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A Surprisingly Pleasant Crossover SUV
2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor

By Keith Burton

When you get to drive as many vehicles as I do for Go Boating, it is easy to get enamored over the mainstream products, you know, the vehicles from the “Big Three,” or the major Japanese brands, which produce the vast majority of SUVs and trucks people buy. But occasionally, we seek the more obscure.

Take the Mitsubishi Endeavor, which is the subject of this review. While Mitsubishi is not an unknown brand from some far-off third world country, it still, for a Japanese firm, has never been a brand with big-time recognition and sales like Toyota or Nissan. The company has had a hard time in the U.S. over the last few years from management problems in the homeland to some marketing missteps in the U.S.  But Mitsubishi is a company that produces some top-notch products that are well regarded, such as their rally-winning Lancer Evolution and Mondero SUV.

The Endeavor was introduced in late 2003 as a 2004 model and this year received numerous upgrades in both its interior and exterior design for 2006 that make it both more attractive and competitive.

If you are unfamiliar with the Mitsubishi Endeavor, you can be forgiven. This is not a vehicle that is a huge seller. Fact is, it is almost a rarity on the road and it really shouldn’t be. That’s because as a mid-size SUV, it fits perfectly into what most people need in an SUV. It has rugged, look-at-me styling, which should appeal to both men and women, and it is very comfortable with plenty of room inside for most families. Actually, you could almost consider this vehicle a secret pleasure among SUVs. It’s quite nice.

ON THE ROAD

The Endeavor comes standard as a front driver. That is, it has a stable front wheel drive drivetrain, but it is available in a full-time all-wheel drive version for more stick in slippery conditions and limited offroading and this is the version you want for towing a boat. But this is not an off-road vehicle in the pure sense.  Think of it more as a truly capable family SUV with some sporting capability. Most of that sport will be found on the road. This is an SUV with lots of power and road performance that is more inline with what you would experience in a car. Fact is. Its chassis is based upon the Galant sedan, which while also not a big seller, handles and performs quite well.

The Endeavor comes standard with a powerful 3.8 liter V6 with 225 horsepower and a stout 255 ft. lbs. of torque. The horsepower and torque combine to make this 3,869  pound SUV feel quite sprightly on the road. You will not have any trouble at all accelerating onto Interstate on ramps or passing cars on two lane roads. The engine propels the Endeavor from zero to 60 mph in just over 9 second seconds.

Towing for almost all midsize SUVs is limited. But properly equipped, the Endeavor is rated to pull a 3,500 pound boat and trailer with the all-wheel-drive version. The front drive version is rated for light towing up to 2,000 pounds.

The Endeavor features a four-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control, which automatically adjusts shift points to your driving style. All-wheel drive equipped Endeavors rely on a transfer case that combines a bevel gear center differential with a viscous coupling to achieve a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels. The transfer case includes a fine-pitch hypoid gear that helps reduce noise and differential oil cooler that helps improve the unit's reliability.

Steering is light but communicates well. So much so, that it is easy to forget that you are piloting an SUV. The handling around corners and over rough roads is much more carlike with a suspension that tends to soak up road imperfections more than bounce you and your passengers around like they were on a trampoline. What this means is that the Endeavor is quite comfortable both around town and on long distance trips on the Interstate.

Credit for the nice ride goes to the Endeavor’s four wheel independent suspension. The weight of the Endeavor's suspension is less than a truck-based suspension from a proven up front McPherson strut design. In addition, a large, rigid cross-member helps control the torsional flexing forces of the front sub-frame, improving suspension performance while also reducing ride harshness and noise.

The rear suspension utilizes a low-mounted, multi-link configuration with trailing arms that, with its reduced protrusion into the rear cargo bay, helps increase the rear cargo carrying capacity. The Endeavor has hydroformed crossmembers that help reduce road noise and improve suspension performance by reinforcing the rear suspension mounting points to reduce flex.

The Endeavor has a proven power rack-and-pinion steering system that provides the feeling and responsiveness of a passenger car. Utilizing effort multiplication, the system makes parking and low-speed maneuvering easy through low speed steering control.

