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A mountain of a Montero

A whole three lakh rupees cheaper than the outgoing Pajero 3.2, can the new Mitsubishi Montero take the battle to its more expensive competition? Sriram Narayanan plays analyst



MOLEHILL MAKER The Montero might look less aggressive than the outgoing Pajero 3.2, but is a lot plusher inside and is better value for money

This recipe seats seven, is best served on a platter of bad roads and is powered by a 3200cc engine producing over 165 horses. Make way for the Mitsubishi Montero. You may call it a Mitsubishi Pajero 3.2 in a new avatar. However, the Montero's much more than that. It's got tasteful, leather-clad interiors, bigger 16-inch wheels and a price tag that is a whole three lakh cheaper than the old Pajero 3.2.

Quality - inside and out

The biggest improvement has to do with the interior of the Montero. While the earlier Pajero 3.2 had good quality, but very dull, grey plastics, the Montero's cabin is a nicer place to be in. The decor is a nice mix of wood and black and suede leather. Outside, it's a Pajero with all the straight lines and boxy proportions ironed into pleasing, homogenous curves. Front on, the Montero's a bit less intimidating than the Pajero 3.2. Gone is that moustachioed, broad-shouldered look and in comes a rounded, perhaps more approachable front. The differences come about thanks to a subtle rework in the headlamps and some major changes in the grille. Going over to the sides, the body-cladding's smoother and the rear wheel arch retains that huge bulge towards the rear-lights. The rear remains pretty much the same with just an addition of an air-spoiler.

Under the hood

With something that weighs over two-tonnes, torque, more than power is the operative word. And this 3200cc turbocharged diesel has a whole 38 kgm of it and that too, at just 2,000 rpm. As a no-nonsense utilitarian, this engine's spot on with what the car was made to do; tame inhospitable terrain, conquer steep-inclines and get the better of loose soil. Only, when compared to the Pajero 2.8, the Montero will allow you to do all this with that much more comfort. However, refinement is something that Mitsubishi hasn't been able to quite offer. Turn the ignition on and you will rock to an intrusive rattle. Warm it for a few seconds and the clatter gives way to a smoother, strong growl. As you surge ahead, you will notice that the boost provided by the turbochargers is not massive, which is a good thing, for it means less turbo lag and an engine that is more responsive. Floor the pedal and the motor emits an angry diesel growl and accelerates smoothly to 100 kph in about 14 seconds. While the Pajero 2.8 will ask you to downshift for some low-end grunt, this machine pulls from 1,500 rpm in third gear without any hesitation.

Ride and handling

Frankly, this massive piece of metal is the last thing that you would expect to be nimble. However, the monocoque construction of the chassis lends the Montero with sedan-like handling. Now, body-roll, owing to the tall body-structure is most definitely there. But even taking that into account, the Montero feels firmly balanced and doesn't threaten to topple over even when you corner it at its limits. Steering is accurate, guiding the car in the direction pointed to a T. The tall profile of the tyres (265/65 R17) affords massive amounts of grip and impeccable ride quality on the roughest of roads.

Off-road antics

Speaking of rough roads, you couldn't possibly driver around a Mitsubishi SUV and not plonk it off the road, can you? One gripe you may have though is the lack of a fly-on-the-wheel four-wheel-drive differential lock. Being higher up in the SUV ladder, you would want it to. But then, the Montero comes with M-ASTC (Mitsubishi Active Stability Traction Control). The ECU (Engine Control Unit) houses eight sensors within it, all on the lookout for loss of traction. If a wheel spins or is not in symphony with the other three, the ECU engages traction control providing a combination of braking and accelerating force through the hydraulic control unit.

So you won't be caught wanting for traction. Add the differential locks and you have an SUV that can brush off most surfaces. Besides, these sensors also transmit information like your altitude, atmospheric pressure, internal and external temperature to a screen on the dashboard. The best part is it even houses a good ol' compass, which lets you navigate out of the thickest of mazes. Now, how much confidence does that give you to take your Montero to any place on earth. And yes, it does have the hydraulic jack and toolkit in tow. Safety gets a thumb-up too as ABS and front-airbags are standard in this machine.

What will you have?

Obviously, it beats its older brother, the Pajero 2.8, but costs about 10 lakh more. And while the Pajero left you complaining about dated interiors and absence of some luxuries, the Montero lets you go terrain-bashing with more comfort, better-appointed interiors and an array of safety features you find only in more expensive sport utes. Besides, the moncoque provides saloon-like on-road manners. But just as ever, this Mitsubishi has that ancestral family trait of enjoying off-road bouts.

It would be criminal to use this car as a mere eyeball-grabber in and around the city and providence has it that there is nothing that comes to close it in off-roadability, this side of the 30-lakh barrier, except of course, the Pajero 2.8. From the looks of it, the Montero does have adequate credentials to humble even the more expensive Toyota Prado. That clash is another story, though...

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TECHNICAL DATA


MITSUBISHI MONTERO

How much?

Rs 28 lakh

How big?

Length: 4,830 mm

Width: 1,895 mm

Height: 1,855 mm

Wheelbase: 2,780 mm

Weight: 2,810 kg

Fuel tank: 90 litres

Engine

4-cylinders in-line,

turbodiesel, 3200cc

Max power: 165 bhp at 3,800 rpm

Max torque: 38 kgm at 2,000 rpm

Gearbox

5-speed manual, synchromesh

Top speed

170 kph

Brakes

Front: Ventilated discs

Rear: Ventilated drum in discs

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