I have very fond memories of the Mitsubishi Montero Sport. I was part of the group that attended the launch of the current third generation with a test drive of some prototypes in Japan at Fuji-Gane Off-Road Park near Shizuoka, Japan, in sight of the historic Mt. Fuji, one of their off-road recreational parks purpose-built to test and tackle off-road vehicles. We even had the legendary Hiroshi Masuoka, the Mitsubishi factory works driver that won the legendary Paris-Dakar Rally Raids in 2002 and 2003, give us amazing joy rides complete with jumps and drifts in the dirt, all in Japan. That was nine years ago, and the third-generation (and current) Montero Sport went on sale in the Philippines for the model year 2016.
Some notable features which distanced it from its competitors and still carry on today include the 2.4 later 4-cylinder CRDi and turbocharged 4N15 MIEVC clean diesel engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission, pus a plethora of safety features such as the forward collision mitigation, mis-acceleration mitigation system, six airbags, ABS-EBD brakes, traction / stability control and an off-road assistance software for 4X4 models for sand, mud, highway and rocky terrain, plus more.
2019 saw a major facelift for the 2020 model year with improvements including a revised front Dynamic Shield fascia, Auto Hold parking brake, a new 8-inch digital instrument cluster, and a new 8-inch infotainment system with navigation, 360-degree surround cameras and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and hands-free powered tailgate. It was released in all markets on October 2019.
2022 saw the latest variant release for the ageing Montero Sport, breathing in fresh new life to a still strong-selling SUV: the Black Series. While it is a simple styling exercise to give more flair and drama, there have been other small tweaks along the way which was also made available during the 2019 facelift, namely a noticeably softer and more pliant suspension, lighter steering effort, and firmer brake pedal feel. I thought it was just me, but a back-to-back ride and drive on my brother’s own Montero Sport, a pre-facelift early 2019 model confirmed this. Our company driver who also drives my brother’s Montero Sport actually said it first, validating my initial impression.
So what makes the Black Series different? As the name implies, the Montero Sport Black Series (available exclusively in 4X2 trim), following the tradition started by the Xpander Black Series and the Strada pick-up Athlete, has blacked out design elements.
The Dynamic Shield front fascia with its imposing front grille (with a few chrome bits), front garnish, rear garnish, roof, and spoiler are all finished in black. And just like the other Black Series vehicles, you have the option of getting it in Jet Black Mica for that stealth fighter look, or in White Diamond (a P15,000 option) if you want a subtle two-tone finish.
The interior of the Montero Sport is finished in black leather as well, but you have Nano-E filtration technology built in the air-conditioning to help purify the cabin.
Design elements aside, it does help the Montero Sport stand out just a little bit in a sea of other Montero Sports spread throughout the country. The shiny white paint of our test unit, combined with the glossy black alloys, shod with Dunlop AT20 all-terrain tires does provide a bold, confident pose on the road. It feels even more effortless than before, the 8-speed automatic shifting seamlessly, almost like a CVT as it accelerates in city traffic. On the highway, high-speed stability is impressive, with on-road manners being a strong suit of the Montero Sport ever since. With light traffic, I managed a decent 8km/liter in the city, and a sub 13km/liter on short stints on the highway. A longer drive, perhaps to Baguio can easily yield over 14km/liter, thanks to the powerful torque form the 4N15 and the wide spread of gear ratios from the automatic. The steering, though lighter, also felt more fluid than before, allowing you to weave through and overtake slower moving cars with ease and confidence. That’s one of the Montero Sport’s strong points, bragging the best power-to-weight ratio in its class and one of the smallest in terms of dimensions and footprint, in a sea of ever-growing vehicles, without sacrificing interior space and comfort.
Not much has changed for the Montero Sport Black Series, but the few blacked out things and a slight improvement in the driving feel thanks to the softer suspension and lighter steering, plus firmer brakes, add up to far more than the sum of its parts.