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SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

1996 MITSUBISHI MONTERO

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 37,780
     Price As Tested                                    $ 41,717
     Engine Type                           3.5 Liter V6 w/EMPFI*
     Engine Size                                  213 cid/3497cc
     Horsepower                                   215 @ 5000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               228 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.3"/70.3"/186.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4482 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  24.3 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P265/70R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 95 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.48

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            14/18/15          
     0-60 MPH                                       10.9 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.3 seconds @ 80.7 mph


     * Electronic multi-point fuel injection

(The Mitsubishi Montero has gone upscale in recent years - and that means it isn't cheap. The Hagin team of Bob and Matt review the newest luxo-version and compare it to the "vintage" model that brother Tom had.)

MATT - This new Mitsubishi Montero is a far cry from Tom's old '84 Montero, Dad. We'd strap our skis on the roof, pile three or four of us inside along with our ski equipment and grind our way slowly up into the ski areas. The interior of that old Montero was as crowded as a phone booth and when we got there, we'd need a chiropractor if we had fallen asleep during the trip.

BOB - That wouldn't be a problem with this new one, Matt. With the rear seat in place, it can carry as many as seven adults, all wearing top hats, although those in the middle would be very cozy for the duration of the trip. There still wouldn't be a lot of room inside for luggage and you'd still have to put your skis on racks on top. Four skiers would be a better fit. But you wouldn't have to slowly wind your way through the mountains with the new Montero. The engine in this SR version puts out 215 horses and has enough torque to do some stump- pulling during the summer months. It's 3.6 liters in size and sports dual overhead cams with 24 valves. Pretty high-tech for an off-roader.

MATT - But off-road is where the Montero really shines. The drive system lets you operate as a bad-weather all-wheel drive if you want or shift into four-wheel drive at speeds up to 65 mph. For really rugged terrain, you can pull down into a low range and activate a locking system for the rear axle. This actually locks the rear wheels together rather than just limit the amount of slip between the two. The Montero has plenty of ground clearance so you wouldn't be restricted to the parking lot at a ski area. And if the going got really tough, there are three skid pans underneath so that you wouldn't run the risk of knocking something off if you drove over boulders. The Montero is on the slender side, too, which makes it more maneuverable through tall brush and around the rocks when it's driven over fire trails.

BOB - It's definitely not just a country-club wagon for sure but it's not because Mitsubishi doesn't equip the Montero that way. The company's press kit call its niche the "premium sports/utility field" but at over $40,000, I'd call it a very tall luxury car. The upholstery is leather, the standard-equipment moon roof is power-operated, and ours came with a 10-disc CD changer. I'm not crazy about having the spare mounted outside on the back door but it saves room inside and it doesn't require an engineering degree to get at it. On some of the SUVs that have the spare underneath, I think I'd be tempted to run on a flat rather than wrestle the spare out from under the rear and onto an axle.

MATT - Another neat thing is that this SR version carries optional variable-rate shock absorbers. They're pricey at $1700 extra but there's also other things that are added in the package. With this system you can select soft, normal or hard settings from the driver's seat. There's really an amazing amount of glass all around, too, and it's almost like riding in an Amtrak observation car. Although it's tall and boxy, it's quite aero-shaped and slips easily through the wind. Usually with SUVs this tall, we have noticeable problems with cross-winds, but the Montero is big, heavy, smooth and rounded, so it's not a problem at all.

BOB - Next time I'd like to try the less-expensive LS version. Its engine is smaller at just 3.0 liters, less exotic and it only has 177 horsepower but I think that it might be more practical at around $5000 less. And unlike the SR model, the LS can be had with a five-speed manual transmission. But price doesn't seem to be a problem with the Montero since Mitsubishi of America is able to sell all that it can import. Apparently the Japanese version is very popular in the Far East.

MATT - It might be fun to try one of these Monteros over there on one of those factory-sponsored press trips I've read about, Dad.

BOB - I'll leave that to you and Tom, Matt. I've done all the off-road driving in the Far East that I ever intend to do.

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