Mitsubishi’s 2004 Endeavor makes for an appealing crossover SUV

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Mitsubishi has been building sport utility vehicles since the early ‘80s, years before they became the rage of the free world, so it’s not surprising that its all-new car-based mid-sized Endeavor is such a pleasant vehicle to drive and so easy on the eyes.

The Endeavor gives Mitsubishi a four-model SUV lineup.
The truck-based Montero, which has been a niche player for nearly a quarter century, leads the lineup. The slightly smaller Montero Sport was added in the mid-90s. Mitsubishi doubled its SUV offerings over the past year with the entry-level Outlander and the more upscale Endeavor, both car-based.

Mitsubishi calls the Endeavor, which is built on the new “Project America” platform in Normal, Ill., a crossover vehicle with the safety inherent in all-wheel drive and a ride quality that makes it ideal for long drives.

On paper the Endeavor is fairly middle of the road. It doesn’t have the biggest engine in its segment and it doesn’t have the most cargo space in its class.
It’s in the driving that the Endeavor shines. The new Mitsubishi simply feels good whether in stop and go city driving or on a long interstate cruise. And you feel even better about the vehicle when you catch it out of the corner of your eye as you’re walking away. It’s handsome in a conservative sort of way yet amazingly contemporary.

No, it doesn’t have the space-age flair of the new Nissan Murano, but its “geo-mechanical” curves and bulges are all in the right places. Combined with its privacy glass on the rear doors, quarter panels and the now independently opening tailgate glass it makes for its own unique design statement.

Mitsubishi has taken some chances with the interior, using a bold styling treatment for the center stack. It resembles the front of a boom box. It looks almost as if you could detach it, hoist it up on your shoulder and catch some jams while you’re out running errands. In some ways it reminds us of a Bose Wave radio with its fin-style vents just contoured a bit differently. That being said, the styling treatment works. It may be unusual, but in this case unusual does not mean unattractive. Actually it’s kind of cool.

And speaking of cool, the blue-lit LED gauge clusters are just that, large, easy to read and more visible at night with its ice-blue light. Panel switches are also lit with the same blue light. Gives off a nice glow too.

The Endeavor comes in three trim levels, base LS, mid-level XLS and top-of-the-line Limited. All three can be ordered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Endeavor’s price point seems to some to be on the high side. The base LS starts at $26,192 and the decked-out Limited begins at $32,292. But there is a lot of value to be had. All these prices include the destination charges.

Figuring in such standard features as a 315-watt stereo with 6-CD changer, upgraded cloth upholstery and power driver’s seat the mid-level 2-wheel-drive XLS for a base of $28,492 isn’t at all out of line. All Endeavors also come with four-wheel disc brakes, roof rails and 17-inch wheels.

One option package you will want to add includes antilock brakes and front side airbags for $900. Our test XLS also came with a $900 moonroof bringing the sticker price to $30,342.

All models come with Mitsubishi’s 3.8-liter V6 generating 215 horsepower mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.

At first blush, it would seem the Endeavor is at a disadvantage to such comparable entries as the Toyota Highlander (220 horsepower), the Honda Pilot (240 horsepower) and the Nissan Murano (245 horsepower). But the Endeavor has more torque than any of the above vehicles, generating a maximum of 250 pound-feet at a relatively low 3,750-rpm.

This furnishes the Endeavor a nice kick in the pants off the line giving it the feeling of a sport utility with more horsepower. In fact, it runs well all the way to 60 miles per hour accomplishing the task in 8.3 seconds, just two-tenths of a second slower than the Murano as published in a major automobile magazine.

The 4-speed automatic Sportronic transmission has a manual shifting capability great for mountain driving when holding the gear in place is an asset. The all-wheel drive version has a full-time 50-50 torque split. All the torque can be delivered back or front as conditions warrant.

We found the Endeavor a delightful road companion with the ability to zoom through tight turns with little body lean. A good on-center feel makes the new sport utility easy to direct down the road and it possesses the agility of a smaller vehicle making it handy in negotiating tight parking lots and crowded streets. Much of this is thanks to a four-wheel independent suspension while hydro-formed cross members on the sub-frame offer the stiff structure needed for its excellent handling characteristics.

The driver, thanks to a low cowl height has excellent sight lines, and passengers front and rear are afforded a spacious environment with comfortable front chairs and an adequate rear seat, and a good view in all directions.

The brushed aluminum like look of the unusual center stack and soft-touch materials on the dashboard advance the feeling of a luxury vehicle. Even the space age looking stereo and climate controls were surprisingly easy to operate with no muss or fuss.

Legroom is good in back and two adults can ride comfortably for long stretches. Unaccountably, the rear seatbacks will not recline. And rear storage is good, better than the Murano or Highlander, but not as good as the Honda Pilot. You’ll also find that you can lay flat that four-foot wide piece of plywood you’ve always wanted. And we’ve been told that with its high opening tailgate the Endeavor will easily swallow-up a 32-inch TV.

A number of cupholders and four 12-volt outlets are strategically placed front and rear.

Add it all up, and Mitsubishi has done more than a creditable job in developing its own mid-sized crossover vehicle to compete in a rapidly expanding segment loaded with good products.