Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Jet Rabe | posted March 08, 2016 10:49
We put the all-new Montero Sport through its paces in Cebu
Perhaps a PPV (Pickup platform vehicle) that needs no introduction, the all-new Mitsubishi Montero Sport has been on the road for about a month now. We even reviewed it last month in top of the line form, the GT. Still, that didn't stop Mitsubishi from inviting us to drive their best-selling SUV in Cebu, taking us along for a scenic drive along the way.
When we landed in Cebu, we were handed the keys (fob?) to the “base” GLS variant. While the second generation Montero Sport still looks relatively fresh, the new model's exterior gets people talking. The front drew universal praise with its dynamic shield nose and sharp looking headlights. On to its side, the shape is classic Montero Sport with character lines and fender bulges giving the PPV a more handsome and aggressive look. It's the rear of the SUV that divides opinion with the teardrop look that extends all the way to the bottom of the tailgate. Whether you like it or not, it's all up to you. All in all, I think it will still look fresh even after five years.
It may have been the base model but the interior kit levels are highly competitive in the segment. You get a push button starter, a large, easy to use infotainment screen, steering wheel mounted controls and HID projector headlights. Base model no longer means basic for this generation of PPVs. You even get 18 inch wheels standard across the range.
After breakfast, we soon began out trek to Kandaya Resort, 123 kilometers away from Cebu City. Ahead of us lay a mix of heavy traffic, tight provincial roads and twisty mountain passes. I started the city drive of the tour and the first thing I noticed was the engine noise, or lack thereof. Gone is the shudder when you start a diesel and in its place is a gentle hum as you drive along. it has loads of steering feel too but it didn't feel heavy to steer the car around the city's congested streets. All in all, a quiet and refined city runabout.
Out of the city and in to provincial roads, it put the SUV's maneuverability to the test with random cars, tricycles and buses parked rather haphazardly on the side of the road. The Montero Sport proved to be rather agile as we found ourselves dealing with kamikaze overtaking maneuvers from oncoming traffic and the brakes are strong and progressive, very helpful as other motorists dove and cut into our convoy on several occasions. It was like that for the first half of the drive with us dodging obstacles throughout but the Montero Sport kept its composure and brought us safely to our lunch stop.
With satisfied bellies and a few minutes for socials, it was time to hit the road again and this time, it was my turn to take the passenger seat. With the new 4N15 MIVEC diesel gently humming in the background, the Montero Sport was offering a solid riding experience as well with its smooth, mid-size sedan-like ride and well cushioned seats. The 8 speed automatic was keeping things hushed inside the cabin too, jumping to sixth or seventh gear at about 60 km/h. From the passenger seat, the Montero Sport never felt wayward even on twisty roads even with its soft suspension. Because of that soft suspension, rutted roads didn't give us any headaches, literally and figuratively.
We arrived at our stop for the night at Kandaya Resort in Daanbantayan and we had the chance to look back on how the third-generation Montero Sport performed throughout the day. We were generally impressed with the new SUV thanks to its ride, handling, power, comfort and amenities. We didn't feel like we were missing out in the base model either. So far, so good then but more challenges await the Montero Sport the next day, as we were to drive them back in the heart of Cebu City.
As the new day greeted us, it was time for the second half of our drive around Cebu. This time, it was my turn to take the wheel and tackle the winding roads that lead back into the metropolis. As a passenger, the car felt planted but as a driver, the Montero Sport gave enough feedback to inspire confidence be it on tight bends or off-camber corners. Despite our base model not having stability control, I didn't feel any hint of instability on the byway which had mix of damp, dusty and dry conditions all the way.
While the brakes were good around the city with its progressive feel, out in the countryside, they were excellent at scrubbing off speed and never did it feel mushy or vague plus the pedal feel felt consistent throughout. The steering, although light on center, was well weighted in the twists and turns, making the Montero Sport rather engaging for a PPV. However, no matter how comfortable the Montero Sport is or how engaging it is to drive, fatigue eventually set in. After a quick driver change, I took the back seat and, according to my colleagues, was gone in an instant. Needless to say, the ride at the back was really comfortable.
The next thing I knew, I had woken up near the city refreshed and relaxed as we got closer to Radisson Blue, our final stop in this adventure. After over three hours on the road, we arrived in the hotel and as we were handing off the keys for the last time, I couldn't help but think how far the Montero Sport has come in its 20 year career. Unashamedly truck-like in its first generation, this new one approaches near crossover levels of refinement, comfort and driveability. It may feel softer and more grown up in this third iteration but this drive proved to us that this PPV is still more than capable of taking on whatever the roads or trails have to offer for more years to come.