News Culture

What Car Got the Best Mid-Cycle Refresh?

In 1998, the second-gen Mitsubishi Montero got an amazing set of factory fender flares that elevated its design to all-time excellence.
1998 Montero
Andrew P. Collins

Just about every generation of a car gets at least one mid-cycle refresh. That’s when small but (sometimes) significant tweaks are made to a model, usually in design or minor equipment, before the car’s completely redesigned a few years later. Today we’re asking: What car’s done it best?

My answer won’t surprise any of you who have seen me on Instagram, where I post pictures of my beloved 1998 Mitsubishi Montero all the time. The new-for-1998 U.S.-market Montero, a revision of the truck’s second-gen body style, is one of my favorite examples of a mid-cycle refresh in all of automotive history. And yes, I really do feel that strongly about it.

The Montero was sold in the United States from the ’80s to the early 2000s, in three generations. First-gen trucks follow the classic “square body, round lights” look that defined almost every off-road-oriented SUV for decades. It’s handsome, but not particularly distinctive.

In the early ’90s, the second-gen Montero got a lot more rounded, bigger, and blessed with more unique Mitsubishiness in a stronger attempt to stand out in the already-exploding family SUV segment. The 1992-to-1997 model-year Monteros are nice looking trucks, with a simple silhouette but some visually interesting details like tiny vents and pieces of body cladding and material changes across the body.

In 1998, however, Mitsubishi added some spectacular flares to the front and rear fenders. While the second-gen trucks had big pieces of plastic cladding over their fenders, which did look pretty cool, the “Gen 2.5” (as it’s known among enthusiasts) has gorgeous body sculpting integrating the over-wheel area to the sides and rear quarter panel.

That’s a non-U.S. gen-two Montero (known as a “Pajero”) in the left picture, but the design is the same for the vehicle we got stateside. With this comparison, you can see how the fenders and two-tone look evolved. That’s my truck in white; my wife and I designed the graphics specifically to accentuate the fenders. Mitsubishi; Andrew P. Collins

It just looks super cool. The facelift dramatically progressed the vehicle’s design without abandoning what was good about the original. There were some tweaks to the interior and drivetrain too, but the fender revision elevated a nice SUV shape to something truly special. Everybody talks about the two-door Pajero Evo which, yes, is objectively cooler. But for my money, the 1998-to-2000 facelifted second-gen U.S.-market Montero is one of the best-looking SUVs to ever roam roads. What car’s refresh do you feel as strongly about?