2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

A bold new crossover SUV bursts on the scene
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Despite the introduction in 2002 of the all-new Outlander sport utility vehicle and the continued popularity of the Montero with its excellent off-road prowess, Mitsubishi has been missing out on the midsize crossover SUV craze that's sweeping the nation-until now. Enter the all-new 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor.

Built at Mitsubishi's Normal, Illinois plant on the same platform as the soon to be launched 2004 Galant, the Endeavor is the first vehicle built under Mitsubishi's Project America. This comprehensive program is aimed at introducing vehicles that meet the needs of North American consumers without having to compensate for the requirements of other world markets. The result is an appealing and unapologetically bold entry to the crowded midsize crossover category that is based on Mitsubishi's SSU concept vehicle. The Endeavor fits nicely between the larger Montero and the truck-based, midsize Montero Sport. With Endeavor in the line-up, Mitsubishi can offer consumers an SUV for just about any requirement.

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The most striking aspect of the Endeavor is its exterior, which features a boldly styled and sculpted athletic form. Unlike one of its main competitors, the slab-sided Honda Pilot, the Endeavor's body is shaped more like the Jeep Grand Cherokee with its bulging fenders and aggressive front end.

"The 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor is an all-new vehicle that makes a very Mitsubishi statement with its very stylish design, and bold character. We hope that this crossover injects some excitement about our brand in the (midsize) SUV category, which has lately become crowded with "me-too products," said Pierre Gagnon, chairman and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America.

The Endeavor is powered by a 3.8-liter 60-degree V-6 engine that produces 215 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, the majority of which comes on quite low in the engine's rev range. Mitsubishi says the Endeavor will go from 0 to 60 mph in the low 9-second range, placing it in the not really fast, yet not entirely slow category. Frankly, we expect more power from 3.5-liters; however, the engine is quite refined and incorporates cutting-edge throttle-by-wire controls that enable the Mitsubishi Active Skid and Traction Control system (available in fall on Limited models) to enhance vehicle control on wet or slick roads.

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The Endeavor comes with either front- or full-time all-wheel-drive, and a 4-speed automatic transmission with Sportronic driver-selectable shifting mode that allows drivers to manually engage the desired gear. All-wheel-drive Endeavor models rely on a transfer case that combines a bevel gear center differential with a viscous coupling to achieve a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels.

Endeavor offers drivers a refined car-based chassis and 4-wheel independent suspension that exhibit stable, predictable road manners when navigating through the urban environments where SUVs spend the majority of their time. However, when the pavement turns rough or goes away completely, the Endeavor still provides a ride that's more than adequate thanks to the multi-link rear suspension and the McPherson struts up front.

A successful crossover SUV needs to be able to offer its owner a level of function and capability that far exceeds that of a 5-passenger car, and Endeavor excels in this capacity. Endeavor offers a comfortable step-in height that facilitates the easy entry and exit of five adult passengers from the two rows of seats. The decision to offer only two rows seating was by design, according to Gagnon. The Endeavor, he says, is targeted at those who have made a clear decision that two rows of seats are plenty.

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From the elevated "command" seating position, the driver and passenger have an excellent view of the road. The center of the dash features a prominent, metallic-finished waterfall and large control knobs-a big plus with this reviewer. Atop this center panel is an available 4.9-inch color LCD display that provides climate and directional information, and even functions as a computer interface which owners can use to customize many of the vehicle's interior functions.

In the rear, the easy-to-operate rear tailgate swings upward high enough to clear taller heads and reveals a cargo area that can accommodate a four-foot-wide sheet of building material. In addition, the curved rear hatch glass can be opened independently of the rear tailgate to load smaller items.

A total of three trim levels will be available including LS, XLS, and Limited models. The nicely-equipped base model Endeavor LS will include 4-wheel disc brakes, AC, power windows and door locks, tilt wheel, driver and front passenger airbags, keyless entry, roof rails and 60/40 folding rear seat. The base price for the LS 2wd is $25,597, while the LS 4wd is $27,597.

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The Endeavor XLS adds standard equipment such as premium fabric seat covering material, a driver's power seat, an improved seven-speaker, 315-watt, AM/FM/CD premium audio system with steering wheel mounted controls and a six-CD changer, center console color display with ambient temperature and compass, and a cargo area tonneau cover. Pricing for the XLS starts at $27,897 and reaches $31,497.

At the top of the model ladder is the Endeavor Limited which includes standard leather seating surfaces, door trim, steering wheel and shift knob, along with ABS brakes, sunroof, side-impact air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, rear passenger A/C and fog lamps. Some of the Limited's standard equipment can also be ordered as options on the XLS and LS models. The Endeavor Limited 2WD starts at $31,697 and a full-loaded 4wd Limited tops out at $33,497.

The opportunity to make a favorable first impression comes only once, and we think Mitsubishi has done a stellar job of wowing us with the Endeavor's good looks, comfortable and functional interior and superb drivability. However, the real task for the company will be to attract Endeavor buyers away from competitors such as Honda, Nissan and Toyota. (www.mitsubishicars.com)

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