The Montero SUV is the Pajero’s little brother, and the recent increase in midsize SUV popularity made it a large success for the company. The new Montero Sport is marketed as one of the best SUVs in its respective segment, and it certainly looks like that on paper, but is it really? Recently, we took it on and adventure across Qatar to discover if it has what it takes to impress us.
Before we begin, we need to get something straight. Although it has an S, for “Sport” in its name, it has nothing to do with actual sporty performance, like a Lancer Evolution for instance. You just have to take one look at it, and that much is immediately apparent. It certainly wasn’t designed with sporting credentials in mind. The large, tall shape is a dead giveaway. That said however, don’t immediately mark it as a marketing trick, because the Montero is sporty in its own way.
First things first, we had to drive it on the road a bit. Even if you are to take it off-roading, chances are you’ll have to drive on the road to get there. This is a road car first, and everything else second, so it simply has to perform well there. And we’re glad to report that it does what it’s intended to do. The ride is nice and comfortable, it doesn’t roll too much in the corners, and you can even push it a bit if you really want to. Make no mistake, it’s nowhere near as dynamically pleasing as something like an X5 or even an F-150, but it certainly isn’t bad. Compared to the standard Pajero, a bulky and heavy thing, the Montero really is what you’d call sporty. It’s way less utilitarian, handling more like a road car and less like a truck.
In some ways, the Montero S is to the Pajero what the Range Rover is to the Land Rovers. Thanks to the tasteful chrome at the front, fresher styling and a much more appealing interior, it offers an up-market look that you simply don’t get with the Pajero. It’s newer, and it certainly looks like it. It’s Mitsubishi’s best looking SUV to date, but it does lack a bit of design compared to its rivals. Getting back to the adventure, and our first encounter with an off-road surface. Although Qatar is mainly surrounded by sand-filled deserts, we did find a nice farm with green grass and even some muddy bits to test the Montero S at. We expected the Montero S to be rather good in this kind of environment, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s even better than we hoped it would be. The flagship 3.0 liter V6 MIVEC engine produces 161 kW and 285 Nm of torque, more than enough to propel the relatively light SUV through even the slipperiest of surfaces with no issues. Naturally, the four-wheel drive system helped out a lot, as it did its job wonderfully and was able to send the power to the right wheel all of the time, giving us massive grip under any circumstances.
We suspect that the two-wheel drive variants are just as good with light off-roading, but for more serious driving, you will definitely need the all-wheel drive system. It isn’t as complicated or as advanced as some of the other AWD systems we’ve tested, but you can look at that as an advantage. You have fewer things to set up, and the chances of it failing are relatively low. The Montero S can be spec’d with two different 2.5 liter four-cylinder diesels in some markets, producing 100 kW and 326 Nm of torque in the 4D56 diesel and 133 kW with 430 Nm of torque at around 2,500 rpms in the more powerful 2.5 liter unit. Although the torque should be good, there’s no substitute for horsepower. The V6 MIVEC engine is the only option if you’re after a petrol variant, as well as something bigger than a four-cylinder. You do sacrifice some torque compared to the diesel, but the extra power more than makes up for it. If you’re willing to rev it out to get the most, it’s great. All engines are available in both two-wheel drive, as well as four-wheel drive configurations.
The AWD system will result in a minor power loss, as power gets diverted to all four-wheels, but the added security and capability it provides is more than worth it. Our short time in the Montero S taught us a few things. Firstly, you don’t need to have a big, expensive SUV specifically built for off-roading to have some fun on the rough stuff. The Montero S is one of the most affordable vehicles in its segment, making it a bargain every way you look at it. The value for money is simply unbelievable. It provides more capability and fun than a lot of its competitors, while being a lot cheaper. We won’t even mention Mitsubishi’s impeccable reliability record, as it’s a given.
Second, off-roading doesn’t have to be reserved just for certain people. If you own an SUV, regardless if its 4WD or 2WD, you can, and should, take it off-roading. Even a country such as Qatar has lots of diverse things to offer if you’re willing to explore it a bit. We didn’t test the Montero in the sand, but we’re relatively sure that it would perform reasonably well, given you respect its boundaries and treat it as a light-off roader, not a full-blown one. After all, manufacturers design them with certain off-road capabilities in mind, and it would be a real shame to never use them.
The lesson here is that anyone can take their SUV off-roading, regardless of what they drive, how old they are or what they do. All it takes is the right mindset. A good adventure doesn’t depend on the car or the actual places you’re visiting as much as it depends on the people, on you.
By: Tarek Hawchar | Photos: Natali Leonova