Nothing lights the comment section like the phrase, “the best SUV.” In the Philippines, an SUV is an indispensable tool for back roads, long-distance journeys, short trips around town, hauling supplies back to the abode, or raising a family.
Let’s compare the original trio that sparks so much debate and passion in the car community here in the Philippines. The Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, and Ford Everest are going under the microscope for a three-way comparison, which is a departure from the usual two-way format that we usually employ.
So, let’s figure out which is the best buy among the three.
Manufacturers have been getting creative when it comes to making their SUVs stand out in the market. Between the three, there is simple and elegant, futuristic and outgoing, and big and buff. The offerings available in the market are very different from one another, and styling is very subjective with the phrase, “different strokes for different folks.”
There is no denying that the Fortuner is an elegant design without even trying. There are minimal amounts of creases in the sheet metal, followed by smooth and flowing lines everywhere. A set of 18-inch two-tone wheels round out the look. Everything is safe on the Fortuner, and that makes it a very common choice.
Robotic in its design, the Montero Sport seems like a look into the future in the present day. This is the case for some but for others, Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield design can come off as a hark back to the old notion of futurism. Disregarding that, it does look good. This time around, Mitsubishi pumped up the exterior, gave it even more mass in the front and trimmed some controversial items in the rear. It’s the edgiest of the bunch with more boxes and hard corners than its rivals, and its 18-inch wheels are pleasant to look at, especially in that black and silver color scheme.
Deceptively wide, the Everest’s exterior reminds you that it has American design behind it. An SUV that evokes masculinity, and the body lines show it on this particular example. Ford took simple design elements, such as in the headlights and taillights, and gave volume to everything around them, making for an exterior that looks larger than it actually is. The big theme surrounding the design also trickles down to the wheels, as Ford gives this big boy a set of 20-inch wheels, also in a two-tone design.
Since exterior styling depends on your preference, it’ll be too subjective to score. The team is divided on which of these titans take the cake when it comes to styling. We cannot deny that the most radical and attention-grabbing design comes from the Montero, however, the others are safer and more conservative, so there are two camps that you can go with.
All SUVs in this comparison have 7-seats, leather seating, and cavernous cargo space in the rear with the third-row down. The configuration is pretty standard across the three, with only slight differences between each. Legroom across the board is mostly the same, with the third row of seats being the tightest to fit in. The cargo area can be expanded by tumbling the middle row bench forward. All models also come with a power tailgate and other electronic features but are only available at the top of the line.
Dark chocolate is the food that comes to mind when looking at the Fortuner’s interior upholstery and color scheme. So far, it is the only one between the three to have leather in a color other than black. It creates a nice contrast and a warmer look to the rest of the cabin. Space is a little compromised in the cargo area because the seats stow away up and over to the side. For more space in the rear or more space in the middle, the second row sits on a set of sliders to ensure space for all occupants in the cabin.
Futurism carries over into the cabin of the Montero Sport. You can see some of the exterior design languages in the cabin with diagonal and vertical lines that are reminiscent of the front fascia and rear. Unlike its rivals, the Montero Sport’s middle row is fixed into place, and can only hinge forward to allow passengers to enter the third row or to allow for more cargo to fit in.
Unlike its exterior, which is imposing and large, the interior of the Everest is a good blend of utility and lifestyle, as it comes with some of the best toys in its segment and soft materials to boot. The top trim of the nameplate has a panoramic sunroof. You may not need this feature in the scorching hot sun, but when you want to let light into the cabin and a bit of heat, it’s there. It also has a third row that folds with a flip of a switch, which makes setting up for passengers six and seven, effortless. It also tumbles down so preparing for a big load is a breeze.
The interior design is also a point of subjectivity, in terms of design, all of them have their merits, but the Everest takes the cake with its supple leather upholstery, and electronic assists in the interior. The cherry on top – literally – is the panoramic sunroof.
Having tested all the SUVs, and since all models have independent suspension in the front, and a solid axle in the rear, the ride behavior is quite similar. What’s different are the tire profiles and the refinements that each of the brands have done to the under-chassis of their respective models.
The Fortuner features a ride that is refined, but not as refined as the Montero Sport. The Everest, even with its 20-inch wheels make for an even smoother experience. None of the cars here are buttery-smooth though, so expectations must be set accordingly.
Comfort is hands down the Everest. It remains as soft, if not softer than its rivals even with 20-inch wheels. That’s an achievement in itself.
All models for the 2020 model year now come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The competition here switches to the driver aids more minute details.
