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Endeavour was the ship commanded by Captain James Cook, hero of the Seven Years War, when he set off from England in 1768 to scientifically survey New Zealand and Australia.
Mitsubishi's Endeavor has easier objectives, but far greater competition from others. The Endeavor is a midsize sport utility that seats five, with generous space in the front and rear seats. The rear seatbacks flip down to reveal a big cargo area with a perfectly flat floor.
In spite of its rugged appearance, Endeavor is built more like a car than a truck. Underway, the Endeavor handles well and offers a nice, smooth ride. Its drive-by-wire throttle provides responsive control, and its 3.8-liter V6 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.
Barely two years old, the Mitsubishi Endeavor has been moderately facelifted for 2006. ABS with traction control is now standard. The standard towing capacity has been increased to 3500 pounds. And all Endeavor sound systems now include MP3 capability.
The Mitsubishi Endeavor feels stable underway yet handles well in corners, benefits of its car-based structure. The rack-and-pinion steering is responsive. It turns in nicely for corners. There's some body lean, but 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've driven the Endeavor over all kinds of surfaces, and it has a nice ride. It's smoother than most truck-based SUVs and comparable to some of the car-based SUVs. The only bump in the Endeavor's otherwise comfortable ride appeared in the sharp ridges, those pitches upward that you feel in the pit of your stomach.
The unit-body 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.
The engine's drive-by-wire throttle system is very responsive. Mitsubishi says the 0 to 60 mph time for a 2WD LS is 9.5 seconds, which is reasonable but sets no records. The all-wheel-drive Limited we drove 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 spent some miles in a 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 choosing an all-wheel drive Endeavor unless you live in a place that's always flat and dry, and you never leave the pavement.
The Mitsubishi Endeavor, designed and built in the U.S., is a solid entrant in the midsize, mid-priced SUV field. Mechanically it appears to be on par with other mid-priced SUVs, while its styling is distinctive.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed the original report from the central California coast; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.