It couldn't have been a better week for me to drive the Mitsubishi Montero Limited 4WD. I had a group of restless teenagers to cart around and my VW Golf wasn't up to the job. This vehicle fit the bill.

The Montero was roomy and convenient for carrying large loads and also a "sweet ride" as my nephew declared after climbing into it. With charcoal leather interior and silver metallic exterior, this is a stylish SUV. It seems contradictory to have such luxurious design in such a sporty vehicle, but I guess that gives credence to the all-purpose moniker. After driving it for a week, I could see why SUVs are so popular.

The behemoth is a completely redesigned version of the previous year's Montero. Mitsubishi engineers substituted a unibody structure in place of the former model's body-on-frame design. The new body is lighter, more space efficient, and more rigid in bending and twisting strength. It's nearly 4-in. wider and almost 2-in. lower in overall height. Also, the 2001 Montero gets an additional 2.2-in. in wheelbase length and over 3 in. in both front and rear tracks.

The 3.5-liter V6 engine puts out 200 hp at 5,000 rpm and 235 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. A Sportronic sequential-shift five-speed automatic transmission offers clutchless manual gear changes or fully automatic control. I did try out the Sportronic shifter. I kept forgetting to shift.

shift. After having gone through a seven-month winter here in the snow belt, I actually relished the idea of being able to put the 4WD to use on snow-covered roads. But, we were blessed with warmer-than-average temperatures the week I drove the Montero and so I was never able to test its all-weather capabilities. And, much to the dismay of my nephews, I didn't have the opportunity to take this car off-roading.

I was quite impressed with the interior. In the middle of the dash, above the CD player and AM/FM radio, is a display that gives the choice of a compass, a large digital clock, or a diagram of where the heat/air-conditioning is flowing. Two cupholders sit between the seats, as well as a storage compartment that doubles as an adjustable armrest.

The sunroof was much appreciated during the summerlike days we experienced. The Montero seats five comfortably. Plus, there is a third-row bench seat that flips down and stores flush in the back with an out-of-sight compartment to stash your belongings. My youngest nephews, ages 10 and 12, sat in this back seat comfortably, however an adult would be cramped as there is limited legroom.

I'm not accustomed to driving such a large vehicle, however, it did handle well. I never had a problem parking or making turns.

The Montero does not do that well on gas mileage, getting only 13 mpg in city traffic and 18 mpg on the highway. The trade-off is that it performs well, is a comfortable ride, and fills the bill for an individual or family looking for an SUV that combines comfort and practicality.

The grand total for this car comes to $36,397, which includes $900 for climate-control options. All the rest of the many amenities come as standard equipment.

Heather Milgate