|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Understanding very well that the PPV or the Pickup-based Passenger Vehicle has come a long way since the early 2000’s and that it’s a fundamental part of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines’s product lineup, the 2016 Montero Sport brings the big guns to this fight. The biggest one is the all-new 2.4-liter turbo diesel engine dubbed the 4N15. Serving as a replacement to the long serving 4D56, it makes the 2016 Montero Sport the first PPV to be Euro-4 compliant for its January launch in the Philippines. Although the 181 horsepower and 430 Nm of torque output isn’t enough to win it in outright spec sheet power, the addition of MIVEC does mean excellent real world drivability. It features a unique two-peak power/torque curve with 161 horses available at 2,800 rpm before kicking up to full power at 3,500 rpm. It’s the same with the torque where 400 Nm is delivered at 1,500 rpm before peaking once more at 2,500 rpm. Combined with the engine’s (and the vehicle’s) lower weight, 0-100 km/h comes in around 11 seconds—or just as fast as another PPV boasting 200 horsepower from its 3.2-liter inline-5. And unlike that other PPV, the Montero Sport’s regenerative braking system allows for a 17 percent improvement in fuel efficiency along with CO2 emissions that dip below 200g/km—the lowest in its class.
Mated to the engine is an Aisin-sourced 8-speed automatic—the first for Mitsubishi which allows the engine to work much more efficiently and effectively across a wider rev range. It has an idling neutral control that reduces internal energy loses caused by the torque converter when the vehicle is stationary in Drive improving fuel consumption when stuck in traffic. Moreover, it has paddle shifters allowing the driver to change gears at any time without removing his hands from the steering wheel.
Using Mitsubishi’s vast motorsports experience, the 2016 Montero Sport lives up the ‘Sport’ part of its name thanks to the Super Select 4WD-II system allowing it shift between different drive modes. Together with a center differential, it has a default front-to-rear torque split of 40/60. It has four modes: 2H (for dry tarmac), 4H (dirt and roads covered in rain), and two modes that lock the center differential: 4HLc (sand and snow), and 4LLc (mud and rock). Adding to its sure-footedness is the addition of Off-road Mode Selector with four pre-configured modes: Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand, and Rock which alters engine, transmission, and brakes to control the amount of tire slip maximizing performance. A rear locking differential adds further to its off-road credentials.
Aside from the drivetrain itself, another aspect that’s going to win fans over is the Montero Sport’s head-turning good looks. Using the new Dynamic Shield front fascia design, it looks more like a concept car rather than a production vehicle. The wrap-around front bumpers and integrated skid plate give it its unmistakable mecha-like appearance while the chrome-trimmed grille exudes a high-end feel. On the highest-end model, it comes with LED headlights and LED daytime running lights to give it an even more advanced looking design. The side, offers a strong character line that stretches from the headlight to the rear fenders. Together with the high beltline, it gives a clean and sleek look. The rear portion though is perhaps the most controversial with the drooping LED tail lights. Nonetheless, it’s been done to achieve an immediately identifiable lighting signature without sacrificing the tailgate size—it’s one of the largest in its class. All models are fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels (265/60R18 tires) with the higher-trim models given a two-tone turbine design.
At the Fujigane Off-road Course, the Montero Sport was put to the test through a terrain filled with boulders, moguls, and sandy roads. Climbing aboard the Philippine-spec model is quite easy thanks to the pillar-mounted assist grips (it’s standard for the first two rows). Getting the optimal driving position is easy as well thanks to the powered driver’s seat and the tilt/telescopic steering wheel. With the exception of hefty climb aboard the cabin, the interior pretty much passes for a passenger car; a sporty passenger car at that. The black monotone interior means business and is solidly finished throughout. The gamut of controls are all logically placed and properly positioned for easy reach and operation. The high-contrast instrument cluster provides excellent clarity while the full-color central LCD display shows all of the necessary information, including four-wheel drive operation, without cluttering the dashboard. The new front seats too are designed with multi-layer cushioning that give great lumbar and lateral support. It’s most apparent in the shoulder area where the sculpted sides give better upper torso area. The second row seats also offer individual headrests for three adults and a reclining function for a more relaxing ride. With a class-leading wheelbase of 2,585 millimeters, even the third row seats offer ample head and knee room. In addition, the second row seats tumble forward and the third row seats fold using a double-action mechanism to create a flat loading bay that stretches up to the back of the front seats.
