Throwback Review: Moving Made Easier

A Victory & Reseda Throwback Review of the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor

Prior to 2002, the BBC's "Top Gear" was a bit boring and stuffy. It was so stiff that even Jeremy Clarkson was a bit restrained compared to today's show. Well, there was an older version of this website, and before that, my articles appeared on two other online magazines I either contributed to or edited for. The following article was from that Plasticine Era…a few moves ago. There is some relevance as the Mitsubishi Endeavor is still in production…but, not for long.

Enough boring set-up…read on…

For only a few times in our life, we heed to call to move from one home to another. Some moves, more than others. The point of moving is to find a place called home, even if it is on a temporary basis. One thing is certain: moving is not fun.

Recently, I moved out of Madison, Wisconsin down to our base in Chicago (that was in 2004 if you're keeping score…and that didn't last long!). This is a 150-mile relocation that involved only a bedroom full of my belongings. It’s quite simple enough, but not really. The idea behind this move is to be cost-efficient about this move as possible. This involves making one trip with everything.

One would easily rent a vehicle from U-Haul or any other one-way rental truck company. After calculating the cost of the truck plus mileage, the venture becomes expensive. Also, if you are simply moving a bedroom, especially with a futon and not a full bed set, the smallest truck is simply too large for the job. A trailer works, but if you do not have a vehicle to pull the trailer then the idea becomes moot.

Also, renting a vehicle one-way from a car rental agency, for example, a minivan or SUV, becomes a cost hog as well. The base rental charge is attractive, even with unlimited mileage, but you also get slammed with a one-way return charge or an inflated daily rate to cover that charge. Forget your tight budget if you want to do that.

However, the solution came with a logical choice. The plan is to pick up an SUV in Chicago, drive it back to Madison, load it up and take it back to Chicago. Moving with an SUV was something I had done in the past successfully. I was eager to make this kind of move again.

Photo courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors North America

Luck would have it that the vehicle chosen for this task was the right one for the job. In Chicago, waiting in the wings was a green 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor LS. This new SUV, built in Normal, Illinois as part of Mitsubishi's Project America, was big enough and strong enough. It also was full of surprises.

My Endeavor came with a brawny 3.8Litre V6 that flexed its 215 horsepower over 360-plus miles of road. It is a powerful engine that hauled a full load behind the front seats without complaint. Rated at 250 lb.-ft. of torque, it never felt underwhelmed at lower revs and under load. The smooth Sportronic automatic transmission did not allow the engine to lose momentum through the gears. Considering the 600-plus pound load it was carrying, including the driver, it was smart not to manually change gears through the toggle selector off of the "D" position.

The load may not seem much as the vehicle itself made it all effortless. This is where the Endeavor’s design comes into play. As brawny as the engine underneath the hood, no one can deny a butchness of the styling. A slab-sided body, accentuated by bulging fenders and a large glass area, transmits a brutal message to all drivers ahead. One would even mistake the Endeavor as a knock-off of the Jeep Grand Cherokee from its side profile. Considering this would be a compliment.

Visually, the Endeavor is enhanced with large side mirrors and a wide rearview mirror. Blind spot vision was sufficient, even with a load that crept above the lower glass lines of the vehicle. Perhaps a taller rear glass would be desirable in this case.

However, deep down inside it is soft-roader purpose-built for passengers and light loads to be driven on the highway and around the suburbs. This is not a bad thing, but in today's SUV market, the Endeavor pulls this off very well. Some even considered this a crossover because it shares the same platform as the new Galant sedan. Though it is carlike in its manners, it feels more like an SUV than a combination of several vehicles at once.

Inside is where you can see this dichotomy. Some textures inside are quite brutal, especially on the steering wheel and plastic trim. In the center are the Air Conditioning and Audio controls set in a satin-finished binnacle. On top of the fascia are a liquid-crystal readout for the time and audio settings. It would have been easier if they splurged on RDS (Radio Data System – digital identification of radio stations) for this model. A single CD player is standard. The Air Conditioner has many fan settings, which became handy on this run, while the audio system sounded fine for FM reception.

Seating was a "sport" fabric that was supportive and comfortable. The dark gray interior seemed bleak, but appropriate for this run. The 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded flat to the cushion and provided enough cargo length even with the headrests attached to the seatbacks. To compensate for the extra length of the futon frame, the front seat was moved up to create a businesslike cockpit for the driver on this relocation. Mitsubishi claims that the Endeavor can haul a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of plywood in the back. The futon frame was about 6 feet in length and made it through to the furthest forward position of the front passenger seat.

Instrumentation was large and easily readable day and night. Given the length of the journey back and forth between Madison and Chicago, I had no complaints with the driving position as the eight-way driver’s seat can allow me excellent control from the "cockpit."

Photo by Randy Stern

Rear access is helped by a large liftgate and separate glass hatch. All rear openings are opened by the standard remote keyless entry system. As convenient as the keyless system was for his vehicle, it may be smart for this instance to offer a key lock for the rear liftgate and hatch.

Given prior experiences with SUVs, I was completely amazed at how well the Endeavor performed and behaved both under load and unladen. Previous SUVs provided a bouncy ride, a lack of control on curves, rode rough under loads and howled fierce tire and wind noises to boot. Neither became an issue with the Endeavor.

For one, the Endeavor is built as a unibody vehicle, not a body-on-frame device as the most popular SUVs are built. I am convinced that an SUV with a unibody construction is the way to go. The lower center of gravity kept the Endeavor planted on the ground even on banked curves and cloverleaf interchanges. Overall, the entire structure is strong enough to handle a five-passenger load with luggage and other heavy items.

Unabashedly, this is a two-ton monster – a tamed one at that. The Endeavor rides very smoothly and does not apologize if thrown onto lane changes and various twists and turns. Even for a two-ton SUV, it maneuvers quite deftly. While jostling through some heavy traffic on the Ryan and Kennedy Expressways in Chicago, the Endeavor held its own with confidence.

Also, the Endeavor is quieter than most SUVs on the road. You do not hear any tire or wind noise at any speed. A good thing considering that as a soft-roader, one must expect a quieter driving experience without compromise. In this case, Mitsubishi delivers. Just remind yourself that this is neither a Montero nor a Montero Sport, but a purpose-built vehicle for everyday use.

However, weighing two tons has its downfalls. In the 368-mile test, the Endeavor averaged 17 MPG. Certainly, a minivan with more interior space would turn better fuel economy numbers, but not too many minivans have a completely flat floor to allow a futon, several pieces of luggage and a few storage tubs to be securely loaded without having to disassemble the seats and place them on top of your load. The 2005 Chrysler minivans with the Stow-N-Go seats for both the second and third rows arrived too late for this move.

Nonetheless, the move was a success. The Endeavor made this move as painless and within budget. Considering the cost of fuel against the actual fuel economy, this SUV made sense throughout its driving loop. Mechanically, the Endeavor is as powerful as a standard cargo van you get from a rental truck place and can haul a life's full of stuff inside of it without cramping your style.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Randy Stern

Cover photo courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors North America

PRE-OWNED VEHICLE INFORMATION: Per a search on several car shopping sites, V&R found there very few 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor LS models left. One was found locally in the Twin Cities for just $4,000 with over 146,000 miles on the clock. Others were found on various private sales sites between $1,000 and up with mileage as low as 129,000 miles on the clock. Always have any vehicle inspected before purchase.

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