The Definitive Gen2 vs Gen3 Guide


In the Lawrence of Arizona thread, I tried to come up with many different scenarios and types of driving to put my Gen2.5 and Gen3 Monteros up against each other for a thorough comparison. These are the results, thoughts, ramblings, and conclusions of my Gen 2.5 vs Gen 3 battle royale.

I guess I have to start off with a disclaimer that I love both of these generations and am not looking to start a Gen war. I undertook this test because for years I was a Gen2 snob; I thought the Gen3s were weak and ugly. But then over the years the Gen3’s looks starting growing on me, then I thought maybe I could get my wife to daily drive one, and then this grew into a full blown “I just gotta get one”. So when the opportunity came up to buy one of the most storied and built up NPs from a friend, I just couldn’t say no. But then I was faced with a dilemma, which one to keep? For those of you who’ve read my Black Betty thread, you know how much I love that rig. The idea of replacing it never entered my mind and I honestly thought this test would just confirm my Gen2 bias and serve to quash the newfound Gen3 bug I had developed. Well, it didn’t go that way.

After many many months of testing, and wrenching, and spending, and wrenching, and testing ("Don't worry honey, yes, I know it's been a long time, I'm getting rid of one I swear but I just need to test them to decide which one to get rid of."), I decided to switch camps and go Gen3. This had a lot to do with where I’m at in my life right now, a new father, moving to a new region with different terrain, and also the kind of trips that I’ll be doing. So don’t look at this as which generation is better, but rather which generation is better suited to certain things.

And now in late May, 2019 I sit here without either Montero. Black Betty is gone, enjoying the fresh air and powder up in Boulder, CO with her new family. And Lawrence just drove away today with his new owners, a couple of National Park Rangers stationed at the Grand Canyon.



The Vehicles

1998 LS Black Betty – 4.90s, 33x12.5R15 BFG KO2, OME Springs / KYB Gas Adjusts Shocks, Rear SR Air Locker

2003 NP Limited, Lawrence of Arizona – 4.90s, 285/70R17 (32.7” x 11.2”), OME HD Springs and Nitrocharger Shocks

*Throughout this post I often say "Gen3" when most of the time I'm more specifically meaning the 2003-2006 NP model with traction control, 3.8L V6, and 5 speed Auto.

Driving / Terrain Types

City: Gen3 - Clear winner in every way - Handling, Interior Room, Comfort, Power, Funner to Drive. Neither vehicle makes a great daily in the city, and even for Suburbanites there are much better options out there in my opinion. But between the two, Gen3 for sure.

Hwy: Gen3 - For much of the same reasons it is better in the city but the extra power and 5 speed transmission of the NP really stands out here.

Dirt Roads (Maintained / Fire / Forest Service) – Gen3 – This is the Gen3s greatest strength. It shines brightest on gravel and is impressive even in stock form. For its age, the Gen3 was way ahead of its time in handling and ride quality on dirt. For someone who spends hours on dirt roads getting to camp sites, hiking trails, ghost towns, hot springs, etc. this one thing coupled with the on road manners is almost enough to declare the Gen3 the better vehicle for overlanding / most people’s 4x4 needs just by themselves.

Mud/Sand: Gen2 – If you have a factory rear locker in your Gen2/2.5 then you’re at a huge advantage here but even if you don’t the Gen2 is still the way to go since the traction control and stability control systems are usually more of a hindrance than a help in loose, soft, or deep sand and mud. The extra power of the 3.8 is nice but not when you can’t put it to the wheels. In this kind of wheeling, you want simplicity and strength not gadgetry and comfort.

Of particular note, on two separate instances in deep pebble gravel on the same day, the Gen3’s traction control system was braking a wheel and prohibiting me from turning the wheels in the direction that I wanted to. This was in Low Range with ASC off but without a way to truly disable all electronic “help” when it’s not wanted the Gen3 can be a big liability in loose terrain. From much reading, the only surefire way to totally disable the electronic stability and traction system is to disconnect a wheel sensor, even pulling the ABS relay under the hood won’t do it apparently. My plan at this point is to cut the wire going to the front driver side wheel sensor and splice in a relay and cabin switch to be able to enable/disable it completely.

