Since its launch back in 2016, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport has impressed us with its performance and equipment list. It didn't really need a refresh but Mitsubishi still went ahead and did it anyway. The facelifted model, launched in late 2019, simply built on the strengths of the pre-updated model, although the lack of a four-wheel-drive model was baffling for some.
Now, the real range-topper is here, and, on paper, it shows promise. It's loaded with even more safety kit than the top-spec two-wheel-drive models, and there's the bonus of off-road capability too. But spec sheets and feature highlights are just half of the story. A car may be fully loaded but if it doesn't impress on the road, then it's no good.
But before we dive into that, how can you tell the four-wheel-drive from the two-wheel-drive versions? At first glance, they're pretty much identical. Both have a tailgate spoiler, Bi-LED headlights, and even ride on the same wheels. Upon closer inspection, there are subtle differences.
The four-wheel-drive Montero Sport has cameras at the front and below the mirrors to accommodate the 360-degree camera. Also, this top-spec model is the only one with headlight washers so if it isn't there, you're looking at the two-wheel-drive version. An even more subtle change is the badge with the Mitsubishi diamond encased in a plastic housing. Its purpose? That's the sensor for the adaptive cruise control. As for the most obvious change, you have to go to the roof to see it. The Montero Sport 4x4 is the only one with a sunroof. It may be a small one, but a sunroof is a sunroof.
Inside, it's a familiar sight for Montero Sport owners, both past and present. The dashboard and interior panels are identical to the 2016 model. It's the same story for the instrument cluster, especially for those who already own the two-wheel-drive GT. It's a digital screen and it comes with three custom displays. As for ergonomics, it should be easy for those who grew up with Japanese cars. However, you have to be aware that the electronic tailgate opener is located in the center instead of the left-hand side.
Like the lower variants, this range-topper is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. So for those who don't like fiddling with the infotainment system to link Bluetooth, all you have to do is plug in your phone and that's it. You have your phonebook laid out for you, set Waze to your next destination, send a message via voice commands, and even play songs from Spotify, without ever reaching for your phone. You also get five charging ports, including a 220V socket at the back.
So are there any differences between the 4x2 and 4x4 models inside? Well, there are two, and it's mainly for the four-wheel-drive system. On the center stack, there's a button for the rear differential lock and on the console for the hill descent control and Super Select II system. Then there's the dial to shift the SUV from two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive.
Considering the Montero Sport is the smallest SUV in its class, there is still a fair amount of space inside. The headroom and legroom are generous despite the sunroof, although the foot room at the front is a little on the narrow side. At least Mitsubishi padded the center console to serve as a sort of knee rest, which should come in handy when going off-road. However, there is a limitation to its size. Since it's on the narrow side, putting three passengers in the middle row is a bit of a squeeze. Still, cargo space is good with a maximum volume of over 1,700 liters.
We've mentioned this before in previous Montero Sport reviews, but it's something worth repeating until Mitsubishi does something about it. It's about the third-row seat, To put it bluntly, it's downright awkward and difficult to set and stow those extra seats, which should be a simple one-step thing by now.
Current Montero Sport owners can relate to this. To put the third row up, you have to pull the backrests with a strap, then pull the seat bases down into place with some force. If you have short arms you'll have to go to the second row and push it into place until it locks. Repeat the same process for the other seat.
Like all variants of the Montero Sport, this model is powered by the 2.4-liter MIVEC turbodiesel engine. With the aid of variable valve timing, it produces 181 PS and 430 Nm of torque, which is the same as the pre-facelift model. Shifting is done with an eight-speed automatic transmission, just like before. Sadly, the manual transmission option is no longer available with four-wheel-drive.
So, does the 4x4 drive differently from the 4x2? Even though the two look similar, you feel the difference on the road. Whereas the two-wheel-drive models have a soft, pliant ride, this version rides firmer. Now, it's not harsh but you feel more of the bumps with the 4x4 when you drive it back to back with the 4x2. Perhaps Mitsubishi made the dampers stiffer to accommodate the extra weight of the four-wheel-drive system.
Because of the extra kilograms, there is a fuel economy penalty too. We'd typically achieve 9 to 10 kilometers per liter with the 4x2 versions, but the 4x4 was registering 7 to 8 kilometers per liter in city driving. It also feels a little bit sluggish off the line, but that's not to say it's slow. Once you get the turbo spooled, the four-wheel-drive Montero Sport can do pulls and overtakes as effortlessly as the lighter variants. It has to be said that it's relatively quiet for a diesel.
Other than those two points, it's similar to the 4x2's driving experience. The steering offers a fair amount of feedback, although some might say it's on the heavy side. As for handling, there is a noticeable amount of body lean on corners, but it isn't unnerving. Of course, it isn't meant to drive like a sports car, but all in all, road-holding isn't bad at all. It also helps that it comes standard with stability control.
All in all, it's much like the lesser variants in terms of the drive. However, the one thing that shocked us isn't with the SUV, but the price. This variant retails for a whopping Php 2,450,000, easily making it the most expensive mid-size SUV around. So why is it priced that way?
Mitsubishi loaded the top-spec Montero Sport with plenty of safety features. It includes forward-collision warning, forward collision mitigation (also known as automatic emergency braking), blind-spot warning, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert. An auto-dimming rear-view mirror is also standard, along with a knee-airbag for the driver. That brings the Montero Sport GT 4x4's airbag count to seven.
Also, the 4x4 has Mitsubishi's Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System (UMMS). In the case of pedal misapplication, this system slams on the brakes when an obstacle is detected. UMS can also work in reverse, which gives additional protection for occupants and pedestrians. It even has adaptive cruise control, which was a blessing in highway driving and stop-and-go traffic.
Last but not least is the Mitsubishi Remote Control mobile app. By downloading it, you can do various vehicle functions from your smartphone. Some of the things you can do include opening and closing windows, control the lights and even turn on or shut off the engine. It even comes with a vehicle reminder which informs the owner of anything that has been left on, open, or unlocked. You can also check vehicle stats like fuel economy. Plus, it even has a car locator to make finding your car in the parking lot much easier.
Does the extra equipment justify the price? Well, the jury is still out about the value proposition. If you take price out of the equation, the Montero Sport GT 4x4 is worthy of a spot on your driveway. But if you factor in your hard-earned cash, it's all up to you if you want to splash out on this range-topper. If not, the entry-level, two-wheel-drive GLS delivers most of what you need in a mid-size SUV, which is a comfortable, smooth, efficient, and practical ownership experience. But was the wait worth it for the 4x4 model? For die-hard Mitsubishi fans (with a lot of cash to spare), or those who need four-wheel drive, perhaps it's a yes.