Unhampered by tradition or culture and driven by an aggressive, focused imagination, Mitsubishi has now unleashed the beast from within its Montero. Ever since the Montero nameplate debuted here in '82, Mitsubishi's SUV has looked strangely similar to the box in which it was delivered. But despite its stodgy styling, the Montero sometimes forged new ground with advanced drivetrain and chassis technology. It was as dependable as a 10-year-old bloodhound, yet hardly any more exciting.

Late this spring, Mitsubishi will introduce its third-generation Montero, and, in terms of styling, it certainly will not be confused with any other sport/utility vehicle. At a time when many SUVs blend in with the crowd because they share styling cues with their high-selling pickup brothers, the Montero has no such loyalty. It was boxy from the beginning simply because of traditional Japanese utilitarian values. Now the Montero has broken away from its straight-line, squared-off ancestry to develop a decidedly more hip personality.

Our first drive of the new Montero recently came in Japan, where it's already on the market badged as the Pajero. One cannot overlook the aggressive fenders and wheel arches that seem the vehicle's focal point, not just afterthoughts like other bolt-on wheel flares. The rear side glass is shaped by the beltline that's kicked up by the trailing edges of the rear arches. Other notable styling touches include cat's-eye headlamps and armor-style chrome around the taillamps.