Rock (Sandstone) - Gen3. I’m referring to the red rock sandpaper stuff prevalent in the southwest like around Sedona and Moab. Traction is usually abundant when dry but the traction control system still helps in many situations and the added power and stability of the Gen3 give it the edge. Both generations are right at home in this kind of rock but I just had an easier time and felt more comfortable on the same obstacles/trail in the Gen3 (despite lacking the rear locker).

Rock (Boulders / River Bottoms / Large Obstacles) - Gen2. Articulation, Angles, and Strength are the name of the game here. The Gen3’s approach angle is better and so is its minimum ground clearance but it’s the departure angle that usually gets you on boulders and the wider and longer wheelbase is also usually a negative here as these trails tend to be tight fits. Of course the biggest con is the lower amount of articulation in the front end. Also, the Gen3’s body seems more prone to damage since it’s harder to get a set of sliders to stick out far enough and long enough to protect everything when you don’t have a long ladder frame to weld to.

Wet / Snowy Roads – I haven’t gotten to test this well enough in either vehicle to form a good conclusion. I would deduce that the Gen3 would be better simply because it handles better and is more stable. Its steering is tight and light and feels car-like by comparison. But driving on the slick stuff seems to have more to do with driving slower and smarter than anything else so I’d be happy calling this one a tie/inconclusive.
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Gen3 Pros

Outside of the driving types mentioned above, the Interior is probably one of the biggest pros. This is a bit of a personal style thing but the roominess of the later Gen is a big win.

I find the seating position improved in the Gen3 because the dash is higher up, allowing you to get under it better. In the Gen2, my knees couldn't really fit underneath the dash so I'd have to drive from farther away which keeps my arms extended farther which is fatiguing.

I like the seats better too but wish they had folding armrests like the Gen2 (but not if it meant narrowing the wide and super functional center console armrest.

The overhead vents / Rear AC is a huge bonus if you frequently have passengers.

Trim and materials are better

Steering Wheel - This doesn't get enough praise. The wooden wheel of the Limited trim is the nicest, most comfortable steering wheel I've ever driven. I think about how good it feels when driving almost every time I drive the Gen3 and that thought or feeling hasn't worn off despite close to a dozen trips in the Gen3 now and what more can you want from a feature in a car than to constantly surprise you with how good it is? If you have an XLS Gen3 then you need to make your next mod a steering wheel from a Limited trim version.

2nd Row - More comfortable and isn't as high up above the 1st row so visibility is much better for it's passengers.

3rd Row - Folds flat into the floor or pops right out without any tools needed for instant storage.

Storage - The extra glove box, the CUP HOLDERS, the huge 2 part center console with sliding mechanism, under 3rd row locker, rear side cubicle and cup holders, and back door. The only that I miss are the little under seat storage areas of the Gen2 but getting the 2nd row seat down lower is more important.

Visibility - Not by much but I think it's just a tad better

Lighting - Again, nothing major but I think it is really cool how the 2nd row passengers each have their own side specific dome light.

Fake Wood - At the end of the day it's fake wood so big whoop, but I will say that it is a lot better done in the Gen3 than in the Gen2.

Gen2 Pros:

Instrumentation - The triple gauge pod in the center is too cool even if everyone agrees the oil pressure and voltmeter are not to be trusted and most people's gyros leaked all their oil out behind the dash. The main cluster's simple black background is easier to read than the purple and then white faces that the Gen3 had from 01-02 / 04-06 (It was black in 2003).

Climate Control - I like the simple mechanical operation much better than the electronic Gen3 Limited version which has an annoying delay from the time you make your fan adjustment until the time the fan speed changes. Also, I can’t stand cars whose buttons beep when you push them.

