Teaser after teaser and spy shots made the 2016 Mitsubishi Montero Sport one of the most awaited contenders of the PPV SUV Class of 2016. This was pretty much the mood when we first reported about its global debut in Bangkok, Thailand; a couple of weeks after its main rival, the 2016 Toyota Fortuner’s global debut.
Somehow alleged reports of sudden unintended acceleration by a local network managed to shatter its good image; casting a dark shadow on the upcoming 2016 Montero Sport.
However, Oscar Wilde once said, "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
After driving it for nearly a week, we definitely have something to talk about.
Mitsubishi has decided to fully apply the 'Dynamic Shield' face to the 2016 Montero Sport. Its overall exterior styling is heavily based on the GC-PHEV Concept which debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show; a concept initially thought to be the next-generation Pajero.
The latest iteration of the Montero Sport can be described as a well-chiseled and edgy block, primarily dominated by the 'Dynamic Shield' fascia with muscular wheel arches. This is a significant deviation from the previously rounded styling. The tail lights, however, leave much to be desired as designers seem to have taken a very 'unique' approach. Appearance is however a debatable subject.
It’s uncharacteristic to see that Mitsubishi opted to take a totally different design path from the Strada pickup, of which it is based upon. Its predecessor was quite similar to the pickup.
The interior design, while not something you would call revolutionary, is a significant improvement from its predecessor. It follows on the dynamic exterior design giving a modern and more premium Pajero-like feel. The accents are finished in piano black for the GLS Premium, compared to faux wood for the top-spec GT variant. The seats are wrapped in leather and seem to be better contoured for better comfort during long drives. The new four-spoke steering wheel is designed to mimic the front fascia while giving the driver access to a plethora of controls.
The second row is now more comfortable with better bolstered seating as well as a center headrest to better seat three passengers. The third row, while more complex than its competitors, has also been improved with a spring loaded one-pull mechanism to stow. It still comes with the small storage box to provide a fully-flat rear floor with the seats tucked in.
An AVT-powered infotainment system provides navigation and entertainment as well as readouts of the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system). Navigation was top-notch with perhaps the most comprehensive markings of POIs (perhaps too much) and warnings for speed bumps and speed limits. Sound quality was decent after some tweaking to the equalizer settings, however it was significantly deficient in bass.
Under the hood is the new 2.4-liter MIVEC diesel engine which is considerably revolutionary as it features variable valve timing, something absent in some of its competitors. Despite the smaller displacement compared to the long-enduring 4D56, the new 4N15 pushes out 181 metric horsepower and 430 Nm of torque. Being a new-generation diesel, it feels significantly smoother and more quiet. It is mated to a newly developed 8-speed automatic transmission specifically developed for the vehicle and engine. The INVECS transmission features both water and air cooling to improve efficiency and longevity.
The smoother 2.4-liter engine feels livelier and a lot more potent compared to the old slightly larger 2.5-liter mill. The new 8-speed transmission allocates power quite efficiently between gears. It’s very smooth between shifts and the manual mode is quick and easy to operate from either the paddle or the shift lever. In the city, 8.5 kms/liter was achieved in light to moderate traffic. Out on the open road, we achieved 14.3 kms/liter with a constant pace of 80 to 90 km/h.
Mitsubishi engineers definitely went back to the drawing board with the new model. One of the more significant improvements to the 2016 Montero Sport would be its suspension. It now features better suspension geometry and firmer but longer suspension travel, thus giving it better handling and comfort at the same time. Steering also feels more precise and the vehicle moves better with a lot less body roll. The brakes feel a lot more consistent and give just the right amount of grip to my liking.
For safety, it comes with airbags, ABS, EBD, traction control, sonar proximity sensors, reverse camera integrated to the multimedia interface. It now features an electronic parking brake in lieu of the conventional hand brake. For convenience it comes with a comfort access key with push start/stop ignition.
In a market with strong contenders such as the Chevrolet Trailblazer Ford Everest, Isuzu mu-X, and Toyota Fortuner, the 2016 Mitsubishi Montero Sport has definitely leveled up its game and really deserves to be talked about. Its merits and improvements alone are enough to justify its presence in the market. Unfortunately, all these have to come with a significantly higher price tag.