Setting off, the most noticeable aspect is the refinement of the new 4N15. It can easily match the Montero Sport’s 3.0-liter V6 gasoline variant (it won’t be sold in the Philippines) while delivering satisfying grunt even from a standstill. Keeping the 4WD system in 4HLc (Gravel), it climbed up with gusto. From the fine gravel portion, the terrain soon turned extremely rocky. It rode excellently, absorbing the undulating ruts thanks to its re-designed suspension. Various improvements have been done to the Independent Double Wishbone and 3-Link rear coil spring suspension particularly in the form of a revised geometry, thicker front sway bars, and new rear suspension and lateral rod mounts. Maneuvering through the purposely tight course proved easy as well because of the class-leading turning radius: 5.6 meters. What’s more, the lower steering ratio and reduced turns lock-to-lock give even better drivability.
After crawling through the rocky portion of the track and sawing the steering through the tight left-right-left portions of the uphill climb, it’s time to go down a steeply graded hill. With larger two-piston front ventilated discs and solid rear discs, the Montero Sport felt surefooted. Though experts could properly modulate the middle pedal to their liking, the 2016 model now comes equipped with a Hill Descent Control system which keeps the speed at a constant 2 to 20 km/h (speed is adjusted via the throttle pedal) allowing you to concentrate on steering. Furthermore, Hill Start Assist allows you to start up inclines without the danger of having it roll backward. A switch-operated electric parking brake also replaces the conventional handbrake.
Keeping the same 218 millimeters of ground clearance as well as 30-degree approach, 24-degree departure, and 23-degree ramp break-over made the final part of the test track a piece of cake. The carved mogul field proved no match for the Montero Sport as it easily navigated through it. The excellent visibility, tight maneuverability, and long stroke suspension allowed it to keep going. And even if one wheel did leave the ground, trust on the 4WD system and the new Active Stability & Traction Control to keep you going with confidence. It’s a matter of applying the throttle and having the car do the rest. Though water wading wasn’t tested this day it offers 700 millimeters of flood crossing capability, up 100 millimeters from before.
Considering PPVs are now used by increasingly safety-conscious families, Mitsubishi has made sure to equip the Montero Sport with all sorts of safety features. The usual: dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD, and brake assist are all standard. The highest trim models offer five more airbags, Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) and Blind Spot Warning system (BSW)—features which are confirmed for the Philippine market. Other advanced features include a passive keyless entry system with push button engine start/stop, a 360-degree view camera, dual zone climate control with independent rear A/C, power folding side mirrors, and many more.
The year 2015 is all about the pickup wars, but 2016 is shaping up to be the year of the PPVs. And it seems Mitsubishi is set to carve up their unique take on this increasingly competitive market segment. Though the final word is up in the air until a local test drive, they look to have a winner here. Not only is the 2016 Mitsubishi Montero Sport look like it’s designed and dressed to the nines, but it’s got an undeniably sporty character. It’s easy to drive and maneuverable without sacrificing interior room and cargo space—making it perfect for Philippine conditions. And if there are any doubts to its handling, Hiroshi Masuoka’s hot laps in a bog-standard Montero Sport proved it can dish out sideways drifting action and rally-style jumps easily.
Mitsubishi Motors Philippines has yet to set a final price for the Montero Sport, but it is expected to see a price increase from the current model. The range-topping GT-Premium is said to cost a tad below the P 2-million mark—something that’s fast becoming the norm given the amount of technologies present. Don’t fret though. They’ve also revealed plans to sell the current body Montero Sport, at least in 2WD guise, alongside this all-new one to give consumers an extremely wide range of choices that suit every need and budget. And that could make the Montero Sport a formidable choice.