Give 'em what they want.That's the philosophy automakers have lived by for several years-or at least since they finally realized that "Give 'em what we want" no longer worked. For the 1994 model year, Mitsubishi responded to consumer pressure and made a variety of changes to its Montero sport-utility vehicle. Consumers wanted a driver-side air bag. They got one, though they wanted a safety cushion on the passenger side, too, but Mitsubishi didn't deliver. Getting one of two on your wish list is better than none at all. Consumers wanted seating for seven and not just five. Got it. There's now a couple of mini seats in a third row to fit a couple of tykes. However, to get to the third row of seats, you first must get into the vehicle and past the second row. To do so you add a running board to make the climb into Montero or stand back about 10 steps and take a running leap into the rear cabin. In other words, the four-wheel Montero SR we drove sits rather high off the ground and makes entry a tad tricky unless you are an Olympic pole vaulter. Once you've reached the second seat, you need only pull a handle and the seat slides forward for access to those two jump seats in back. Even with the second seat forward, however, you better be aerobically inclined-or awfully small-to get into the third seat. Consumers wanted a more powerful engine than the 3-liter, 151-horsepower, V-6. They got it with a new 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, 24-valve, V-6 that delivers a potent 215 h.p. However, be prepared to visit your friendly local gas station frequently because the 3.5's mileage rating is only 14 miles per gallon city/17 m.p.g. highway. You've got power to climb that hill, but there better be an Amoco or Shell or Mobil at the top. Consumers also wanted an air conditioner that wouldn't spew Freon into the atmosphere. Mitsubishi delivered. What consumers didn't get-other than two air bags, easy access to the passenger compartment (as well as the third seat) and improved fuel economy-is 20th Century styling. Mitsubishi says the Montero has "handsome, contemporary design." Sure, if a Willys Jeep was setting the design standard, Montero would be a trendsetter. But the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Chevy Blazer have established the fashion vogue and that leaves Montero looking like a big box on wheels. Montero looks like the designers took a vacation when the engineers stepped in to add an air bag and a couple extra seats. Montero stands tall to handle four wheeling, but in addition to making entry difficult, its off-the-ground stature also makes it a bit top-heavy. With oversized tires, it tends to wobble a bit in corners and turns. Basically, if your idea of a sport-utility vehicle is to travel through creeks or climb dirt hills or cruise sandy beaches (compass/altimeter standard), the Montero will suffice. If you s pend most of your time on the road, you will suffer. The Montero SR we tested had one unusual quirk. The ignition key couldn't be removed from its holder unless the gear shift lever was in "park." But sometimes when the lever was in park, the key still wouldn't release. Aside from the obvious problem of inviting thievery by leaving a key in the ignition, this quirk presented one other difficulty because you need the ignition key to open the fuel filler door. And with a 14/17 rating, you have to use that key often. When you pull up to the pump and the key won't budge from the ignition, panic tended to set in. The solution was to give the shift lever our best imitation of a martial arts chop to ensure it made it all the way into "park." And the hand will be fine in a couple of weeks, thank you. Base price is an eye-popping $31,475. Standard equipment other than that noted includes air conditioning, power windows/door locks, remote keyless entry( ush unlock or lock buttons on the key fob to unlock /lock the doors), cruise control, power brakes and steering, alloy wheels, full-size spare with cover, anti-lock brakes, headlamp washers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, side door guard beams, and rear window wiper/washer/defroster. Our test vehicle added leather seating, burled walnut trim and power driver's seat for $1,748, power sunroof for $688 and rear locking differential for $400. The sticker read $34,311 to which you add $445 in freight.
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