SUV's today are domesticated. Most will be content living out their lives in the city with only the occasional curb to climb or shallow flood to wade through; with not one taste of the deep mud ruts, steep terrain or rocky paths they were intended to drive through. But that certainly doesn't mean their urban life is lacking in challenges.

Personally though, the Montero Sport GLS-V test unit couldn't have come at a better time as I was moving houses and could certainly use a hauler.

The GLS-V is proof positive that the green movement is gaining momentum around the world and the automotive industry. Manufacturers have been finding ways to boost power while reducing consumption and emissions. For the past year, Mitsubishi's Montero Sport has been leading its segment, and while down on power against its competitors, it's made up for the deficit with a more affordable price tag and unique styling.

Keenly aware of its shortcomings, it seems Mitsubishi's engineers have been hard at work developing a solution -the new variable geometry turbo (VGT) for select Montero Sport variants (indicated by a the "V" or "GTV").

Like any turbo fed engine, the turbine relies on exhaust gases to propel its blades. These are connected to a shaft which, in turn, force more air into the engine. The rate at which more air is sucked in depends highly on the speed of the engine. As such, this speed can change rapidly when changing gears, requiring the turbo to spool up again in order to pull more air in. With a variable geometry turbo, vanes that direct air into the turbine change angle (or geometry) allowing it to push more air in even at low engine speeds. These vanes twist as the exhaust gases increase, providing a constant flow of air and pressure throughout the revolution range. With this addition, it takes less time for the turbine to spool up and it allows the engine to produce more power over a broader range. When applied to the Montero Sport's 2.5 liter direct injection diesel, it produces a staggering 178 ps of power and 350Nm of torque (15 ps and 7Nm more than the previous 3.2 liter turbo diesel Montero Sport). In addition, the top of the line Montero Sport GTV will also benefit from a new 5-speed A/T to better enjoy the newfound power.

This new model, equipped with a 2.5 liter common rail diesel engine with a variable geometry turbo (VGT), boasted of a 15% improvement in power over the previous 3.2 liter's 163 hp. Not only was it more powerful and responsive, the smaller engine also made for better fuel economy. Its combination of more power with better fuel mileage would also help squeeze in more trips, hauling boxes from house to house.

Yet all of this isn't apparent from the Montero Sport GLS-V looks, almost identical to its non-VGT equipped predecessor. Sharing a platform with the Strada, the resemblance is easily seen in the vehicle's front fascia as the trapezoidal headlamps and diagonally slanted grille inserts. Chrome mirrors add a distinct touch while massive wheel flairs house 17 inch wheels. A sleek profile keeps things nice and subtle towards the rear. Just after the rear wheel, the back grows a shoulder, continued in the back by the wide tail lights that reach toward the Mitsubishi logo in the center.

Inside is a simple interior that emulates the vehicle's rounded wedge nose. The two-tone dashboard is crowned by a 3-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Speed, tachometer and various other info are separated into three dials. On the center dash, between the two air con vents, sits a multi-information display revealing real time a compass, altimeter and barometer. It also doubles as a screen for GPS navigation, or movies. The touch screen interface grants easy access between functions. Climate controls are just below, separated into three dials. Audio is handled by the MP3, iPod, USB ready and Bluetooth capable head unit. Whatever music medium you have will be routed through 6 speakers with tweeters. This being a med range model means resting on the center divider will be the 4-speed automatic transmission with Invecs II Sportronic mode (not the 5-speed A/T found in the top of the line model). Despite the shifter's chunky appearance, it is light and easy to slide through the gears.

Over in the rear is the key feature of the Montero Sport I'd need the most; its flexible seating configuration. The 2nd and 3rd row can be folded flat to allow for large and bulky cargo, perfect for moving. Folding just half of the second row grants space for long items. The third row simply hides into the floor for normal cargo needs. The cargo area also has small recesses to neatly hide tools, straps and any other small equipment.

Keeping the vehicle high above the ground are a set of double wishbone coil springs with a stabilizer in front while 3-link coil springs with a stabilizer keep the rear up.

Safety hasn't been forgotten either as all passengers have their own seatbelts, dual stage SRS airbags are standard and ABS and EBD bring the car to a stop without drama. Even this mid-spec model features additional safety gadgets like the tire pressure monitoring system and reverse sensors.

Of course the real test here would be accommodating load after load and making repeated trips from house to house with little complaint. 2nd row seats folded with ease. With the 2nd row folded, the 3rd row seats could fold completely flat. From there, it was just a matter of sliding box after box, furniture after furniture all the way to the back.

Even with a full load of cargo, the Montero's ride remained soft and comfortable. It would lean a bit in turns but was far from feeling out-of-control or overloaded. There was noticeably less turbo lag as the engine would pick up as early as 2,000 rpm and rapidly accelerate from there. All this power made it very easy to reach cruising speed and simply coast from there to save fuel. Once at the new house, the reverse sensors made it easy to back up, as all the cargo made it impossible to see out the back. New features like built-in GPS Navigation and iPod connectivity make the drive even better. The latest version of AVT's GPS Navigation system even provides a preview of the overpass / underpass / interchange you're about to encounter on the side of the screen with an arrow directing you where to go. The only complaint is that the car seems to take more turns at the wheel (from lock to lock) to get around a corner.

It was late at night by the time all the boxes were finally moved, the last pieces being a long bench, a futon and one last box. Despite the odd mix, they managed to all fit easily, reducing the number of trips, averaging 9 km/L and leaving more than half a tank to spare.

At the end of it all, it's clear the Montero Sport passed the moving test with flying colors. Lots of cargo capacity, a new powerful and fuel efficient engine and a great ride should put it at the top of anyone's list. Though far from its natural off-road environment, the features found in the Montero Sport GLS-V show that it's just as well suited to urban life.
  • Make:Mitsubishi
  • Model:Montero Sport GLS-V 4x2
  • Engine:2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve CRDI VGT Intercooler
  • Max Power:178 PS @ 4000 rpm
  • Max Torque:350 Nm @ 1800-3500 rpm
  • Transmission:4-Speed A/T with manual mode
  • Price as Tested: