Trackside, we encountered yet another pleasant surprise. We found MMPC Advertising and PR Manager, Arlan Reyes sitting with a jolly looking fellow that turned out to be Hiroshi Masuoka, Mitsubishi's works rally driver and 2-time winner of the legendary Paris-Dakar rally. What better way to introduce the Montero Sport GTV, indeed!
Under the hood of the 2011 Montero Sport GTV is the old yet reliable 4D56 workhorse treated to a plethora of new technology. But before both the uninitiated and the Mitsubishi faithful whine that the 4D56 is an old school rehash, let it be known that it's not. The engine block may be the same, but internally, connecting rods, pistons, and the compression ratio have been changed to fit the high performance duties called on by the new variable geometry snail hanging off its exhaust manifold.
In the older models, the 4D56 muscled out a paltry 134 horsepower and a respectable 314 Nm of torque. But that was yesterday's news. The GTV's internal changes and new-age turbine gives the current flavor of the Mitsubishi Montero Sport a whopping 176 horsepower, with an equally impressive 350 Nm of torque. It even bests the previous Montero Sport's 3.2 liter Di-D engine which only generated 158 horsepower and 343 Nm of torque. That is, in any book, really impressive.
Geeking out, it’s interesting to fathom how the power and torque comes in with the newer and more powerful Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) equipped 4D56. Comparing data from the dynamometer charts, the newer engine reaches its peak torque at 3,500 rpm instead of a low 2,000 rpm. Although the two older engines are capable of delivering 250 Nm as early as 1,500 rpm, peak torque is achieved only 500 rpm later and drops off quickly, thereby making acceleration and throttle response suffer - a common complaint amongst older Montero Sport owners. Also, the VGT-equipped 4D56 produces 250 Nm of torque as low as 1,800 rpm giving it a much broader rpm range.
The healthy increase in horsepower and torque is enough to declare the Mitsubishi Montero Sport GTV as the new hero of the horsepower wars in the diesel-powered ladder frame vehicles; trumping even the mighty Nissan Navarra. But that's only half of the story.
More Bells and Whistles
The Montero Sport GTV 4x4 also comes with a new INVECS-II 5 speed automatic transmission, with a manumatic mode that Mitsubishi calls Sportronic. To be in touch with the Play Station generation, they've also equipped it with magnesium paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel - making it precious metal in any enthusiast's book. Mitsubishi could've just added a gear onto the old existing 4 speed transmission, but that would be the easy way out. They've gone and optimized each individual gear ratio in the new transmission and matched it with a new final drive and a limited slip differential to boot; all to ensure that their compact SUV fulfills the need for speed while being miserly at the pumps.
And as far as compact SUV's go, the Montero Sport is the current king of the hill in many aspects. Its new integrated In-Car Entertainment system displays important vehicle status and info, such as tire pressure, GPS Sat Nav, and bluetooth integration, among others, add true value to it. Although, the menu system is a bit clunky for my taste.
Leather seats on the GTV changes the feel of the interior - from SUV spartan to crossover cool. On the other hand, the power adjustable driver seats only manages to get you in the wrong position that much quicker. Without a reach adjustable steering wheel, the proper driving position means your right knee gets very intimate with the center console. But most other drivers won't complain.
With all these new features, the Montero Sport may have just elevated itself as the new ‘king of the mountain’.
The Hiroshi Masuoka Challenge
Our challenge for the day was to best Hiroshi Masuoka in the game he's been playing for the last three decades. He's only raced more rally kilometers than all of us media peeps had driven in our entire lives that day combined. Easy, right?
Designed to highlight the Montero Sport GTV's new abilities, the course starts out on tarmac which transitions into a dirt track with several twist and turns before coming back to tarmac again for the finish. It's a driver's dance that brings back memories of yesteryears when I still drove on dirt rally crosses. Old habits and loves die hard apparently, as I quickly fell into the groove and posted what was the fastest time for most of the day.
The Montero Sport on the other hand performed beautifully. From its quick off-the-line launch to the hard braking point into turn one, the engine, transmission, and suspension all worked in harmony. On the dirt section, its transition from one corner to the next was amazing. Being around tuned cars day in day out, I had almost forgotten how good cars and SUVs could be in factory trim. In fact, the Montero Sport handled better than it had any right to; it was almost rally car-like. Once I got acclimated, it proved to be smooth, fast, and predictable. The experience was so exhilarating that I was already missing it the moment I got out.
As it turns out, Masuoka-san had been watching and complimented how fast I had been driving through the course.
Lessons from the Pro
Masuoka-san's encouragement prompted me to ask if he could watch me drive, point out what I was doing wrong, and teach me to drive better. He graciously agrees.
First time out, he sat behind the wheel as I carefully watched. Launch was smooth with no drama nor tire squeal which lesser apply only to lesser drivers. I watched in awe as the Montero Sport GTV takes turn one of the CIS short course at such a high speed that would've caused someone of lesser skill to panic. Tires squealed as it reached its traction limits on tarmac and even on the dusty dirt section. Observing his technique throughout the course, he left foot brakes into corners and shifts the weight of the car just the right amount. Masuoka-san's skill and precision was so mind-blowing that I'm all too giddy to soak it all up.
After his flying lap, we switched places. He directed me when to shift and where to shift, and pointed out the ideal racing line for the course layout that day. I did my best to absorb all that he taught me and did as I'm told. Another few laps in and I'm flying almost as fast as he is. But the ride ended far too quickly for me. We pitted in just a few laps later and I happily thanked him for the learning experience. In the few minutes that we were together, I learned new tricks to add to my repertoire of driving.
Later that day, I found out that on the challenge course, I was “only” six seconds slower than my newfound sensei. And as the day ended, I'm left in awe of Masuoka-san's driving magic and found a new appreciation of the capabilities of the new Mitsubishi Montero Sport GTV.
More photos from the event: