In a country so enamored of sport/utilities, it's hard for one manufacturer to stand out and grab the attention of consumers who have varied needs, expectations, tastes, and budgets. Because of this, Mitsubishi has attempted to establish a unique position with its Montero. Like some domestic 4x4 SUVs, it's a highly capable, unit-body off-roader, yet the Montero boasts race-tested structure, suspension, and driveline hardware. And, like the stylish European SUVs, the Montero also offers luxury and amenities--but without the matching upscale pricetag. Sold in 170 countries, with over 2 million first- and second-generation Monteros roaming the planet, and packing 17 years' worth of Paris-to-Dakar rally trophies, the Montero is truly a world champion. Yet in the U.S., we see far fewer of these peerless Japanese trucks than their German, or especially American, counterparts. We wondered why.
When Motor Trend's 2001 Sport/Utility of the Year competition led us to the off-road portion of our testing, we confirmed the Montero Limited was, in fact, one of the best off-road vehicles we'd driven. The hardware alone set it apart. With its two (center and rear) limited-slip and lockable differentials, a high- and low-ratio shift-on-the-fly transfer case, and 9.3 in. of ground clearance (plus approach and departure angles of 42-degrees and 24-degrees, respectively), nothing else in the varied group could touch it when the Montero headed for the trails. Why didn't it win? You'll have to dig out your Dec. 2000 Motor Trend to read the full story, but Acura's versatile MDX proved the more significant all-around vehicle that year. Still, the new-for-2001 Montero warranted a long, hard look.
Our $35,297 Munich Silver Metallic Montero Limited was optioned with a $900 package aptly called Preferred Equipment, which consists of automatic climate control with rear air-conditioner/ heater. In ordering an already loaded Limited model, the list of standard equipment is as long as it is thoughtful. Safety items of particular note are privacy glass, alarm/immobilizer system with panic mode and remote, dual-front and front-side airbags, and four-wheel vented-disc brakes with multimode ABS--one of the few in the industry that identifies when you're on a loose surface and adjusts accordingly (allowing brake lock-up).
For comfort and convenience, Limited models include a seven-speaker 175-watt Mitsubishi/Infinity audio system, power-operated windows/locks/mirrors/moonroof, leather front- and second-row seats, wood/leather steering wheel, and heated front seats and side mirrors. In terms of hard-core off-road essentials, ours was outfitted with the outstanding, true 4x4 system, skidplates, a complete, removable tool kit fitted to the swing-out rear "barn door," a locked and covered full-size spare on a matched wheel, some of the best foglights we've ever used, and massive tow hooks front and rear. One staffer wrote, "The only thing missing is a winch! This model should be called Unlimited rather than Limited."