The Mitsubishi Montero: History, Generations, Specifications

Mitsubishi Montero Essential History

When the Mitsubishi Montero first appeared on the U.S. market in 1983, few people realized that SUVs would soon be the family car of choice in America. The original Montero was a novelty, a boxy two-door 4×4 that combined the off-road abilities of a Jeep Wrangler with a weatherproof cabin. This was a time when Jeep’s Cherokee, Toyota’s 4Runner, the Chevy S-10 Blazer and Ford’s ill-fated Bronco II were all brand-new models.

A Quirky, Slow Start

Despite Isuzu having good success with its four-door Trooper, Mitsubishi didn’t introduce the family-size four-door Montero to the U.S. market until 1989. But when it came, it came well prepared, with a 143-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 in place of the 105-horsepower 2.6-liter four-cylinder employed by the two-door.

Second-Generation Montero

The two-door Montero was dropped in 1990, a precursor to the arrival of the second-generation Montero, which came to the U.S. in 1992. The new Montero was bigger and heavier than its predecessor, and while the 3.0-liter V-6 was upgraded to 151 horsepower, it still wasn’t enough for the Montero’s bulk. Among its notable features were a full-time 4WD system and adjustable shock absorbers.

A New V-6 for the Montero

In 1994, Mitsubishi addressed the power deficit with a new 215-horsepower 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 for the top-line SR model. The 3.0-liter V-6 was upgraded to 24 valves and 177 horsepower for 1995, and could still be had with a manual transmission. Both engines were replaced by a 200-horsepower SOHC 3.5-liter V-6 in 1997, and the Montero became automatic transmission-only. As the millennium drew to a close, the Montero was feeling its age: Competing SUVs were driving more like cars, but the Montero still felt slow and ponderous.

Third-Generation Montero

Mitsubishi responded with an all-new Montero for 2001, one that ditched the old Monty’s box-it-came-in styling for sexier curves. Instead of body-on-frame construction, the third-gen Montero was a unibody, and it traded its recirculating-ball steering and live rear axle for rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel independent suspension. The 3.5-liter V-6 offered more torque, and top-of-the-line Limited models added a fifth gear to the automatic transmission. The result was a Montero with improved ride, handling, and wind noise, with no loss in off-road ability, though it still felt trucky and unwieldy compared to other contemporary SUVs.

The End of the Montero’s U.S. Presence

For 2003, the Montero got a new 3.8-liter V-6 rated at 215 horsepower, and the five-speed automatic became standard across the Montero line. A new electronic stability control system greatly improved safety. But Montero sales were on a downward trajectory, as were all Mitsubishi models, and when Mitsubishi introduced a new version in 2006, it did not come to the United States. Montero sales in America ended in 2006, though it remains in production in other markets around the globe, where it’s known as the Pajero.  

Mitsubishi Montero Highlights

The vehicle known as the Montero in North American is called Shogun in the U.K. and Pajero in other markets—including several Spanish-speaking countries where “Pajero” is a slang term with much the same meaning as the British word “wanker”.

The first-generation Montero featured a driver’s seat with its own sprung suspension as standard equipment.

As part of Mitsubishi’s partnership with Chrysler, the two-door Montero was rebadged as the Dodge Raider between 1987 and 1990.

Mitsubishi Montero Buying Tips

Finding a Montero can be tricky. The newest Monteros are now a decade and a half old, and while they were long-lasting vehicles, Mitsubishi didn’t sell that many of them. Older models were more popular but many have died of old age.

If you find a Montero you like, follow the guidelines you would for any old car: Look for rust, signs of abuse, and, ideally, find one with thorough maintenance records. Some of the V-6 engines can be prone to oil leaks or consumption, but for the most part these are robust vehicles.

Some Monteros have been modified for off-road use. Monteros make great off-road project cars, but beware of shoddy work done by others. If you’re looking for an off-road project, it’s always better to start with an unmodified Montero.

If you’re looking for a Montero as family transportation, we recommend a 2003 or later model, as these were equipped with electronic stability control. ESC makes the Montero less prone to a wreck or rollover in the event of a swerve or other sudden emergency maneuver.

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Mitsubishi Montero Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1982
  • First year of sale in U.S.: 1983
  • Last year of sale in U.S.: 2006
  • Original price (base): $9,229
  • Characteristic feature: Large, off-road capable SUV

Mitsubishi Montero FAQ

Is the Mitsubishi Montero a good car?

The Mitsubishi Montero was a well-built vehicle with exceptional off-road abilities. However, it was slower and had clumsier handling than similarly-sized competing SUVs.

What’s the difference between a Montero and a Pajero?

The Pajero is the name for the Montero sold in most other markets outside of North America and the United Kingdom (where it’s known as the Shogun). The Pajero was basically the same vehicle, though it offered different engine choices, including a diesel and a direct-injected V-6.

What’s the difference between a Montero and a Montero Sport?

The Montero Sport is a smaller five-seat SUV. Though the names are similar, the Montero and Montero Sport are very different vehicles.

1983 Mitsubishi Montero Specifications

PRICE$9,229 ($24,008 in 2020 dollars)
ENGINE2.6L SOHC 8-valve I-4/105 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 139 lb-ft @ 2,900 rpm
TRANSMISSION5-speed manual
LAYOUT2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV
L x W x H157.3 x 66.1 x 74.0 in
WHEELBASE92.5 in
WEIGHT3,160 lb
0-60 MPH13.1 sec

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