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Expert Reviews 2 of 2
By Jim Mateja
November 21, 1988
Ever walk into a store to be greeted at the door by a sign reading: ``Positively no returns or refunds. All sales final.`` Rather ominous warning that what you`re getting into can`t be taken lightly. Like getting married. When test driving
the 1989 Mitsubishi Montero four-wheel-drive utility vehicle, there also was an ominous warning that took some of the pleasure out of the experience. We pulled down the sun visor and found the printed message the government requires all utility
vehicle manufacturers to post. It states: ``As with other vehicles of this type, if you make sharp turns or abrupt maneuvers the vehicle may roll over or may go out of control and crash.`` The surgeon general`s warning on a pack of smokes
seems tame by comparison. Four-wheel-drive utility vehicles stand tall to allow for the required hardware as well as the extra road clearance needed for heavy snows or to avoid those occasional obstructions when off-roading. The higher
center of gravity means a little wobble in turns and corners and the feeling you don`t want to make any major decisions at high speed on less than straight roads. The Montero seemed to sit even a bit higher than a Cherokee, Bronco II or S-10 Blazer.
Mitsubishi doesn`t make occupants feel any better by placing an ``Inclinometer`` in the dash, a gyroscope like device that shows the movable angle of the vehicle up hills, on inclines or around turns. A clever device before all the concern over rollovers,
but today it`s like walking on a plane and seeing a parachute strapped on the stewardess. Mitsubishi added a longer four-door Montero for 1989 as a companion to its two-door model. The four-door is built on a 106-inch wheelbase and is 181.7 inches
long overall, a hefty increase from the 92.5-inch wheelbase and 155.9 inch overall length on the two-door. The extended length and longer wheelbase keeps occupants at a distance from the axles and the point of greatest road harshness. The rear
coil suspension contributes to a fairly smooth ride as well. Despite the longer wheelbase there`s still the high center of gravity. If Montero sat a few inches closer to the pavement, handling probably would be better, especially in corners and turns, and
the driver would have more of a perception of safety. Montero`s four-wheel-drive system is a part-time unit that requires you get out and lock the hubs to engage. Those television ads featuring Ford and Chevrolet trucks crossing water and the Ford
drivers having to get out and lock hubs is an effective means of promoting the benefits of full-time four- wheel drive. Though Ford and Chevy are talking about four-door utility vehicles to compete with the Cherokee from Chrysler, the Japanese
producer has delivered. Families like the foul weather security four-wheel drive offers, but they prefer four doors to two. Regardless of the number of doors
, don`t expect an eye popper in the looks department. Montero was designed for the Japanese market and styling wasn`t a top priority. Mitsubishi says: ``The exterior alludes to the outback.`` Apt description of what looks like across between a Willys Jeep
and an International Harvester Scout. Inside, there`s lots of head room, but though Mitsubishi focused on adding length, it shortchanged adults on width. Montero tries to offset the shortcomings in style and roominess with a peppy
143-horsepower, fuel-injected, 3-liter V-6 teamed with a 5-speed transmission as standard and automatic with overdrive an option. Automatic is standard on the top of the line Montero LS we tested. Standard equipment on the LS includes AM/FM
stereo, power brakes/ steering/windows/door locks, cruise control, tinted windows, rear window defroster and side window defoggers, intermittent wipers, all-season, steel- belted radial tires, tilt wheel, an adjustable air suspension sy
tem for the driver`s seat like that used on long distance semis, a 24.3 gallon fuel tank, a foldable rear seat back to increase carrying capacity, a variety of stowage compartments, rear-seat headrests and a tailgate mounted spare. The rear seat headrests
and spare tire on the tailgate block some rear-view vision. Base price on the four-door Montero is $17,099 with 5-speed, $17,789 with automatic. On the LS with automatic the base price is $18,389. Four doors and a peppy engine, but the
Montero won`t capture any styling awards.