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Endeavor sounds like a good name for a space shuttle or a sailing ship. The Mitsubishi Endeavor is a mid-size SUV that was introduced as a 2004 model. In spite of its rugged appearance, the Endeavor is built more like a car than a truck.
Endeavor seats five and it's roomy and comfortable in the front and rear seats. The rear seatbacks flip down to reveal a big cargo area with a perfectly flat floor.
Underway, the Endeavor handles well and offers a nice, smooth ride. Its drive-by-wire setup offers responsive throttle response and its 3.8-liter V6 is delivers adequate power, though the Endeavor won't win many drag races. It's available with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, but we much prefer the AWD model.
Endeavor's styling is aggressively different. It shouts to be noticed. Mitsubishi calls the design "geomechanical," or "geometric shapes with a mechanical application." But it's not a blend of geometric and mechanical, it's an abrupt meeting: the geometric shapes are all on the top half of the Endeavor, and the mechanical application is on the bottom.
Endeavor is dominated by high, angular fender flares, which in the front are carried all the way up to the hood. It looks like they were designed for tractor tires, as the wheel wells seem to dwarf the standard 17-inch tires. The tires are mounted on either standard five-spoke or optional seven-spoke aluminum wheels, neither of which are memorable. The fenders are connected by a horizontal high beltline.
"Bold" is the word Mitsubishi uses to describe the front end, but it's not as bold as the Endeavor's sides. This is good. There's no chrome or metal, just two body-colored horizontal ribs in openings on either side of a wide vertical center pillar with a big Mitsubishi badge. The headlamp units are fairly ordinary, reflecting a missed opportunity for some drama. This grille section rides on a high bumper fascia which might be the part of Endeavor that best fits Mitsubishi's adjectives and design objectives. Mitsubishi's description, "imposing intake cavities," is a good one. The long horizontal opening gapes so broadly you can easily see the radiator fins inside. Skipping highway stones might be worrisome.
Endeavor looks best from the rear. The back end is simple, smooth and classy, angular on a two-dimensional level, with the tailgate shaped into a subtle stretched hexagon by small taillights. Its elegance creates a small mystery as to how it fits into this in-your-face geomechanical theme. Elegant describes the Limited with body-colored bumpers, at least. The LS has black "garnish" on the bumpers, and the XLS has gratuitous chrome bumper caps.
Because the independent rear suspension is mounted low in order to provide more cargo space, the control arms are oddly visible and catch your eye from the rear. It gives the Endeavor an air of mechanical seriousness, if not a suggestion of fragility from low ground clearance.
Finally, the roof rails are wide oblong tubular aluminum, neither easy to reach nor especially functional, at least not without the crossbars that come standard on the XLS and Limited. These thick aluminum rails may look rugged on the Nissan Xterra, but not on the Endeavor, whose point is that it's not supposed to be the truck-based Montero Sport.
Endeavor offers a roomy cabin. Front legroom is good (41.4 inches), comparable to other mid-sized SUVs. The XLS driver's seat with standard adjustable lumbar support is comfortable and well bolstered. The premium fabric is nice, and appears quite durable. Big mirrors offer a good view rearward.
Rear legroom is very good, with 38.5 inches. That's more than you'll find in the middle seat of the Pilot (37.0) or Highlander (36.4). The rear seat is quite comfortable, and has a center armrest with two cupholders.
Getting in and out is easy. Ingress and egress is especially good, with wide door openings. The step-in is low, which is one of the advantages to a car-based unibody frame, as opposed to the truck-based body-on-frame.
The 60/40 rear seats fold totally flat with the touch of a finger. Cargo capacity behind the front seat is 76.4 cubic feet for Endeavor, which is a little less than the Highlander and Pilot. The cargo area has enough length and width to fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood, although it would rest on the small wheel humps. There are no less than 10 hooks on the floor and side panels so things can be secured with bungee cords or nets, and one power outlet. The temporary spare tire is mounted under the cargo floorboard, which is easy to raise; a full-sized spare is optional.
That word "geomechanical" pops up again in Mitsubishi's description of the Endeavor interior design. What they say looks like a cascading waterfall, the vertical center of the instrument panel, we would describe as looking more like the top half of a robot, including a small rectangular LCD screen as eyes and protruding vents as shoulders. The panel background is finished in faux titanium, and the top of the dashboard is a rubbery-feeling matt black plastic.
Functionally it's fine. The big knobs and dials are easy to push and turn. The instrument cluster is a unit of three gauges that are easy to read, lit at night in a moody ice blue. There's a new climate control system efficiently combining heat and air conditioning with one blower. The compass that appears in the LCD window on XLS and Limited models is confusing, though.
The small LCD screen displays a menu of programmable functions, including the timing of interior lights and intermittent wipers.
A big glove box offers storage space along with the cushioned armrest console between the front seats with a removable tray, ideal for cell phones, that increases its capacity. With the tray in place, however, you have to lift two lids to get to the deeper storage area. There are two 12-volt outlets within the console, and another one accessible from the rear seat.
A hard drive of about 30 miles took us down a narrow, bumpy, twisty road to an isolated surfing and windsurfing spot called Jalama Beach on the central California coast. The all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Endeavor XLS felt steady. We cornered hard and the rack-and-pinion steering was responsive. It turns in nicely for corners. There's some body lean but it's very stable. It's free of the tippy feeling that used to plague SUVs. You have to drive it pretty hard before understeer sets in. Endeavor uses an independent suspension and 17-inch wheels with Bridgestone Terranza 235/65R17 road tires.
We drove the Endeavor over all kinds of surfaces, and it has a nice ride. It's smoother than most truck-based SUVs and comparable to that of some of the car-based SUVs. The only crack in the Endeavor's ride appeared in the sharp ridges, those pitches upward that you feel in the pit of your stomach.
The unibody chassis appears to be very strong. Mitsubishi says virtually every inch of it is either reinforced, corrugated, triangulated or doubled up. The longitudinal rails are octagonally shaped for strength, with no welded beads, and there are five lateral crossmembers.
Put it in Drive and the four-speed automatic transmission does a decent job. It also features a manual Sportronic mode, which allows the driver to change gears; put it in the manual mode and it only shifts when the driver shifts it. We prefer that over the manual modes on many automatics that won't hesitate to override the driver when it doesn't like the driver's decisions. Shifting manually is awkward, however; because of the size of the center armrest console, you have to cock your elbow in the air to grab the lever, which puts an awkward angle on your wrist and hinders manual shifting enough to take the fun out of it.
The engine's drive-by-wire throttle system is very responsive. Mitsubishi says the 0 to 60 mph time for the LS FWD is 9.5 seconds, which is reasonable but sets no records. Our all-wheel-drive XLS was 300 pounds heavier than the front-wheel-drive LS. The 3.8-liter V6 is rated at 225 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, the latter at 3750 rpm. We felt the need for more torque in second gear, where the transmission wouldn't shift down for sharp acceleration. At the other end of the power curve we had the opposite transmission problem: too much shifting down. Peak power comes at 5000 rpm and redline isn't until 6000.
We also got some miles in the front-wheel-drive Endeavor, on steeper and rougher roads that included gravel and loose dirt over asphalt. We were less impressed with its handling; it understeered, torque steered, and was sprung more softly. We would suggest going with the all-wheel drive Endeavor unless you live in some place that's always flat and dry, and you never leave the pavement.
The Mitsubishi Endeavor, entirely designed and built in the U.S., is a solid new entrant into the mid-sized, mid-priced SUV field. Mechanically it appears to be on par with other mid-priced SUVs, while its styling is distinctive.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Sam Moses filed the original report from the central California coast; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
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