Vince Pornelos / Vince Pornelos | February 02, 2016 08:54
Return of the Champ
Needless to say, the Montero Sport has now become a household name, but not the way Mitsubishi intended. The repeated efforts to put out alleged cases of sudden unintended acceleration have damaged the reputation that the brand has built over the decades. But unless there is a reputable and competent third party that can fully investigate the matter, it will have to be settled for another day.
For now, however, Mitsubishi is eager to put that behind them, and as fate would have it, bannering their charge is this: the second generation of the Montero Sport.
When photos of the new Montero Sport first started emerging on the web, we didn't think it was a looker. But when we first walked up to the second gen pick-up passenger vehicle (PPV) for the first time, it was a different story.
The front end is definitely striking, featuring a “Dynamic Shield” fascia that is a far cry from the Boulay nose/grille that started with the Mitsubishi Grandis; a look so-named after designer Olivier Boulay. There's a liberal application of chrome on the front outlining the grille and swept headlamps. There's still a throwback to the Boulay nose with the shape of the emblem, but its surrounded by plenty of details that give it more character. The new look is more prominent, and establishes the new family look of Mitsubishi Motors that will be seen in other models.
Mitsubishi also tried to break up the typically slab-sided nature of the SUV by utilizing some character lines similar to the ones used in its brother, the Strada. The greenhouse at the side, like its predecessor, has blacked out B- and C-pillars to create the effect of a single glass area, and has been reshaped to give it a more modern look. The wheels are also larger at 18 inches for this 4WD variant, and are shod in highway tires for everyday driving.
The unusual thing about the new Montero Sport is the treatment of the rear. Unlike the rounded nature of the previous model, this one is more upright and features a rather unusual taillight design with an LED rim. To tell you the truth it's a polarizing finish to the overall look; you either like it or you don't.
The really good thing about the Montero Sport is the treatment of the interior. Mitsubishi could have just taken the dashboard and the doorpanels from the Strada and massaged it a bit to fit an SUV/PPV. But they didn't. Instead they developed an entirely new interior that, even considering the cabin of the Everest, is impressive in its own right.
The architecture of the dash is the same, but there was a clear dilineation in terms of design from the Strada in the choice of the overall form, the raised center console, and the shape of the center stack. Even the inner doorpanels are more futuristic in design especially with those massive doorhandles.
Settling in, it was clear Mitsubishi paid plenty of attention to the quality of the materials and the consistency of the build. The “Dynamic Shield” theme continues to the steering wheel, and the leather wrap is very comfortable to the touch. The shifter for the automatic gearbox offers a full grip that's premium in feel. I'm not a fan of faux wood, but the shade that they chose does work for this top-spec variant and contrasts well with the silver accents.
Of course being a top-of-the-line model, this Montero Sport GT 4WD comes with all the bells and whistles for you to show off to your neighbor. Your usual standard power features are all there (windows, central locks, steering), but the GT 4WD also gets things like tilt and telescopic adjustable steering, audio controls on the wheel, cruise control, a 2-DIN audio system that has Bluetooth, USB, Aux-in, DVD playback and GPS navigation. Safety is tantamount, so it also gets an integrated stability and traction control systems, a tire pressure monitoring system, ISO-Fix anchors (for child seats), ABS, EBD, brake assist, brake override (cuts off throttle when the brakes are depressed) and even an electronic parking brake. A dual zone A/C system is standard along with a rear A/C, back-up sensors and a reverse camera. There is even a Forward Collision Mitigation System (FMCS) which is similar to the one that Volvo and Ford use to automatically brake their vehicles at city speeds (up to about 30 km/h) if it senses an impending collision. If anything, the GT 4WD has its priorities straight, and you can even pop open the motorized sunroof if you want a bit of sun.
As before, there's seating for seven. The seats are wrapped in leather as well (in this GT 4WD variant), and they score top marks in my book for plushness especially with the wrinkle-style stitching similar to the seats of the second generation Pajero. What I think Mitsubishi could have worked on more was the mechanism for the third row. The second row is easy to fold and tumble forward for cargo space, but the third row is still rather complex to stow.
The biggest change in the Montero Sport is its heart. The long overdue implementation of Euro-IV fuel as standard has allowed Mitsubishi to depart from the venerable 4D5 and 4M4 series diesel engines that trace their roots back to the 80's and 90's, respectively, but have been updated with technology like common-rail direct injection and variable geometry turbochargers.
Today's new Montero Sport gets the 4N15 engine; a new generation, all-aluminum powerplant that -on top of the CRDI and VGT technology- uses the MIVEC valve timing system. As a result, the smaller 4N15 makes 2% more power than the 4D56 at 181 PS (previous: 178 PS) and 23% more torque at 430 Nm (previous: 350 Nm) despite being slightly less in displacement at 2442cc (previous: 2476cc).
At low speeds, the Montero Sport drives to impress. The suspension, as expected, is pliant and very well tuned to handle third-world roads (i.e. ours). Noise from the 4N15 is also minimal, and there's little wind noise at 80 -100 km/h. Build consistency is also good, as evidenced by the lack of any creaks or rattles. The surprising thing about the Montero Sport is its turning radius at 5.6 meters; surprising for a truck-based SUV.
The gearbox, previously a 5-speed auto, is now an 8-speed. It's actually quite an interesting development, as this new 8-AT was designed specifically for the Montero Sport/Pajero Sport and the 4N15. It's both watercooled and aircooled so as to prolong its life and service intervals. The presence of more gears allows for better acceleration when floored and likewise good efficiency as the ratios keep the revs low when driven sensibly. As a result, efficiency in low speed driving yielded 10.5 km/l (light traffic, 25 km/h average).
Being a 4WD means the Montero Sport is fun to play with on the dirt; a place where Mitsubishi's Ralliart credentials shine through. The maximum wading depth is at 700mm, but unless it has dedicated M/T (mud terrain) or A/T (all terrain) tires, it's best to steer clear of truly tricky trails. But that said, it does have a drive mode to take on off-road terrain, and 4WD Low range can also be activated for the challenging stuff.
Even when flogged on flat but loose dirt and gravel, the MS displays a drive that has plenty of controllability and a progressive nature; by the feel of the wheel, you can easily feel if the tires are going to slide or slip. The brakes can easily rein in the Montero Sport, and the balance of the braking (thanks to ventilated discs in front and solid discs in the back) is good for its size. With traction control off and in 2WD mode in the dirt, kicking the back out is easy. And fun.
With the Montero Sport's level up in -uh- everything, a price hike was really expected. As it stands, the 2016 Mitsubishi Montero Sport GT 4WD retails for PhP 1,998,000, making it the most affordable top-spec variant when compared to the new Fortuner and Everest, respectively.
Of course there are those who will still insist that SUA actually exists even though Mitsubishi has already exhausted every technical test or effort (and then some) available to replicate the claims. That's fine; we're all free to believe what we want to. But, if you do, you just might be missing out on the many great things they did to level up the new generation Mitsubishi Montero Sport.