What's New for 1996
Refinements result in a better SUV this year. A passenger airbag has been installed, optional side steps make it easier to clamber aboard and split-fold second-row seats increase versatility. New colors, new seat fabrics and better audio systems round out the package.
Marketed since 1983, Mitsubishi's compact sport-utility ranks as an old-timer in its field, though the current four-door version has only been around since '89. Straight-up styling surrounds a spacious interior for five, but climbing aboard a Montero isn't so easy. Optional for 1996 are side steps that make this task much more manageable. These sizable sport-utes stand rather tall--more than six feet from ground to roof--a profile that doesn't exactly help when it's time to undertake a sharp corner. Though refined and well-built, with seating for seven, Monteros hardly rank as bargain-priced, either, despite their extensive equipment lists.
Mitsubishi has seen fit to make some substantial refinements to its premium SUV. A passenger airbag has been added, as well as new seat fabrics. Backlit gauges marked with white numerals are more legible, and the compass has been redesigned. The second-row seat is now a split-fold affair, offering more utility in an already versatile vehicle. New audio systems also debut. Outside, new colors compliment the newly optional side steps and hard shell spare tire cover.
Beneath the hood of an LS edition sits a smooth 24-valve, 3.0-liter V6. Either five-speed manual shift or an automatic transmission is available. For more demanding tasks, Mitsubishi continues to offer a stronger dual-cam 3.5-liter engine, whipping up 214 horsepower, but only in the costly SR model, which comes solely with the four-speed automatic transmission. Electronically controlled automatics feature three-mode operation: Power, Normal, and Hold (which avoids first-gear operation on ice, snow, or muddy surfaces).
Active Trac four-wheel-drive can be shifted "on the fly," or set up to operate all the time. All-disc brakes are standard, but only the SR has Multi-Mode antilock braking (optional in the LS version). A power sunroof, too, is either standard or optional, depending on the model. Prior Monteros could tow as much as 4,000 pounds, but the current peak rating is 5,000. A variable shock-absorber system, optional on the SR, has three settings: hard, medium and soft.
The Montero is an interesting blend of gee-whiz gadgetry, luxurious conveniences, go-anywhere capability, and unique styling. While it is true that all this cool stuff comes at a premium, buyers considering other luxury sport-utility vehicles will want to drop by the Mitsubishi dealer and consider this one as well.