The latest addition to Mitsubishi's stable of sport-utility vehicles, Endeavor, is part of the growing niche of midsize SUVs that are based on passenger-car platforms. Known as crossover vehicles, they're designed to blend the attributes of SUVs,
minivans and passenger cars. Endeavor competes with popular crossovers Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. These vehicles are all designed to look like brawny truck-based SUVs while riding and handling like cars. The trade-off is lower towing capacity
and milder off-highway capabilities. Like its competition, Endeavor is a practical hauler for families and gear, performing the regular tasks of a roomy station wagon rather than the tough jobs of a truck. Because this is all most people expect of
their SUVs, the crossover formula makes sense. Endeavor recently hit the showrooms as a 2004 model, fitting in above the compact Outlander. Mitsubishi also has a couple of truck-based SUVs: the high-end Montero and the smaller Montero Sport.
What it is Endeavor is an appealing midsize SUV with a roomy interior for five people and sharp styling. Based on the chassis of the next-generation Gallant and Eclipse, Endeavor's smooth driving characteristics make it a worthy contender against
Highlander and Pilot. Three trim levels are offered: a base LS model; an XLS with more standard equipment and a longer list of options; and Limited, the loaded luxury model. Each model comes in front- or all-wheel drive. The test Endeavor was a
front-drive LS, which offers a high level of features at a moderate price. Engine and transmission A 3.8-liter, overhead-cam V-6 is standard in the Endeavor, delivering strong power and quick acceleration for this 2-ton SUV. There is some
harshness under full throttle, but overall, this engine feels responsive and sophisticated. In the front-wheel-drive test SUV, torque steer tugged the steering wheel under power, though not too badly. The 3.8 is a new engine for Mitsubishi, an
upgrade of the long-running 3.5-liter engine. With 215 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, Endeavor has less horsepower but more torque than the Toyota or Honda competitors. On the highway, Endeavor rolls nicely at 75 mph, with plenty of power
for passing and merging. The four-speed automatic shifts well under most conditions, but in the tester, it occasionally would downshift with a harsh grab that was abrupt and startling. The transmission includes a manual-shift setting as well as
full automatic. Handling and drivability This is where crossover SUVs are superior to truck-based SUVs. Though tall and heavy, Endeavor handles as well as most automobiles. Rack-and-pinion steering, all-independent suspension and four-wheel
disc brakes help Endeavor feel responsive and maneuverable. There is some body sway in corners, but Endeavor feels stable and balanced in turns
and on winding roads. The suspension soaks up most rough surfaces, though some bumps make the body jump and jiggle. Anti-lock brakes are optional on the front-drive models, standard on all-wheel-drive. Styling Unlike the placid styling of
Highlander and Pilot, Endeavor has an angular and aggressive look, with sharply flared fenders and a wide stance. A widely split grille punctuates its sloping nose. Interior A spacious interior is one of Endeavor's best features, with enough
room for everyone on board. Its wide stance provides plenty of shoulder and hip room, and passengers in the rear seat have decent legroom. The dashboard and door panels have a stylishly modular look, with nicely textured surfaces. The center section,
with the audio and climate-control systems, is made of hard plastic with a brushed-aluminum tone. It looks like a boom-box stereo from Kmart. The center console has practical features
for stowage, but the execution feels chintzy. A nice touch is the small LED screen on the upper dash that shows radio stations, time and other functions. Pricing At a base price of $25,597, the LS comes nicely equipped lots of amenities,
such as air-conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; a 140-watt, six-speaker audio system with CD player; alloy wheels; and cruise control. Options on the test SUV were a security package of anti-lock brakes, side air bags and alarm system,
$950; a full-size spare and towing package, $300; and shipping, $600. Total: $27,447. Bottom line Endeavor is a stylish alternative to the popular Highlander and Pilot, with a sporty look, accommodating interior and carlike drivability.
Mitsubishi Endeavor LS Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door SUV, front-wheel drive. Base price: $25,597. Price as tested: $27,447. Engine: 3.8-liter V-6, 215 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, 250 pound-feet of torque at 3,750 rpm.
Transmission: Four-speed automatic. Wheelbase: 108.7 inches. Curb weight: 3,847 pounds. EPA mileage: 19 city, 29 highway. Highs: Good performance. Roomy interior. Value pricing. Lows: Chintzy interior trim.
Mild torque steer. Transmission woes.