Call it what you like (it’s known as the Challenger, Pajero Sport and Shogun Sport in other markets...) but the Montero Sport (as it is named here), is impressive. And, that is in spite of the fact the Mitsubishi — now in its third generation — has a body-on-frame construction. With almost every new SUV hitting market being a unibody construction, you’d have thought this old-fashioned approach by the Japanese carmaker would be a backwards step. But you’d be wrong.
This mid-size SUV, which has been around since 1996, is a rugged seven-seater. It’s based on the same frame as the L200 pick-up and features a muscular-looking exterior, which is characterised by a bold front end (its called the “Dynamic Shield”) with no lack of chrome, sinewy LED headlights, a gaping grille and 18in wheels, but the most striking feature are the taillights, which were inspired by the GR-HEV truck concept of 2013; they stretch from the Montero Sport’s high belt line all the way down to the bumper. The SUV sits up high and as a result, doesn’t just offer a great view of the road ahead, but with a 700mm wading depth, it doesn’t mind getting its feet wet.
Jump in (literally; it has a ride height of 1,805mm) and you’d never believe this was based on a truck, the cabin is far too suave for that. With all the chairs wrapped in supple leather, lots of wood trim around the dash and centre console, and aluminium (fake, but it looks nice) trim, too, rugged is the last word that comes to mind. It’s smart and dare I say, classy. Some of the tech includes steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, an electronic parking brake (that’s a first on a Mitsubishi model) and a 6.75in touchscreen for the infotainment system. It has seven airbags, too. It’s comfortable and offers lots of head- and shoulder room in the second row; with a wheelbase of 2,800mm, it proves the most roomy and allows you to stretch out, however, my right knee kept rubbing against the centre console. Indeed, sitting in the driver’s chair, I felt a touch squashed but at least the Montero Sport offers a smooth ride and decent performance to help compensate the lack of knee room.
With an improved three-link coil spring with stabiliser bar rear suspension and a double wishbone coil spring with stabiliser bar at the front, the Mitsubishi soaks up all the road imperfections in its stride. That’s impressive for a truck-based chassis. In fact, when it encountered bumps, pot holes and even when I went for a spot of dune bashing, the Sport didn’t put a foot wrong.
Now, the last time the model made the news was for alleged unintended acceleration issues many felt it was plagued with, but with nary a hint of that to worry about during my test drive, I found it easy to live with and operate. Power is supplied by a 3.0-litre six-pot that makes 219bhp and 285Nm of torque. Those figures may look weedy on paper but in reality they prove more than enough to get the Sport moving in a hurry. Mated to an eight-speed automatic, you can direct the power to two or four wheels via the drive mode selector and at even up to speeds of 100kph. Lock the centre diff and the mud or sand won’t know what hit it. It packs four drive settings and four different terrain controls in total.
With prices starting from Dh84,900 for the base model and Dh107,000 for the fully loaded highline trim as tested, the Montero Sport should be high up on the pecking order for those who need a robust family hauler that doesn’t just offer a smooth ride, but has the capability to flatten the dunes, too, when needed. That sort of brilliant utility and practicality usually costs a lot more...