Switches - The Gen2 uses more generic rectangle cutouts for switch blanks so aftermarket switches fit in them better. Also, there are more places for extra switches.

Sun Visors - The sun visors themselves are better on the Gen3 but the retaining clips are worthless. It's a really bad design in the Gen3 and every single person has broken them. It's one of those head scratching things where someone tried to reinvent the wheel and of course failed miserably.

Shifters - Nothing beats manual linkages for the tranny and tcase shifters even if you do have to replace a disintegrating red ball once every 10 years.

Bed Platform - The side mounted 3rd row seats make it incredibly easy to mount a strong yet lightweight sleeping platform. In the Gen3, you need to use a lot more material since you only have the floor to build off of.

Exterior: Gen2.5 - IMO, no Montero is sexier than the blister fender Montero. In fact, I used to hate the way Gen3s looked, especially the big round front fender bubbles. But the looks have grown on me and the more you modify and break up the roundness on the outside with a bumper, roof rack, bigger offset wheels, etc. all help. For what it's worth, 90% people that don't know anything about Monteros that see both of mine say the Gen3 is better looking.

Reliability: Gen2.5 - Simpler, less features, less electronics. This was a big hurdle for me to overcome but at the end of the day, there are tons of Gen3s out there with well over 200k on the clock so that means if you put the work and $ in, they will survive. I believe you'll need to put more time and $ in than a Gen2 but I can live with that at this point in my life. If I was 5 years younger and in a different place in my life, I'd go with the cheaper and more reliable Gen2 (as I did).


Misc Things

Cost of Ownership - Gen2.5 - As I touched on above, the Gen3 is a more complex and less reliable vehicle. It doesn't seem to leave people stranded very often but from around 160-200,000 miles, there are going to a be a lot of little annoyances that start breaking and needing attention: Electronic Brake Booster, 4x4 solenoids, Instrument Cluster, etc. And then there are the big things: 3.8L Engine vs the 3.5L and the 5 speed vs 4 speed tranny. Yes, I know that Gen2s had DOHC 3.5s for certain years and Gen3s had 3.5s and 4 speeds for certain years. But Gen2.5 SOHC 4 speed tranny is going to be stouter and less expensive to maintain than the 3.8L TC equipped 5 speed tranny Gen3. If you get 200k out of the 5 speed you're doing good, whereas that's just expected out of the 4 speed. The butterfly valves in the 3.8L require some extra attention too. And lets not forget the other main cost: IRS. The weakest part of the Gen2 is the IFS, it's where everyone spends some $$ at some point or another - well now you get to double the amount of bushings, joints, and cvs to maintain. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the IRS isn't awesome or good or strong, I'm saying - It'll cost you more than maintaining the beloved 9.5" live axle.

Suspension/Steering - Gen3 - Yep. Fully Independent Suspension for the win. That's right, I said it. Remember, I'm looking at this from my use needs as an overlander and explorer, not as a rock crawler or mudder. The ride is so much better. And that's really saying something when you consider the fact that the ride of the Gen2 already blows most 4x4s out of the water. On dirt roads where JKs and Land Rovers and other double solid axle vehicles will be going like 5-15mph because the vibrations are tearing them and their drivers apart, I'd go around 15-30mph in the Gen2. But in the Gen3, you can add an extra 5-10mph on top of that and still be totally in control. Part of that is having tighter steering (in my case), part of that is 4 corner coil sprung IRS, and part of that is the wider and longer stance.

