New & Used Mitsubishi Montero: In Depth
2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sport ESEnlarge Photo
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The Mitsubishi Montero, known as the Pajero to much of the rest of the world, is a mid-size SUV that enjoyed a sort of cult following in the U.S.—among off-road enthusiasts who appreciated its hardy construction and proven design. But what made this model such a standout in the 1990s—as it went up against models like the Isuzu Trooper, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, and Toyota Land Cruiser—made it more of a liability heading into the 2000s, as the Montero continued on a very truck-like trajectory while some rivals became more passenger (and family) oriented.
There might be a few of the original, first-generation Montero models (1983-1991 model years) still on the road in the U.S. That model, by the way, was also sold in its later years as a Dodge Raider, and up through 1990 in two- or four-door body styles. However, most of the used Monteros still available in the U.S. are of the second- or third-generation.
Second-generation Mitsubishi Montero models were offered from 1992 through 2000. Although they preserved much of the body-on-frame design of the first-gen models, these Monteros were a step up in comfort and a little roomier. From this point on, the Montero was pitched as more of an upscale SUV, with power windows and locks, electronically adjustable shocks, and other upgrades offered for much of the lineup. Powertrains included a base 151-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 (177 hp in later years), or a 215-hp, 3.5-liter DOHC V-6. 1997-2000 models got a 200-hp, SOHC version of this engine, while 1998-2000 models ditched all the different trims for a single Montero model.
The 2001-2006 Mitsubishi Montero was a revelation, in that it adopted a uni-body construction and fully independent suspension, along with new rack-and-pinion steering. Yet with all those improvements, the Montero didn’t ride or handle much better than its predecessors, and the carry-over 200-hp V-6 failed to keep up with the competition of the time, with either the four- or five-speed automatic transmission. Some of these Monteros offered an Active Trac all-wheel drive system that still had a 4WD low range and a locking center diff—allowing essentially the best of both worlds for highway use or off-roading.
From 2003 on, the Montero got a stronger 215-hp, 3.8-liter V-6, plus standard stability control. That move followed a 2001 assertion from Consumer Reports that the Montero Limited tipped onto two wheels during an emergency maneuver.
Overall, we liked the latest versions of the Montero, especially those 2003-2006 models. These models had inflated sticker prices, poor gas mileage, and subpar handling—all reasons why the model was eventually cancelled, due to slow sales—but on the used market this model can add up to an interesting and affordable weekend adventure machine.
The short-lived Mitsubishi Endeavor crossover essentially replaced the Montero.