2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport

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2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport

By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.5
Pros:
  • More compliant ride for 2000
  • Updated look this year
  • Real SUV character
Cons:
  • Entry-model pricing is way up
  • No manual transmission anymore
  • Less headroom and legroom than some competitors

For 2000, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport is growing out of its early styling, shedding its anemic 4-cylinder engine and promising a better ride. Now, if only something could be done about its name . . .

Mild redesigns in the auto industry can be boring. But Mitsubishi's mild makeover of its Montero Sport for the 2000 model year is deftly done.

It includes not just a nicely updated look that helps this sport-utility vehicle fit in with newer competitors but a redone rear suspension that provides a better ride on pavement.

Base price jumps
There is some bad news, though, for car shoppers on a tight budget. For the 2000 model year, Mitsubishi also revised the Montero Sport powertrain offerings and dropped the affordable-but-anemic 2.4-liter 134-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. The 5-speed manual transmission also isn't offered any longer.

This means the entry price for a 4-door Montero Sport rises from last year's $18,765, including manufacturer's suggested retail price plus destination charge, to more than $23,000.

But midrange models, such as the test XLS with 4-wheel drive, and up-level Montero Sports already had V6 engines, so their price differences from the 1999 model year are less dramatic, thank goodness.

A couple Monteros
Note that both of Mitsubishi's U.S. SUVs have "Montero" in their names. It's confusing, I know, and I wish the carmaker would do something to better differentiate these vehicles.

In the meantime, let me explain that the Montero Sport is smaller than the Mitsubishi Montero—sans Sport. But not by much.

In reality, the Montero Sport is a mere 7.8 inches shorter, overall, than the Montero, which is out as an early 2001 model. And the Montero Sport's 107.3-inch wheelbase is just 2.2 inches shy of that of the Montero.

Decent-sized SUV
So, don't be surprised that the 2000 Montero Sport looks sizable as you walk up to it—especially now that it has a bigger bumper and bolder, black grille up front.

Side molding is redone for a cleaner look and taillights are new this year, too. Tire sizes this year include 16-inchers. Sixteen-inch tires were on the test XLS and better filled the wheel wells, adding to a stalwart look.

All in all, the changes help the Montero Sport fit in with newer SUVs with bold front fascia styling such as the Ford Explorer Sport, Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute.

Too bad, though, that the old, wimpy door handles remain on the Montero Sport. They don't quite seem to convey the same styling message as the new touches.

Interior improvements
Inside, the two-tone instrument panel is nicely done and the look makes the pieces seem more integrated than before. Large, sturdy cupholders are moved down to a new center console, and the new Montero Sport offers an additional powerpoint.

Seats are improved, too—firm and comfortable. The driver's seat now offers adjustable back support—a nice feature.

But you still must climb up a ways to get into the seats in the Montero Sport. This is a real 4-wheel-drive vehicle, after all, not one of those pseudo SUVs. Ground clearance under the Montero Sport is a minimum 8.1 inches so the vehicle can clear obstacles when it's off road.

Also watch as you climb out, so you don't get bruised by sliding over the driver seat's hard plastic adjustment levers, which protrude upward from the side.

Equipment levels upgraded
Air conditioning is standard now in all Montero Sports and so are power windows, mirrors and door locks. An engine immobilizer is installed, too, to help thwart theft.

But the horn continues to be that little beep-beep thing you'd expect to find in a small Mitsubishi car—not in one of its burly sport utes.

Old leaf springs gone
The big engineering news this year is the rear suspension. Mitsubishi went from a rigid axle with leaf springs to a 3-link coil spring design that better manages pavement bounces.

The test XLS, for example, had a quite compliant ride on the highway. The ride was so cushioned, I nearly forgot that this SUV has a truckish, body-on-ladder-frame construction.

There is a good amount of bounce and spring when you go off road and travel too quickly over big bumps, however. The Montero Sport is no performer in the slalom. Body sway is considerable in this tall SUV, and there's a bit of a numb feel in the recirculating-ball steering system.

Sitting tall
But the tall ride height helps riders see out over other vehicles on the road, which is popular these days. I also liked the fact that with the driver seat adjusted high up, I could look out the windshield and see the hood of the Montero Sport.

But note that the Montero Sport, which stands as tall as a Ford Explorer four door, has less headroom, front and rear, than the Explorer.

Rear-seat legroom in the test Montero Sport was decent for someone 5-foot-4 like me, and it's more than the 31.8 inches in the 2001 Nissan Pathfinder. But the 2000 Explorer offers more.

I also noted that there's only a lap belt and no head restraint for the middle rider in the Montero Sport's back seat.

V6 power for all
The entry-level Montero Sport engine now is the 3.0-liter single overhead cam V6 that formerly was the midrange engine.

Offered in all but the upscale Montero Sport Limited, it generates a maximum 173 horsepower at 5250 rpm, which is between the 160 and 205 horsepower, respectively, of Ford's two 4.0-liter V6s offered in the Explorer. The Pathfinder's new V6 also provides more power—at least 240 horses.

Still, the test Montero Sport XLS accelerated easily from stoplights and in traffic and had smooth, pleasing shifts. Only when really pressed did the engine sound a bit rough.

The Montero Sport Limited models come with the bigger, 3.5-liter 200-horsepower V6 that's in the Montero.

Limited slip available
Note that there are both 2- and 4-wheel-drive models of Montero Sport available, and this year, a limited-slip differential is optional on the XLS and standard on the Limited models.

But it's not a stand-alone option for the XLs; it's part of a $2,000-plus premium package that adds leather seats and other items, too.

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BB05 - 8/22/2014 3:08:03 AM