Regarding suspension strength:

Front: Tie / Gen3 wins. IF you have a Gen2/2.5 with 100mm CVs then yes your CVs will be stronger than the Gen3s 95mm. But the 99s and 2000 and some other years got 95mm CVs too, which are still really strong and great for 33s. But even if the Gen2.5 wins the CV battle (as Betty does over Lawrence), the elimination of the Idler Arm, Pitman Arm, Steering Box, etc. are huge. Everyone goes through Idler Arms and has alignment issues in the IFS world, even on the beefy Gen2 Montero IFS. The Gen3 rack and pinion is not bulletproof but I much prefer it to the arm set up that came before it and steering/handling wise it's the clear winner by miles. Articulation wise, the Gen2 with sway bar attached is better than the Gen3 with sway bar removed. But here's the thing: 1. Not like the Gen2 had good articulation anyways. 2. I got used to 3 wheeling in the Gen3 because it is so much more stable/well balanced and smooth that it's not nearly as scary as in a Gen2. And when you come down and land, you've got no Arms / Links to bend, the coils and shocks seem to do a better job of absorbing the impact.

Rear: Gen3 wins. I love the solid 9.5" Gen2 rear, I really do. But the IRS in the Gen3 is so stout it still impresses any mechanic who looks under the Montero. You’ve got some extra maintance though with the extra CVs, ball joints, bushings, etc. and the random occurrences of CVs popping out of the diff because of the retaining circlips being 0.3mm too thin. I can live with that maintenance for the huge benefit in handling and comfort that the IRS provides. Now, the lower amount of articulation is kind of a bummer but it's not that bad in the rear. Unscientifically, I'd say a Gen2 with rear sway bar has about the same articulation as a Gen3 without sway bar.

Speaking of sway bars – In my experience driving several Gen2s and several Gen3s, a Gen 3 with no sway bars is still more stable than a Gen2 with both sway bars on.

Regarding maintenance: About the same, but maybe a slight edge to the Gen2 in terms of maintenance cost since there are fewer bushings/joints with the rear solid axle but as already mentioned the front arm/link set up is a constant cost. The big ticket item here is having to work/replace the steering rack in the Gen3 but again, that’s kind of offset by the fact that Gen2 steering boxes/gears are almost impossible to find or rebuild at this point.

Engine – I’ll take the 3.8L SOHC over the 3.5 SOHC, butterflies of death and all. Some people drive 55-65mph on the highway, I drive 75-85. Some people don’t tow a camper, but I’ll be towing most of the time. That extra power is kind of a necessity for me but not be a big thing for you, after all, way more people drive 4x4s that are a lot slower than both Montero generations.

As mentioned before, the reliability is a bit better on the 3.5L but the surge tank issue doesn’t bother me that much. From lots of conversations and reading – it’s not as big of an issue as the legend suggests. Yes, the bushings around the shaft will degrade over time causing the shaft to wobble, which will then cause the screws holding the butterflies to loosen, which will then causes the butterflies to fall into the upper portion of the intake plenum and the screws to be ingested by the pistons, and then finally for the butterflies to move down and destroy the pistons. Notice that there are several steps in this process, each one presenting a warning sign and opportunity to stop damage from occurring. If you hear a new noise in your engine, inspect the butterflies. I’m told that the screws can be eaten by the pistons without damage to them and that a fallen butterfly will usually rattle around in the intake for a long time before making it down into the cylinder. Inspect your intake system every 30k with a smoke test and visually as well by tearing it down to the butterflies every 60k during spark plug or when fixing some random gasket leak. And if you do run into worn out bushings, either delete the butterfly assembly and lose a little low end torque (no one really knows how much exactly and seat of the pants reports vary) or buy a new surge tank for $800 every 150,000 miles.


Misc Things Cont'd.

Transmission – Gen3 – This aspect in the debate is very similar to the Engine question and really depends on your preferences. Reliability vs Performance. It just seems to be a fact of life that the 4 speed AISIN is a stronger, more reliable machine than the 5 speed.

But as fanatical as I am about reliability in my road trip and adventure mobile, I’ll take the 5 speed. It’s reliable enough to expect 200k out of it with just 2 fluid and filter changes and in my book, any miles over 180k that a transmission gives you is gravy. Secondly, the deeper first gear is legit when going down hills offroad, especially when coupled with 4.90 gearing in the diffs. The sportronic up and down shifts are nicer than the clunkier selections needed in the prior generation too. But of course, the real winner is the addition of the 5th gear which makes hwy driving more enjoyable.