After a few years with a basic head unit, the Fortuner gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, putting this model’s smartphone connectivity on par with its rivals. However, the victory is short-lived because the Fortuner misses out on a backup camera, as well as a few ports short compared to its rivals. It does, however, set the benchmark for tech, because it seems like the bare-minimum that consumers are willing to put up with.
A constant thorn in the Fortuner’s side, fans of the Montero Sport now have even more reason to boast about, because the facelifted model comes with even more toys in the GT variant. Gone are the dual analog gauges and multi-information display, and in its place is a fully-digital gauge cluster. The head unit is bigger and better than before, and the model now comes with a power tailgate with a backup camera still being standard.
For the longest time, the Everest has kept its specs above the rest of its rivals, but now that the other two have been given some time to catch up, will the Everest still hold its own? The answer to that question is yes, it does its lead was only shortened. It features tech that is not normally found on the segment. You get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, and even a park assist feature that gets you into a slot without moving the steering wheel.
Technology is won ever so slightly by the Everest. The Montero Sport manages to close the gap, while the Fortuner lags behind understandably. Adaptive cruise control is a new pioneering feature in the Ford stable, and we’re seeing it in their latest line toppers.
All the cars being compared in their top of the line trims have the full array of airbags, which means that all three SUVs feature dual front, side, and curtain units. The Fortuner and Montero, however, have an additional knee airbag for the driver, whereas the Everest doesn’t.
The Fortuner doesn’t have fancy adaptive cruise control, but it does have the standard array of safety items that you need to keep you safe on the road such as ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, trailer sway control, brake assist, downhill assist control, ISOFIX, and a differential lock.
The Montero Sport on the other hand, is better-equipped than its Japanese rival, with anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, brake override system, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, trailer stability assist, and ISOFIX.
The Everest may be down one airbag, but it’s still packed to the gills with safety features. Standard on the Titanium variant is ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution with brake assist, traction and stability control, hill-start assist, trailer sway control, hill-descent control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and ISOFIX.
For safety, we’ll have to give it to the Montero Sport. The model comes with a good array of features that allow this model to edge out the jam packed Everest. The Ultrasonic Misaccelertion Mitigation System is a huge safety net for consumers.
A 2.8 L diesel engine is present with 174 hp and 450 Nm of torque. This high-end motor is available only for the 4x4 V variant, while 4x2 variants get a 2.4 L that produces 147 hp with 400 Nm. All automatic variants have a 6-speed transmission. This motor is quite potent and surges with power. Good amounts of torque are available in the middle of the rev range, and the engine pulls well. The transmission isn’t the fastest in the trio, and it only has 6 speeds to play with. Handling is alright, but some bumps may intrude the cabin from time to time. Steering is on the heavier side, but not too heavy.
A MIVEC diesel engine with 2.4L of displacement finds its way into the engine bay of the Montero Sport. This motor produces a total of 176 hp and 430 Nm of torque making it a capable performer for most tasks. Power delivery is good, with the accelerator pedal being responsive. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is also quick to respond and downshift to engage the engine’s powerband more willingly. Handling is good, with the chassis feeling controllable at speed. The Montero Sport also has the best turning radius, so it makes tight turns a breeze.
Two turbos, two liters, and 10 gears make for the most powerful midsize SUV in its class. The 210-hp motor of the Everest has the most horses in the segment while between the three, it also has the most torque at 500 Nm. You’d think that an engine like this will kick like a mule, but Ford has made sure to keep everything bolted down and refined. Acceleration is smooth, which can also be attributed to the 10-speed automatic gearbox that is quick to shift and very responsive. Handling is made easy by the feather-light steering, which allows for easy handling whenever and wherever you may be.
The best driver of the bunch is hard, because in a straight line, the Everest will trump its rivals. For everyday use, however, it’s going to the Montero Sport. The turning radius alone is enough for the tight twists and turns of Metro Manila’s urban jungle.
The Everest has an overwhelming advantage in terms of specs. It features many bits and pieces for customers to play with. Following closely is the Mitsubishi Montero Sport which wins in drivability and safety. The Fortuner simply does not stack up when pitted against its bitterest of rivals. It was good in 2016, but perhaps an update is due.
Price is also a huge factor, and at P2,260,000, the Fortuner simply is an expensive SUV for what you pay for. The Everest is simply a better value at only P39,000 more equaling P2,299,000. The Montero Sport is a bit of an oddity since it is the only 4x2 variant here and it comes at P1,998,000 for the 4x2 GT variant.
Disclaimer: We’ll revisit this comparo again soon. Mitsubishi Philippines have yet to launch a Montero Sport 4x4 GT variant, which will undoubtedly have better features compared to the GT 4x2 that we currently have now.