Way back in 1983, Mitsubishi entered the US market with its boxy two-door Montero. The first Monteros boasted a ladder frame, four-wheel drive, and a stout, reliable four-cylinder powerplant. Now, nearly 20 years later, Mitsubishi is still going strong and setting the standards to which others aspire.
The 2001 Mitsubishi Montero is the third generation of Mitsubishi's flagship SUV and is the product of years of refinement. New this year is the use of advanced unibody construction, which replaces the standard body-on-frame design of earlier models. This type of construction reduces overall weight and adds strength in critical areas. The new-generation Montero rides on a two-inch-longer wheelbase (109.5 inches) and boasts 3 inches more front and rear track width. Overall length has increased by 2 inches over the previous model, and the truck is 4 inches wider, although 1.9 inches lower in height for ease of entry.
The new unibody design allowed engineers to incorporate a four-wheel, fully independent suspension system, doing away with the traditional live rear axle setup. Up front is a double-wishbone, coil spring suspension that replaces the old torsion bar setup. Out back is a multi-link, coil spring suspension and an IFS drive axle.
The added rigidity of separate subframes for both the front and the rear suspensions allows for better suspension and shock tuning by taking frame flex out of the equation. Also, the new suspension setup allows for greater wheel travel at each corner for improved off-road performance.
While the '01 Montero retains the previous generation's four-wheel disc brakes, significant improvements have been made to the overall system.Up front, the Montero now sports twin-piston calipers for greater and more even clamping force on the ventilated rotors, which translates into better pedal feel for the driver and more consistent stops.
Also new is an electro-hydraulic power assist. Integrated as one unit with the standard Multi-Mode ABS braking system, an electric motor pressurizes the hydraulic fluid to give the brakes a more linear feel and improved response time. The ABS system is now a four-channel setup that uses sensors on each wheel, and the system is active in all drive modes, including four-wheel drive.
One carryover from the previous generation Montero is the 3.5L SOHC, 24-valve V-6. However, it too gains some refinement with a re-profiled camshaft, a cold-air induction system, and a larger volume, low-restriction exhaust system. The modifications were good for an additional 3 horsepower and 12 lb-ft of torque, bringing the total to 200 hp at 5,000 rpm and 235 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm.
The Montero is available with two automatic transmission choices. The standards are an electronically controlled four-speed automatic for XLS models and a five-speed automatic on the Limited. Both use Mitsubishi's Adaptive Shift Control programming to tailor the transmission's performance to that of the owner's regular driving patterns.
The five-speed automatic offers lower gear ratios in the first four gears and the benefit of Mitsubishi's Sportronic shifting, which allows manual shifting of the automatic in towing and down-hill situations.
In the four-wheel-drive department you'll find the XLS models fitted with a part-time four-wheel-drive system with a shift-on-the-fly, two-speed transfer case. Limited Monteros get Mitsubishi's new ActiveTrac 4WD system. ActiveTrac provides several driving modes including two-wheel drive, full-time all-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive High range with a locked center differential, and a four-wheel-drive Low range with a locked center differential.
Added traction is available with an optional limited-slip rear differential. Sadly, the locking differential from past generations is not available in the U.S. market. XLS models are fitted with a 4.90:1 rear gear while the Limited, with its five-speed automatic, uses a slightly shorter 4.30:1 rearend gear.
In our testing of the new 2001, we found that the Montero has excellent road manners. The new IFS suspension setup works well at soaking up road irregularities while still managing to control body roll in hard cornering. On the road, the upgraded 3.5L V-6 has enough power for general use, but compared to many of the SUVs on the market, it is still underpowered. On the plus side, Mitsubishi did everything possible to extract the maximum from the engine, including precise tranny tuning and high rearend ratios.
We think that the new Montero is Mitsubishi's best SUV to date and holds its own in styling, comfort, and general roadability. In the off-pave-ment department, the suspension is flexible, the new steering has a check valve to stop bumpsteer, ground clearance is better than before with 1-1/2 inches more room, and the approach and departure angles have been improved. With the introduction of the 2001 Montero, we think Mitsubishi's motto should be changed to "Wake Up and Drive Off Road!"