The biggest con against the Gen3 in this department is the lack of an Overdrive button to eliminate the top gear when wanted and the fact that it is programmed to not upshift to the selected gear. This requires a lot more manual manipulation of the transmission shifter in sportronic mode than I’d like but it’s not something most people will encounter more than a few times a year.

Also worth mentioning here is that the Gen3 lacks the “Hold” button which easily eliminates 1st gear when needed in wet/slick conditions. Not a huge deal, but I liked having that button available even though I never used it living in Phoenix.

Cooling - Gen3 – Doesn’t seem to suffer from the same cooling issues as the Gen2. Now, some people might instantly say “The Gen2 doesn’t have cooling issues, they’re just old trucks that need to be maintained, and aftermarket parts are crap, you have to use OEM thermostats and get the OEM radiator rodded out, etc.” I agree with you and I say those things too. My point is that that kind of conversation never even comes up in the Gen3 world. For whatever reason, the engine cooling system just seems to work better. Sure, components break down over time but the chronic cooling issues don’t seem to persist. If you know why, please let me know.

Continuing on with cooling, take everything I said about the engine cooling system and apply it to the transmission. Questions like “hey, my AT light came on this weekend and I wasn’t even going up hill for very long, what happened?” don’t even come up in the Gen3 world. I think the deeper gearing means the tranny isn’t working as hard so it runs cooler and is more forgiving when offroading in anything other than 4 Low.

Brakes – TIE – On one hand, the electronic brake booster assembly in the Gen3 is not only a common failure point with the ability to at minimum really annoy you with its high pitched screams and expensive replacement costs but at maximum it could kill you depending on when it fails (notice I said “when”). But on the other hand, I think the Gen3 stops better when everything is actually working. But on the other hand, you can upgrade Gen2 brakes to 16” cheaply and easily but I don’t know of any such upgrade for the Gen3. But on the other hand, the Gen3’s rotors and hubs are waaaaay easier to service/replace. But on the other hand, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to bleed the brakes on a Gen2. You see how this just goes around and around?

Rear Cargo Area – TIE – The Gen3 has more space but I don’t like the shape as much since the wheel arches come more prominently into the area. The under floor storage cannot be overstated and the rear door comes with more useable storage area and options. On the flip side, the Gen2’s rear door seems stronger and more stable. I’ve yet to find a Gen3 whose rear door and kickstand operate as smoothly as those that of a Gen2. The biggest negative in this area for either generation goes the Gen3 – the fact that there is not an interior handle on the rear tailgate is a huge design flaw in my opinion. Firstly, when the exterior plastic handle breaks, and it will, you’ve got no way to get the door open short of tearing the inside panel apart. Secondly, if you’re sleeping in the back of the car, it’s nice to be able to get out the back door. Lastly, the factory tire mount only allows for up to a 32” on the Gen3 whereas the Gen2 door can accommodate up to at least a 37”. This last point though is easily fixed by making an adapter to raise the height of the spare tire lug studs or by removing the spare tire mount completely, flipping it upside down, and then reinstalling.

Headlights – Gen2 – Plastic vs Glass. The Gen2.5 models are especially nice since they have a cleaner/clearer design.

Roof Rack – Gen2 – Having rain gutters opens up a myriad of roof rack options. Install is simple (especially if you don’t have to spend time removing the factory roof rack and plugging the holes) and once you get gutter mounts you can pretty much put whatever rack on there you want. The Gen3 (in the USA) is not supported by many rack companies. There seem to be two main options: 1. U bolt a basket to the existing factory rails which is easy and cheap but not very strong. I mean, it’s stronger than the Gen2 factory rack and I’ve seen guys put 200lbs of stuff up there and even sleep in roof top tents up there - but I can’t recommend it because those rails are still plastic afterall. 2. Remove the headliner, unbolt the factory rack and install mounting tracks like Rhino Racks’ RTS tracks.

