Brookline, NH —Some believe that in relationships, opposites attract. But blending two distinct personalities isn't always easy, with the best of each frequently being compromised. Nonetheless, a successful blend can maintain intrigue over the long haul. To that effect, the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero engineering team has done a good job of combining authentic dirt digging, Paris-to-Dakar-rally winning heritage, and the comfort of a luxury sedan.
The 2001 Montero replaces the former model's body-on-frame design with a unitized body/chassis structure that is three times more resistant to bending and torsional forces. And although the new model is larger, boasts more interior room, improved safety, comfort, and convenience features, its base curb weight has increased only 111 lbs. Another major shift in Montero technology is the 4-wheel fully independent suspension. Front double wishbones and coil springs replace the front wishbones and torsion bars of the previous model, while a rear independent multi-link with coil-spring suspension replaces last year's 3-link solid rear axle and coil springs.
Rack-and-pinion steering with fewer steel joints and connecting arms than the previous model's recirculating-ball system provides a more direct link between the front wheels. However, the steering was almost too responsive for my taste. But then I'm used to the sloppy steering of my over-a-decade-old fleet at home. Initially, what I considered to be only slight steering wheel movements instantly translated to the front wheels. The vehicle responded with a sudden top-heavy SUV roll that compromised my confidence. Once acclimated to the steering subtleties, handling became less and less surprising at every turn. In fact, its tight turning radius, 1.3-ft less than the previous model, made it a dream to park and negotiate other tight maneuvers such as U-turns.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers 200 hp at 5,000 rpm and 235 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm—peppy enough for my taste. However, fuel economy worked out to just 18.3 mpg, with a full tank yielding just over 430 miles.