Mitsubishi Montero LTD(2001)

Montero LTD

The Montero LTD is Mitsubishi's premium entry in the full-size sport-utility vehicle class. We never really warmed up to the Mitsubishi Montero of old, which was, in our humble opinion, crude and outdated--and, at a fully loaded cost of some $36,000, overpriced to boot.

Well, Mitsubishi has seen the light. The 2001 Montero is vastly improved in just about every way.

The base Montero, the XLS, is equipped with part-time, four-wheel drive and has a cars.com target price of $28,864. The more plush model we tested, which has a five-speed automatic transmission that lets you choose among two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, has a target price of $32,628. The all-wheel-drive option makes the LTD clearly the Montero of choice. All Monteros, by the way, have four doors and a six-cylinder engine.

Driving Experience

Mitsubishi ditched the body-on-frame construction when it redesigned the Montero, wisely electing to use a unibody design. The result is an SUV that feels much less like something your great-grandpappy might have used to navigate the Oregon Trail. The ride is firm but comfortable, both around town and on the highway.

The engine and transmission are remarkably smooth, and the 200-horsepower engine is definitely adequate for the vehicle.

The top-of-the-line Montero has what has to be considered the Swiss army knife of transmissions--you can put it in all-wheel drive or choose two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Facing an emergency situation such as, say, being stranded at your mother-in-law's house by a major blizzard? No sweat. Just lock the center differential and you can drive through anything. You can also choose to use the manual-automatic mode and do the shifting from gear to gear yourself--a mode we found to be a little sluggish and not really a substitute for a true manual transmission.

One odd thing we noticed was that the Montero seemed to have a high turning ratio. In other words, it took a lot of turning of the steering wheel to make the Montero turn as far as we wanted it to. Maybe it's just our imaginations, but we couldn't help but wonder if Mitsubishi was trying to discourage abrupt changes in direction in the interest of vehicle stability.

The new, wider Montero felt much more stable than the tall and thin Montero of old. The Montero got an average rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's crashworthiness tests.

Interior

We liked the firm leather seats; the comfortable, high driving position; and the abundance of room for our arms, legs, and heads. There's a nice, adjustable armrest between the front seats, and a wide console.Mitsubishi claims that as many as six of your buddies will fit inside with you. Would you want to drive cross-country like this? Of course not. But, for a few hours it's perfectly tolerable, and it certainly feels large and roomy.

The visibility is nothing short of fabulous, with a nice, high seating position and big windows all the way around. We liked the fact that Mitsubishi didn't skimp by putting dinky mirrors on the doors either.

Ergonomics

The controls are where you might expect to find them, and they do pretty much what you might expect them to do. Every manufacturer should be forced to study the Montero's three simple dials for climate control.

Nobody's perfect, though. Mitsubishi engineers made a misstep with the silly display screen on the dashboard. When you turn on the heater, it shows you where the air is going, and when you turn off the heater, it's a compass. We found the constantly changing indicator to be a distraction.

Styling

We like the looks of the Montero, although we hasten to add that the looks might not be to everyone's taste. The 2001 Montero has a bulging, sort of muscular look--like it came out of the Minnetonka design center. It's a sharp contrast to the old Montero, which made refrigerator cartons look stylish by comparison. Even if you don't happen to love the way it looks, you have to concede that Mitsubishi succeeded in making its sport utility vehicle look different from everyone else's sport utility vehicle. That has to count for something.

Reliability

If you owned a Mitsubishi 10 years ago, and vowed you'd never buy another car from them as long as you lived...you might want to reconsider. Of course, you might be renewing those vows in a few years, but we think it's unlikely. Mitsubishi, to its credit, is now making more-reliable vehicles.

Overall comments

This is a very plush, comfortable, capable vehicle--and yet another SUV that will probably never get any nearer to the underbrush than the nearest yard-and-garden center. Who would risk getting those leather seats muddy or that shiny paint scratched up? This is a prestige car, and as such it will probably appeal to those unwilling to be seen in something as "common" as a Ford Explorer.

The problem, of course, is that there are a lot of nice SUVs if you're willing to lay out 30 to 40 large. Other vehicles in this price range include the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Ford Explorer Limited, Mercedes ML 320, Lexus RX 300, Acura MDX, and the new Toyota Sequoia.

The Montero provides good performance, luxury, glamour, and a certain feeling of invulnerability. You also won't see as many of them on the road as you will Ford Explorers and Jeep Grand Cherokees. And that alone may get some people into the Mitsubishi dealerships. Overall, it's a significant upgrade over the previous generation Montero and, with the all-wheel-drive option on the LTD, a serious competitor in the middle- to high-end SUV market.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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