Behind the wheel of the upcoming all-new Montero Sport

2ND OPINION - Manny N. de los Reyes (The Philippine Star) - November 10, 2015 - 9:00am

TOKYO, Japan — One of the most anticipated upcoming launches in the Philippines is that of the Montero Sport. This midsized SUV singlehanded made Mitsubishi a brand to be desired and impressively took the battle to the nigh-invincible Toyota Fortuner.

Which is why I was fortunate to be part of the media delegation that Mitsubishi sent to the recently concluded Tokyo Motor Show, a side activity of which included an off-road test drive of the yet-to-be-launched (said to be early next year) Montero Sport.

Like its predecessor (and most of its competitors, for that matter), the Montero Sport is based on a pickup platform—the new Strada’s. But you’d never know it from even an upclose look. I’m not so crazy about the Strada’s styling, but I really get the new Montero Sport. The grille may have lots of chrome like the Strada, but the execution is much less tacky. I particularly like the almost Lexus-like spindle shape of the air intake opening, which goes from the grille all the way down to near the bottom edge of the front bumper. The headlamps wrap around to the front fenders and meld seamlessly with the grille. Overall, it’s a very sophisticated and characterful front end that’s almost reminiscent of a Japanese robot.

The side view might take a little getting used to. It’s an assemblage of curves, straight lines, bulges, and flat panels—with even a scooped out character line just below the D-pillar. Credit goes to Mitsubishi designers that the overall look didn’t result in a car that looks like it’s been welded together from different vehicles. The side view still manages to present an interesting angle. You wouldn’t call it beautiful or graceful; purposeful, maybe. I’m reminded of the Chris Bangle era of BMW’s with their concave and convex shapes on the same panel.

The rear end retains the side’s radical departure from traditionalism, with those distinctive guitar pick-shaped taillamps stretching all the way down to the edges of the rear bumper. This is a dramatic design turnaround from its predecessor, which had horizontal taillamps. The rear bumper is almost flush with the tailgate.

Overall, it’s a very avant garde design that should get heads turning and people talking.

So how does it drive? We didn’t get to drive it on pavement, Mitsubishi bravely deciding to release both vehicles and the media off road. Driving at slow to medium speeds (the course would allow perhaps a maximum of 70 km/h for very brief stretches), we purposefully dropped the Montero Sport into potholes and over a simulated washboard stretch that tested the vehicle’s chassis stiffness and axle articulation.

Needless to say, the Montero Sport breezed through the exercises—almost like the course was made specifically for it (or vice versa). And it did so with impressive comfort and composure. The current Montero Sport is already one of the better-riding SUV’s in its class and the new one promises to consolidate that advantage further. Its off-roading capabilities are right up there with the world’s best SUV’s and 4x4’s. Dakar Rally champion Hiroshi Masuoka hurtled a Montero Sport at extremely high speed on the course—taking corners so fast you’d swear the vehicle would roll over and leaping over small hills with all four wheels airborne. The car took everything in stride.

Credit goes to the Montero Sport’s state-of-the-art drivetrain and chassis hardware and software, which boast Mitsubishi’s second-generation Super Select 4WD-II. This system uses a center differential that can transfer torque between the front and rear axles in an almost infinite number of ratios. It can be programmed for low- or high-speed driving on gravel, mud/snow, rocks, and pavement.

Other drive technologies include Active Stability & Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, and Hill Start Assist.

Inside, there is lots of space for seven. Build quality is top notch. The controls are very ergonomic. There is a 7-inch touchscreen in the dash for audio and navigation but the A/V specs for the Philippines haven’t been finalized yet.

What we can look forward to is the all-new 4N15 2.4-liter 4-cylinder common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel engine with MIVEC variable valve timing—the first diesel engine in the world to have this technology. It generates 181 ps and 430 Nm of torque. Mated to a class-leading 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, the Montero Sport now boasts of one of the most advanced drivetrains in the world.

Pricing won’t be announced until the new model’s launch. But with the recent introduction of the all-new Ford Everest and the impending launches of this Montero Sport and the all-new Toyota Fortuner, the pickup-based midsize 7-seater SUV category is now shaping up to become one epic trial by combat.

Let the games begin!



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