I posted a similar thread about the Isuzu Trooper, but learned the Trooper has a questionable GM transmission. From a reliability perspective would I be wiser to trust a 2001- 2003 Montero Sport for camping in the mountains?
Quite reliable, relatively speaking. My wife's truck is an '03 Montero Sport Limited 2WD. We had it for several years before I discovered it was designed off of Mitsubishi's legendary L200 truck frame. Explained why all the suspension components seemed bigger than they needed to be. 6-lug wheels, heavy truck style wheel bearing adjusters, hybrid rear differential, etc. Everything seemed, and is overbuilt chassis-wise. The softer suspension of the Sport version may need to be addressed, rear springs pretty weak.
Hers has the 3.5L and it is a good engine, however it does have it's basic maintenance gremlins as mentioned above. Keep the cam seals, valve cover gaskets, up, which prevent oil loss, which leads to valve seals and lifters acting up. Also watch the coolant bypass system, overheating can sneak up too. Good news is the 3.5L block is solid, and once you catch up the often missed maintenance stuff, they are great vehicles. She won't think of buying anything else. We've replaced the leather interior, fixed/painted here and there. Due for a new set of tires soon.
I think they are the most vehicle for the least money, especially if you can handle most of the maintenance, or have a reliable local mechanic who can speak Mitsubishi fluently. Lots of folks give up on them when the valve seals fail and you see smoke at extended idle. Fix the valve seals, and usually you are good to go. Bottom end typically still strong.
Crankshaft bolt takes out a few too. Make sure to update yours if it hasn't been done already. Camshaft and valve cover oil leaks can kill the alternator, and a shop will charge around $1500 to fix those together, or a weekend and $300 worth of parts to do it yourself. Just put your hand under the alternator (engine off ) to check for oil.
The Limited's and XS trim models have the hybrid LSD, which is the next best thing to a selectable locker.
All in all I'm pretty impressed with mine. X3 on being stout. Drives more like a car than any SUV I have owned. Replaced soft springs with OME and torsion lift for $160, clears 33" tires no problem.
I traded my 2000 sport with 200+k for a couple of troopers so I can speak to both your threads. I agree with everything that has been said so far. I'll add this:
* The valve cover and cam seals on the 3.5 are not too difficult to do yourself if you're a decent shade tree mechanic. The parts are cheap, but will be expensive in Labor if you have it done. There are some tutorials out there on the web and YouTube which will help. The passenger side leaks directly onto the alternator and will cause it to go out prematurely. Look for oil in the alternator during inspection.
* the turning radius and travel/flex on the sport were friggen awful. Hated parking it.
* the trooper off road is fantastic stock. OME springs make it even better. Aftermarket is limited on both, but there is more available for the trooper because of wider distribution and rebranding.
* I like the g80 isuzu LSD more than the mitsu's. Also I've yet to find a troop w/o the g80 after looking at 20 or so.
* you could sleep in the back of the sport by just folding the seats down. That was cool, but for the trooper I built a sleeping platform that is flush with the top of the back seats when they're folded down. End result is the same and I have more Headroom in the trooper even with the elevated platform.
Over all, I would recommend finding a nice manual trooper of either generation. Details galore in the video I posted to the trooper thread. 2nd choice would be one of the many 3rd gen full size Monties. The first 2 gens are great, but getting rare and parts will become more difficult to find.
I came real real close to getting a couple 3rd gen monties, but I could not be happier with my little trooper.