What's New for 2002
For 2002, Montero has several new features and refinements to greater enhance its market position. Montero Limited has new color-keyed exterior features, and both Limited and XLS now have a spare tire cover that matches the body color (except with Munich Silver).
So does anyone care if an SUV has won a bunch of off-road rallies in places most people have never even heard of? Mitsubishi thinks so. The Japanese automaker believes that a superior off-road pedigree, combined with copious amounts of cupholders, leather, wood and various other country club options gives its 2002 Montero appeal to those looking for the ultimate do-anything, go-anywhere vehicle.
Ditching the upright, boxy designs of the past, Mitsubishi gave the redesigned Montero a distinctive new shape in 2001 that instantly sets it apart from the cookie-cutter SUV crowd. Sporting bulging fenders and a menacing grille, the Montero has a formidable presence when seen from a rearview mirror. With its numerous chrome accents and sharp six-spoke aluminum wheels, it wouldn't be a stretch to mistake the Montero for one of the Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX 470 twins.
Unlike many other full-size sport-utes, the Montero is built on a car-like unibody structure and features a fully independent suspension for enhanced ride quality. Off-road prowess is exceptional. Whether the terrain is rugged washboard; fast fire roads; or technical, rock-strewn riverbeds, this truck rarely flinches. On the road, the Montero's suspension is soft and forgiving, but don't expect car-like handling. While we haven't noticed any peculiarities in our testing, it should be noted that Consumer Reports gave the Montero a "not acceptable" rating due to its instability during the publication's emergency lane-change test.
Mitsubishi offers two trim levels, XLS and Limited, and both are equipped with four-wheel drive. The XLS features a basic part-time 4WD system, while the Limited is upgraded with Active Trac. This electronically controlled system offers the choice of two-wheel drive, full-time all-wheel drive, high-range 4WD and low-range 4WD. The Limited also comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, as well as more standard equipment.
For 2002, Mitsubishi has added standard equipment and fiddled with option packages. Inside, Mitsu's upscale 'ute gains lighted visor vanity mirrors, a rear center three-point seatbelt and head restraint, and a driver-side seat back pocket. There's also a new windshield shade band to help improve visibility on sunny days. For the XLS, a new Touring Package includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, AM/FM/CD audio system, power antenna, power sunroof, ecsaine seat trim and a limited-slip differential. Consumers can also add a new rear air conditioning system and heater to this package. The Limited's Premium Package now includes a four-way power passenger seat, in addition to the front automatic climate control and standard rear air conditioning and heater.
Although the Montero Limited represents the pinnacle of Mitsubishi's SUV lineup, it does share the same basic engine with its smaller Montero Sport sibling (as does the XLS). This 3.5-liter V6 engine is rated at 200 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 235 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. While the Montero is smooth and quiet and rarely feels underpowered around town, passing on the freeway requires more planning as the engine struggles to drag the 4,600-pound brick along at 70-plus mph. Towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds, significantly less than that of V8-powered SUVs. Considering the Montero's already hampered ability to get out of its own way, adding another 2 tons would likely drag it down to intolerable levels of performance.
Whether on the road or in the backcountry, the Montero's interior is quiet and rattle-free. Rear passengers will love the space provided by the Montero's tall cabin and wide body. With more legroom than a Toyota Land Cruiser and more headroom than a Dodge Durango, the Montero provides one of the roomiest rear seats of any SUV. The rear bench also reclines, a nice feature not found on many sport-utilities.
Mitsubishi also equips the Montero with a folding third-row seat that does a great job of disappearing into the floor when extra cargo capacity is required. It gives the Montero 82 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the second-row seats folded flat. Seatbelts and air vents are provided for third-row passengers, but the third seat's tight quarters are suitable for small children only, and limber ones, at that.
If you're looking for off-road capability, one-of-a-kind styling and generous room for five, then the Montero deserves serious consideration. The XLS is our trim of choice, as it's relatively affordable and doesn't lack any "must-have" pieces of equipment. But if hauling seven passengers or towing a trailer is a regular part of your SUV's duties, we suggest looking into a more powerful sport-ute.