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TUCSON, Ariz. — Like the state it’s a part of, Tucson, located in the southeastern corner of the Grand Canyon State, wears many faces and has many distinct personalities. The region has attracted New Age visionaries and is home to old Spanish missions; there are miles of majestic caves to meander and the unsightly pilings of copper, silver and gold mines; it appears barren and devoid of habitation and, at the same time, boasts a landscaped urban sprawl.
But, mostly, its two distinctions are the marked contrast between its lowland desert and highland mountains. Each is rich with natural beauty and compliments the other.
It was here that Mitsubishi brought its latest version of the Montero to give auto writers a chance to experience this full-sized SUV’s many faces and distinct personalities. After its unveiling at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, Mitsubishi officially launched its third-generation Montero in Tucson, where its on-road handling improvements and off-road capability upgrades could be evaluated in close proximity and in beautiful surroundings.
Frankly, we won't shed any tears as the current model leaves showrooms this spring.
It hails back to another era, when sport-utes were used by only a handful of trekkers and off-roaders motored in far-off corners of the globe. In such duty, it performed flawlessly, negotiating the roughest terrain and enduring the most demanding conditions — and it has the Paris-Dakar rally victories to prove it.
The times have changed, of course, and some of the outgoing Montero's notorious strengths have become weaknesses in the current suburban SUV paradigm. The field-worthy body-on-frame architecture, for example, was unrefined and cumbersome through corners, while the tall profile and slab sides made even minor crosswinds a little too exciting.
More room, less tall
Mitsubishi's greatest challenge with this newest truck was to retain Montero's core strengths while adding the refinement and road manners expected by mainstream American drivers. Some automakers have simply watered down their SUV offerings or stayed away from the heavy-duty market altogether, a profitable and rational strategy and one Mitsubishi refused to adopt. We're happy to say that the no-compromise attitude has paid off: the new Montero is every bit as tough as before and also immeasurably easier to live with. As Land Rover and Jeep have so successfully shown with the Discovery and the Grand Cherokee, the Montero meets with equal aplomb the needs of Beverly Hills and Baja (or Detroit and Dakar.)