In November 2000, near Del Rio, Texas three Houston men on their way to go backpacking in Big Bend were seriously injured when the new 2001 Mitsubishi Montero suddenly rolled over after a Bridgestone/ Firestone Dueler HT tire lost part of its tread and the vehicle went out of control. The Mitsubishi Montero rolled numerous times before coming to a final rest off the shoulder of the road. Two of the three occupants were hospitalized with severe injuries. As is seen in these 5 pictures, the Mitsubishi Montero rollover was violent and severe. The roof pillars, roof supports and roof pillars failed to withstand the weight of the vehicle. The occupants sustained neck, shoulder and head injuries from the Montero roof collapse and failure. The 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited- Not Acceptable by CONSUMER UNION
SUV TIPS UP SEVERELY IN OUR EMERGENCY AVOIDANCE-MANEUVER TEST
We had high expectations when we started track testing the redesigned 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited. Since buying a new model in August 2000, we’d put almost 7,000 miles on the vehicle and our evaluations had been mostly positive. In a brief description in our annual auto issue (April 2001), prior to track testing, we said, “Routine handling is sound if unexceptional, and the ride is compliant and well controlled.” As part of a group of seven sport-utility vehicles we were testing for the September 2001 issue of Consumer Reports, it could have been one of the higher rated models. Then something unexpected happened. In May, in one of our regular track tests for SUVs, minivans, and pickups–a short-course double-lane-change emergency-avoidance maneuver–the Montero Limited, in 8 out of 9 runs at or faster than 36.7 mph, tipped up on two wheels during a sharp right turn. In one run at 37.7 mph, it tipped up so far that the safety outriggers contacted the ground (see video below). Without the outriggers, we believe, the Montero would likely have rolled over. (We attach outriggers to all SUVs and four-wheel-drive pickups for this test to protect our drivers.)That day we ran the six other similar-sized SUVs through the same short-course test. None exhibited tip-ups or other unusual behaviors, even at speeds exceeding 38 mph. The SUVs were the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota 4Runner.Our avoidance maneuvers are designed to simulate real-world emergencies in which a driver steers sharply left into an adjacent lane–to avoid hitting an obstacle or person in the road–then quickly back to the right to avoid oncoming traffic, and left again into the original lane (see illustration below). We run two types of avoidance maneuvers: short- and long-course tests (see Our avoidance-maneuver tests). In both, a vehicle is driven at progressively faster speeds so that we can assess its handling characteristics under emergency-avoidance conditions. The speed at which a test vehicle completes the short course is not as important as what happens when it exceeds its handling limits. Typically, the vehicle will slide or skid sideways, knocking over cones. In most circumstances, this is a more controllable situation than a tip-up or rollover. Sliding or skidding sideways at their handling limit is what happened with each of the other six SUVs tested on the same day as the Montero Limited. It is highly unusual for a vehicle in our tests to tip up on two wheels. Tipping up severely, we believe, demonstrates unsafe performance.Of the 118 vehicles we have tested on the short course in the past 13 years, only the Suzuki Samurai, in 1988; the Isuzu Trooper and its twin, the Acura SLX, in 1996; and now the Montero Limited tipped up so severely as to be judged Not Acceptable.Because of this behavior, we bought a second 2001 Montero Limited (one manufactured ten months after the first test vehicle). A recognized vehicle-dynamics expert, R. Wade Allen, was asked to assess our test results and to drive the two Monteros along with other test vehicles. Allen has done significant work in the area of rollover dynamics for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other research for the auto industry. He was an expert witness for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, in the lawsuit brought against it by Isuzu, and has been an expert witness for consumers injured or killed in rollover crashes. Both Monteros tipped up severely when Allen tested them in the short course, and both, we believe, would likely have rolled over if not for the safety outriggers.Because of its demonstrated instability in our handling tests, we are rating the 2001 Montero Limited Not Acceptable. This rating does not apply to previous Montero models or to the Montero Sport, which are different vehicles. We did not test the XLS, another trim line of the 2001 Montero.
