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1998 4x4 of the Year Models: Mitsubishi Montero Sport LS

1998 Mitsubishi Montero Sport LS

If you were hoping for dramatic new faces in this year's test, look to the Mercedes and the Durango. The other entrants should be familiar, including the mid-level Mitsubishi Montero Sport LS, which was eligible for last year's testing but wasn't yet on the market. Since the Sport has been for sale for a year, you've no doubt seen plenty of them on the road. Even though we have too, we just couldn't warm up to its appearance, which is more rounded than the original Montero, so it fell near bottom in the body-styling category, including points deducted for too-tall side mirrors. One benefit of our test vehicle was the exterior tire carrier, which omits the across-the-tailgate third brake light seen on most Montero Sports. Removing the spare from the underside also aids departure angle, and we never had a problem with the gate-mounted spare rattling even a bit.

Although we weren't fans of the interior either (especially not the above-the-dash voltmeter and oil pressure gauge placement), we were really impressed with the amount of cargo space, including tons of hidden compartments-impressive enough for the full Monty to nail Second Place in the cargo category, right behind the big ol' Yukon.

Once we got past its looks, its personality was much more appealing. Four-wheel-drive engagement was topnotch, and blazing down fire roads and across sand was a blast. It was optioned with the Off-Road Package, including a locking rear differential that gave great traction at the touch of a button. We were told the locker would only engage in low range, which was true, but we found that it didn't self-disengaged above 12 mph as reported. The locking diff helped the Montero get deeper into off-road situations, and even though the stock nerf bars limited ground clearance, they did an excellent job of protecting the body from dents. Underbody clearance was a bit slim, but there was no bottoming out, thanks to the suspension.

Yet its 3.0L V-6 wasn't a perfect match for the five-speed manual tranny-it needed a lower First gear, more low-rpm torque, or both. As a result, we spent a lot of time trying to find the right gear so the engine wouldn't get bogged down. It scored really well in dragstrip brake testing.

The Sport was basically the middle child of the test-it scored dead center in nearly all the categories. Yet when a quick run from one end of the desert to the other was called for, the Montero Sport was the ride of choice.

Mitsubishi Montero Sport LS
•Button-activated rear locker
•Easy 4WD engagement
•Great cargo area

•Least-liked interior
•Needs lower First gear
•Low-ranked styling

Manufacturer Mitsubishi
Model Montero Sport LS
Base Price $23,920
Price as Tested $30,660
Options as Tested Air conditioning, floor mats,
Convenience Package (cruise control; power windows, locks, and mirrors); Appearance Package (15x7 alloy wheels, 265/70R15 tires, fender flares, side steps, bright grille accent, leather-wrapped steering wheel, two-tone paint); Off-Road Package (locking rear differential, multimeter, rear heater, spare tire carrier and cover, set of five wheel locks); Luxury Package (Premium Infinity upgrade stereo, cassette, amp, eight speakers, power sunroof); and roof rack.

Type SOHC V-6
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/143.4
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.41x3.94
Compression Ratio 9.0:1
Induction Type Multipoint fuel injection
Fuel Requirement/Capacity (gallons) 87 Octane
SAE Peak Horsepower 132 (128 in CA) @ 5,500 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 148 (146 in CA) @ 2,750 rpm

Type Five-speed manual overdrive
Model Mitsubishi
Ratios First: 3.918:1; Second: 2.261:1; Third: 1.395:1; Fourth: 1.000:1; Fifth: 0.829:1; Reverse: 3.925:1

Transfer Case
Type Two-speed part-time
Model Mitsubishi
Low-Range Ratio 1.925:1

Front Type IFS
Rear Type Solid w/electric locker
Hubs Automatic
Ratio 4.64

Front Independent/unequal-length A-arms/torsion bars
Rear Live axle/semielliptic leaf springs

Type Power-assisted recirculating ball
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.37/16.4-18.7:1
Turning Radius (feet) 38.7

Size (inches) 15x7
Material Alloy

Size P265/70R15
Brand Yokohama Super Diggers

Brake System
Front 10.8-inch discs
Rear 12.3-inch drums with ABS

Measured Weight (pounds) 4,280
Advertised GVWR (pounds) 5,350

EPA Estimate (city/hwy mpg) 17/20
As Tested (mpg) 15.59

Standing 1/4-mile (seconds @ mph) 18.45 @ 73.10

60-0 mph (feet) 146.0

Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 107.3
Overall Length 189.8
Overall Width 66.7
Overall Height 65.6
Front/Rear Track 55.9/56.5
Front/Rear Overhang 29.5/49.5
Minimum Front Ground Clearance 8.0