Build Quality – Gen2. It just seems to be built a little better.

Winches – Gen2. Having the ladder frame and a built-in winch location is tops. The fact that Mitsubishi planned for winches from the design phase up speaks volumes. Sure, the Gen3 can accommodate a winch with an ARB, TJM, or custom built bumper but it’s going to sit up higher, farther, and be more exposed – all negatives.

Parts – Gen3. This was a big one in my decision making process. Finding parts for the older Gen2s can be really tough. Sure, most things for the critical systems are available but all of those interior and exterior bits just aren’t anymore. In the past year I’ve seen around 20 Gen3s being junked compared to 2 or 3 Gen2s.

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for hanging in there. This is how I see things now but my perception and knowledge of these vehicles is changing and growing every day so who knows what I'll do next? Again, I love both Gens and will probably own another Gen2/2.5 again one day but for now that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Active member
Thanks for your in depth explanation👍.
I'm totally Noob in the Montero world. I've had most everything else (4wd vehicle wise) but not one of these. I need some clarification about this vehicle. Thanks.
The details =
2002 Montero Sport XLS 3.5L Awd w/150k miles. VIN code R (eighth digit).
This is the body on frame,
IFS front torsion bar, , coil springs solid axle rear diff.
Where do I stand on the Monty totem pole? Gen.2; 2.5; Gen.3?
And the engine? 6G72; 6G74?
Its the SOHC 24valve version.
I'm confused...
Before I start investing in parts and upgrades I think 🤔I should have the details...
I scored this rig inexpensively ($1k) as it has an engine run issue I am investigating.
Wish me luck. 🙏🙏
Thanks for your time and replies.
PaydayGabe in Beautiful Boulder City Nv. 🍻cheers


Monterror Pilot
I’m certainly not the expert when it comes to this stuff but with a Sport, you don’t have any of the trucks referenced in this guide.
I’ve robbed a few random parts from a Sport for my gen 2.5 (abs wheel speed sensor, electric fan, MAF sensor) and I remember some similarities but they are different, smaller than the trucks in the guide. Someone else will chime in with the details more than likely.


Looking for that thing i just had in my hand...
The Sport is a Gen 3 Triton L200 (Mighty Max) SUV, it's lighter duty than the Montero line but they share some common parts. They're really good trucks, sort of the 4Runner of the Mitsu realm.


Looking for that thing i just had in my hand...
👍ok... Thanks. Gen.3, that's a start.
Anything else? Please.
Not Gen 3 Montero, no similarities at all. Your truck has some parts in common with a Gen 2 Montero BUT despite the name Montero Sport it's not a Montero. Not sure why Mitsubishi called it that but it's a completely different vehicle.

Look up Mitsubishi Challenger.


Looking for that thing i just had in my hand...
The pickup truck line is older than the Montero line and was a half generation ahead.


Active member
🤦‍♂️ok,,, Thanks again for the ongoing confusion🤪.
Moving on. 🤦‍♂️ Only need the details,,
not the debate .
I'll simplify.
A) differences between 6G72 and 6G74 engines if any?
B) is my rig a Gen2/ 2.5/ 3 ???

(2002 Montero Sport XLS 3.5L Awd
VIN# JA4MT31R72J046553)

I will be ordering parts and need definitive information so I get the proper items once...
Thanks again. G.👍🍻


Active member
6G72 is 0.5 liters smaller displacement than 6g74 and makes less horsepower and less torque.

It's not a Gen anything, it's a Sport. There was only one Sport generation in the US, and the only major break was pre/post 1999 when the rear suspension changed.

A Montero Sport is not better or worse than a Montero, it's just not the same vehicle at all. They have a few interchangeable parts (my 2000 Montero has a front axle and front brake discs from a Sport...)

Thanks for your time Shovel. How easy was that ! ! Much appreciated. Cheers, 🍻G.