Not long after introducing the compact Outlander sport utility vehicle, Mitsubishi now has another SUV ready for sale — which makes a total of four in its lineup. Slotted squarely between the larger Montero and the smaller Montero Sport, the midsize Endeavor differs from those two in that it’s intended mainly for on-road motoring and bad-weather usage. A dual-range transfer case is not included, so its offroad capabilities are somewhat limited. Mitsubishi considers it a crossover model, and it is built on an all-new chassis.
During its introduction at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January 2003, Pierre Gagnon, chairman and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America, noted that the Endeavor is the first product of Project America, which emphasizes vehicles that are designed, built and sold on this continent. Mitsubishi isn’t shy about extolling the Endeavor’s appeal, stating that it “promises to connect with one’s emotions and stir the soul.”
Three versions will be available: the LS, midrange XLS and top-of-the-line Limited. Each is offered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Endeavors are manufactured in Normal, Ill.; they went on sale in February 2003.
The Endeavor’s styling evolved from that of Mitsubishi’s SSU concept vehicle, which was seen at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. Mitsubishi describes the exterior as “sophisticated, intimidating, yet handsome.” A particularly bold front end features a louvered grille that leads to accent lines along the hood. Large wheel openings are joined by accent lines to prominent, creased wheel arches. Cast-aluminum wheels hold 17-inch tires, and they are rated for mud and snow usage.
The Endeavor rides a 108.7-inch wheelbase, stretches 190.2 inches long overall and measures 73.6 inches wide. Ground clearance is 8.3 inches. The bumper garnish is black on the LS, chrome-plated on the XLS and body-colored on the Limited edition. The Limited model also features fog lamps. The exterior mirrors are black on the LS and body-colored on the other models. The Endeavor has a fully independent suspension and all-disc brakes. A power sunroof is optional.
Five occupants fit inside the Endeavor, which has the same capacity as the Outlander and Montero Sport. (Mitsubishi’s Montero seats seven.) Rear passengers in the Endeavor get a 60/40-split, folding backseat. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat is 40.7 cubic feet, which grows to 76.4 cubic feet when the seat is folded down. The back window opens independently of the liftgate.
At night, the center controls emit blue backlighting. The XLS is equipped with such extras as premium seat upholstery, a power driver’s seat and a 315-watt CD stereo with controls mounted on the steering wheel. Options include leather upholstery and an anti-theft system. Leather backseat vent controls and a tire-pressure monitor are standard in the Limited.
Derived from the engine in the Montero Sport, the Endeavor’s 3.8-liter V-6 generates 225 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque. The four-speed-automatic transmission incorporates a Sportronic manual gear-change provision. Models with all-wheel drive have a viscous coupling that transfers torque between the front and rear axles. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds in Endeavor models equipped with all-wheel drive and a Towing Prep Package.
Antilock brakes are optional on the front-drive XLS and standard on the Limited and all all-wheel-drive versions. Side-impact airbags are standard in the Limited and optional in the XLS. An Active Skid and Traction Control (ASTC) electronic stability system on the Limited model will be offered later as an option.
Despite being Mitsubishi’s largest SUV, the Endeavor is a surprisingly enjoyable vehicle of manageable size. It handles with a light touch and maneuvers with easy agility in corners. The Endeavor is almost fun to drive — which is hardly the case with many SUVs — as its ride quality beats the class norm, thanks to the vehicle’s somewhat cushiony suspension. The V-6 engine delivers a satisfying burst of power when needed for passing. Mitsubishi’s automatic transmission yields prompt, confident responses, devoid of awkwardness.
The Endeavor’s visibility from the inside is great all around. Even with a sunroof, front headroom is good; elbow space is abundant. The seats are rather softly cushioned, with only modest bolstering and mediocre support. Backseat space is roomy at the sides and tolerable in the center. The high-mounted information screen is helpful and easy to read. The interior looks a little on the cheap side with a rough edge or two. The SUV’s controls are near and clear, and the bright-rimmed gauges are easy to read.