On the road the Endeavor behaves predictably under most conditions, but the powerful engine and high torque does upset steering under strong acceleration and some passing conditions. Torque steer raises its head to remind you that you have all the power getting to the road through the front wheels. That means under some conditions, you will feel the steering wheel tugging at your hands. We think Mitsubishi should have done more to handle this trait in the Endeavor.

They did try. The Endeavor has a pretty aggressive traction control system that will cut power if it detects wheel spin. You will trigger the system often if you are an aggressive driver with a heavy foot. But if you drive normally, you probably won’t notice it too often. For 2006, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution is standard for all Endeavor trim lines, as is a full-size spare wheel and tire with a towing prep package. Traction control is standard for 2WD models.

A tire pressure monitoring system alerts Endeavor drivers when tire pressure is low - which may help slow tire wear and reduce the potential for a blowout. Other safety standard features include front seat-mounted, side-impact air bags and daytime running lights.

You can buy the Endeavor in a well-equipped LS version that comes standard with a wealth of features including power everything, a four-speed automatic, cruise control and AM/FM/CD radio. Or you can go all out with their Limited version, which includes leather seating surfaces and a terrific 315-watt Mitsubishi/Infinity 6CD/MP3-compatible audio system with seven speakers. The Limited AWD model is also available with an optional Mitsubishi Active Traction and Skid Control system that senses the onset of traction loss and, in the event of a skid, helps the driver maintain direction through braking and throttle corrections.

ROOMY INTERIOR

Mitsubishi designed the Endeavor for the American market. That means it is stylish and roomy inside with seats that fit the larger American physique. The seats have a broad cushion and provide good support for the legs. The backrest is firm and provides plenty of comfort for long trips.

The interior space is quite good as the Endeavor is wide for its length, which provides both a secure stance on the road and lots of shoulder room. The rear seat has plenty of room for three adults.

Fit and finish was excellent with no squeaks or rattles. The plastic finishes matched and the overall material choices were first rate. Mitsubishi designed the windshield wipers with a articulated mechanism that allows the right wiper to completely clear the large windscreen, which is quite cool in a vehicle in this group.

Instrumentation is very legible and the controls for the radio and heating and air conditioning system are intuitive. But the Endeavor is different in that the display for the climate control system and radio are integrated into a small color monitor about the center stack on the dash. The display contains a wealth of information include outside temperature, radio and climate system settings, a compass, fuel range, average speed and more. We can think of very few vehicles that provide such a wide range of useful information.

The display can get a bit washed out in very bright light, but it is very cool and I think other manufacturers should consider doing the same. Much of the information is collected by the vehicle’s computer and fuel management system.

We also like the blue-lit night illumination with red pointers on the main gauges. The look is upscale and imaginative.

What it all adds up to is that the 2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor should be on anyone’s must-see list when shopping for a midsize SUV. Its best points are the terrific road feel and roomy cabin, but it also has a look that is both rugged and attractive but not too much of either. The Endeavor is also easy to maneuver around town and gets remarkably good fuel mileage. We saw an average of 20 to 22 mpg with our admittedly heavy foot. And if you like to own a vehicle that you won’t see on everyone else’s driveway, your Mitsubishi dealer would like to see you.

Specifications
2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor
Vehicle type: Five-door, five-passenger SUV
Length: 190.2 in.
Height: 67.3 in.
Width: 73.6 in.
Wheelbase: 108.3 in.
Weight: 3,869 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 21.4 gals.
Track F/R 63.0 in./63.0 in.
Maximum towing capacity: 3,500 lbs. (AWD version) 2,000 lbs. for Front Wheel Drive Version
Ground Clearance: 8.3”
EPA mileage estimates (city/highway):  FWD: 17 / 23
                                                                AWD: 17 / 22

Price Range: MSRP $26,599– $32,299
Engine
3.8-liter SOHC V6
Horsepower: 225@5,000 rpm
Torque: 255@3,750

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