With all this going for it, we wish we lived where we were continually using the Montero's dedicated equipment. However, we're city dwellers, and we had some urban gripes. Foremost was the lackluster 200-hp V-6. Hauling a 4600-plus-lb vehicle up freeway onramps, as well as participating in bob-and-weave commuting, requires substantial power and agility, both of which the Montero lacks. In mid-2001, Consumer Reports made much ado about nothing when it declared the 2001 Montero Limited's performance in an emergency avoidance maneuver test "Not Acceptable." In the end, NHTSA didn't issue a safety recall and concluded that CR's procedures "do not have a scientific basis and cannot be linked to real-world crash avoidance needs or actual crash data." In our well-documented 600-ft slalom test, we found the Montero as stable as any comparable SUV, and its 53.8-mph speed through the course confirms this.
In terms of acceleration, the Montero is on the slower side of the SUV spectrum. At 10.3 sec to reach 60 mph, the engine labors on to find the quarter mile in 17.6 sec at just over 78 mph. Because of this, we took full advantage of the Montero Limited's five-speed Sportronic sequential-shift automatic that may be shifted manually. It's certainly no rocket ship, and we've recently learned that Mitsubishi has increased both the size and efficiency of the V-6 for the 2003-model year (it'll be available about the time you read this).
It comes as no surprise the...
It comes as no surprise the Montero feels more at home in the dirt than in city traffic. Seventeen times and counting, Mitsubishi has completed the world's most treacherous off-road race, the Paris-Dakar.
With such less-than-brilliant performance, we expected the 3.5L V-6 at least to return decent fuel mileage, but we're also disappointed to report our one-year average of just 15.2 mpg. Our best tankful returned 22.8 mpg, while our worst tank (four hours of bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic) produced just 13.1 mpg, or exactly the EPA's city rating.
The cabin turned out to be a popular place. Interior materials look rich, feel good, and wear well. Everyone liked the large sunroof. The seats are comfy and there's more than adequate head/leg/ shoulder/knee/cargo room for just about every thing and everyone. The larger mirrors make the Montero easy to park, and the high step-in height is to be expected of a tall, capable off-roader. And those extra seats in back sure are handy, as more and more carmakers find as they revamp or expand their two-row-only models.
One might expect a no-frills...
One might expect a no-frills interior in such a dedicated off-roader. However, we were pleased to find perforated leather seating, wood trim, trip computer, compass, and a generally upscale demeanor.
Reliability was outstanding. Several staffers took the Montero on severe off-road excursions, one to Death Valley "just for a weekend of off-road fun." Near the Salton Sea, another rubbed fenders with a highly modified '78 International Scout and an equally rugged '79 Dodge Powerwagon. Drivers and skeptical witnesses returned with newfound admiration for the Montero. It consumed just one quart of oil ($2.55), suffered one flat tire ($131.94), and underwent the $335.53 15,000-mile service in its 17,624 miles with us. Nothing broke or ever failed to work.
In the end, we judge our year with the Montero an experience worth repeating--if only to show off how well it drives when the pavement ends and the adventure begins.