MONTERO ROLLOVER TESTING – CONSUMER REPORTS
2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited Testing The Montero underwent a major redesign for 2001, its first since 1992. In contrast to the previous version, which is based on a trucklike body-on-frame design, the 2001 model uses a more carlike unibody construction and fully independent suspension, which typically can improve the ride and handling. The 2001 version went on sale in February 2000. According to Mitsubishi, as of the end of May 2001, 29,253 Monteros had been sold in the U.S. We bought our first test vehicle (a two-tone red one) from a dealer in Connecticut. Built in May 2000, it was a Limited model, which, according to Mitsubishi’s projections, will account for about 80 percent of Montero sales. The vehicle underwent the normal check-in procedure conducted by our auto-test staff prior to testing.In our early pretrack-test evaluations, while being driven on an everyday basis, this Montero received favorable comments for its versatile interior, comfortable seating, good visibility, and seven-passenger capacity. Our testers noted that it provided a reasonably good ride and sound routine handling, but leaned noticeably when cornering. As with all vehicles in this test group, three Consumer Reports test engineers drove the red Montero through the short-course avoidance-maneuver test. Of 21 completed short-course runs conducted by our test engineers, 9 were at or above 36.7 mph. In 8 of those runs, both right wheels lifted off the ground. And in one of those runs, the red Montero tipped up so severely that we believe it would likely have rolled over if not for the safety outriggers. At these speeds or higher, all six of the other SUVs we tested performed without a tip-up (a two-wheel lift).We bought the second Montero Limited (a silver SUV built in March 2001) also in Connecticut. We gave it our regular inspection and then drove it for almost 300 miles to break it in. It was at this point that Allen, the vehicle-dynamics consultant, took several test vehicles, including both Monteros, through the short course on the same day. He drove the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Nissan Pathfinder and experienced no tip-ups. Then, driving the red Montero, he found that the vehicle “demonstrated reasonable handling” up to about 36 mph. But in a run at 37.8 mph it tipped up severely, causing the outriggers to contact the track surface.While driving the silver Montero, he completed 15 runs at progressively faster speeds without incident. But at 39.4 mph, the vehicle lifted its two right wheels slightly at the same section of track where the red Montero had tipped up. As he steered back into the original lane, the Montero’s left wheels tipped up severely. Again, the safety outriggers kept it from rolling over completely. But it tipped up onto the outriggers with such force that the vehicle lifted off the ground and suffered extensive damage to its right wheels when it landed. This precluded any further testing of that vehicle. In Allen’s report, he noted that both Monteros “exhibited good handling qualities prior to limit maneuvering.” Referring to the final run of the silver vehicle, Allen wrote, “The loss of directional control and oversteer [rear-end sliding] during the turn into the exit lane was quite dramatic and followed quite directly by the clockwise rolling motion to tip up. I don’t believe there was any possibility of regaining control at this point. Without outriggers the vehicle would have completely rolled over.” The danger of rollover We have found no reports of rollover crashes involving the 2001 Montero, but we believe our test results point to an unnecessary risk.Taller vehicles such as SUVs have a higher center of gravity, which makes them more top-heavy and more susceptible to rolling over than lower vehicles such as sedans. This is why NHTSA requires that all SUVs with a wheelbase of 110 inches or less display a warning label. The one in the Montero reads, “Warning: Higher rollover risk. Avoid abrupt maneuvers and excessive speed.” Labels aside, an emergency can require unavoidable, abrupt maneuvers to prevent a collision. Under those circumstances, some vehicles handle better than others. Our tests are designed to compare handling in these situations.A rollover can occur when a driver steering around an unexpected obstacle loses control of the vehicle. Most rollovers occur when a vehicle trips over a curb or other obstacle.According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an insurance-industry organization, “In 1999, about half of all deaths in utility vehicles occurred in single vehicle rollovers, compared to about 20 percent in cars.” Because rollovers account for such a disproportionate percentage of SUV deaths, Consumers Union has called on the government to develop realistic rollover tests, with the results made available to consumers. Last January, NHTSA implemented its first rollover rating for passenger vehicles. Called the Rollover Resistance Rating, this five-star system is based on static measurements of a vehicle’s dimensions and is intended to provide an estimate of rollover risk in a single-vehicle accident. (A list of vehicles that have been rated so far can be found at the NHTSA web site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.) As of mid-June, the 2001 Montero had not yet been rated. Mitsubishi says that the static stability factor of the 2001 Montero is approximately 1.15, which would result in a three-star rating, similar to that of many other SUVs. We consider this rating system inadequate because it isn’t based on tests of a moving vehicle and can’t account for what could be critical differences in emergency handling caused by suspension design, tires, steering response, or the presence of a stability-control system.In October 2000, Congress directed NHTSA to develop and implement a dynamic rollover test by November 2002. Currently in the planning stages, this would be based on actual on-road handling tests. Consumers Union supports this approach. Recommendations: What should a consumer do? If you’re shopping for an SUV, we advise you not to buy the 2001 Montero Limited until this safety problem has been corrected. In our opinion, there are safer choices.For current Montero Limited owners, we urge you to always wear your safety belt, drive with caution, and not carry cargo on top of the vehicle. This raises a vehicle’s center of gravity, which can increase the risk of rollover. Remember that even carrying passengers or a large load of cargo stacked high raises the center of gravity. Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure that you won’t suddenly be confronted with an obstacle in the road that could expose you to a situation in which the Montero Limited could tip up, as in our test.We believe that Mitsubishi should issue a recall and improve the vehicle’s stability. In this way, it would follow the example set in 1997 by Daimler-Benz, now DaimlerChrysler, which owns a 37.3 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. When the European Mercedes-Benz A-Class was found to roll over in tests conducted by a Swedish automotive magazine, Daimler-Benz voluntarily recalled the vehicle and corrected the problem. Consumer Union (2001)