A Top Gear PH reader asks: Which SUV should I get as graduation gift?

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by Botchi Santos | Mar 25, 2013

Hi, Botchi! I\'m a recent graduate with dreams of going around the Philippines by road one day. I am in the market for a graduation gift, hopefully an SUV that can take me to the ends of the Philippines and back, and be with me for at least 10 years. I\'m choosing between a Toyota Fortuner and a Mitsubishi Montero Sport mainly because of their diesel engines, ground clearance and reliability. But I don\'t know which variant to look at specifically. Of course, I want as much off-road capability as possible. That probably means getting a 4x4, but do I really need it to pursue my dream of exploring the Philippines?

Right now, I am really interested in the Montero Sport GLS-V AT, but because it isn\'t a 4x4, I\'m not yet 100% sure. I\'m also considering the GLS-V 4x4 MT, but I think I\'d like the comfort and convenience that an AT can provide. As for the GTV, I\'m not a fan of its tacky go-fast accessories and the price tag, of course. So again, I\'m not fully sure what to get.

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For the Fortuner, I heard that the 2.5G is grossly underpowered. Is there any truth to this? The 3.0V would be perfect, if it weren\'t for its price tag as well. Please help.

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Thanks in advance and more power!

Bryan Aldrich Chua


Aldrich, I hope this e-mail isn\'t too late yet. I apologize for that, and here\'s hoping you still haven\'t started your adventure yet.

Between the Toyota Fortuner and the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, I really prefer the latter because it has much better power. The revised Fortuner now also boasts a VGT, although peak power and torque figures remain the same. At least, however, the Fortuner\'s power curve has been improved and now gives better pick-up and response.

But if you\'ll be going as far north as Aparri and as far down south as Jolo (avoiding insurgency hot spots, of course), the Montero Sport might be your better bet. Here\'s why:

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The Montero Sport\'s CRDi and VGT-equipped 4D56 lends itself better to poor fuel quality as opposed to Toyota\'s D-4D system, according to someone who has owned and driven both extensively. The Montero Sport also feels better to drive at really fast highway speeds (better for avoiding and running away from insurgency hot spots if you do find them down south), and its standard limited-slip differential offers better traction and stability. Driving on mixed surfaces (switching from tarmac to dirt and mud), the Montero Sport\'s Super Select 4WD system transitions between surfaces much better, and there\'s adequate stroke from the suspension to absorb most fast and high-speed bumps and ruts on the road.

Lastly, the brake system of the Montero Sport is phenomenal, and is very effective on tarmac, dirt and gravel surfaces--more so than the Fortuner\'s. This is a testament to Mitsubishi\'s strong rallying heritage in WRC and Paris-Dakar, where the Diamond Star brand is the most succesful of all the manufacturers. Find a typical farm-to-market dirt road and the Montero Sport will be in its element.

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Perhaps the Fortuner\'s single ace against the Montero Sport is its hardcore, trail-driving off-road capability, which the Montero Sport does only fairly well. Equipped with a winch and proper off-road tires, the Fortuner makes light work of steep uphill, grassy and muddy terrain where the Montero Sport might have difficulty with. So, the questions you should be asking yourself are: How much off-roading will you be doing, and what kind of off-road driving will it be?

A wild-card alternative is the Hyundai Santa Fe. It has loads of power and loads of refinement (thanks to its car-based crossover architecture), but offers limited off-road capability. But on the highway, both the Toyota and the Mitsubishi will never know which way the Santa Fe went.

Another choice to consider is the Isuzu Alterra. It\'s old and relatively slow, but has arguably the best off-road capability in this class. And its bigger size means you can load up more supplies when you go cross-country. I\'m not a fan of the Alterra, but I can\'t deny its off-road talents.

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I hope this reaches you in time. Good luck and God bless. Tell us about your cross-country adventures. Take lots of pictures and post them on social-media sites!

Botchi Santos
Consumer Editor

Do you want Botchi to help you pick the right car? Send your inquiry to topgear@summitmedia.com.ph.


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