. Mitsubishi's compliant springs and shocks soak up most of this motion, producing a very smooth ride.
On really steep descents and climbs, the Montero's V6 and low-range transfer case are superb, keeping it in excellent control going down and providing plenty of torque for creeping back up. Even over tall rocks on one side or the other, the Montero kept its poise, proving that it can go where many lesser four-wheel drive vehicles would be creaking and groaning and complaining bitterly.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero, click here: 2001 Mitsubishi Montero.