The last days at the show was quite hectic, flooded with test drives, and now when I’m soon heading back to Sweden, I finally have the time to put them up on the web. The first two test drives that will be up is for the Monolith Jupiter 525D and the Montes X90 4.5 430 Luxury.
MONOLITH JUPITER 525D
First of all…
Yes, this car has a decent sound system. Not great but decent. And my song of choice was Raubtiers “Achtung Panzer”. You will realize why in a moment.
Next, do you have a drivers license that is taken after 1996? If so, then forget driving this in Sweden, unless you have a heavy truck license. The GVW over 5 tonnes breaks the 3.5 tonne limit by far. As long as it is registered as a passenger car. We guess that most of those will be registered as trucks with a dividing wall behind the rear seats. Then a heavy truck license is a must how old your drivers license even is.
And by just looking at this huge beast, one can really see why. This ain’t going to be Joe Averages commuter car to work in Sweden, or anywhere in the world. The engine is something as odd as a 5.3 litre (almost) diesel V12, yes you read that right, and it is of course a torque monster, 385 Nm at idle and a peak of 627 Nm at 2100 RPM, and a maximum power of 369 hp, this vehicle is close to a heavy truck in more than just the registration. For being a huge diesel, the throttle response is fantastic though, and it also is smooth like few diesels are. Following the Monolith tradition, it is probably bomb proof too.
It might feel a bit over the top with a 9 speed automatic to such a strong engine, but of course, fuel economy is one of the reasons, and for its size one must say that the mileage is great, every 100 km driven means a loss of 8.5 litres in the tank and that’s really not a disaster. A top speed of 226 km/h is more than enough for the vehicle type (especially when they will be equipped with the obligatory 90 km/h speed limiter in Sweden) and 0-100 is done in 8.23 seconds, sports car performance just some decades ago. AWD and a viscous differential is there to help when the conditions get slippery, but honestly, don’t expect an offroader in this car at all. Of course, it can cope with really rough, almost non-existant roads, but nothing more than that. The long wheelbase, relatively small ground clearance and street-friendly tyre thread is effectively reducing offroad performance. But very few of them will probably leave the tarmac anyway.
Handling is about what you can expect from a vehicle of this type, it’s like driving a supertanker, but it is stable for what it is. The high driveability almost is tricking one into believing that this is a much smaller and lighter car than it is. When braking it becomes appearant what a tank this is though. 41 meters from 100 is not really the most impressive result today and there is some fading problems. Not even the giant pizzas behind the 20 inch alloy wheels are up to the task of stopping this huge barge stable and secure all the times.
Should it go wrong, however, you are safe inside tonnes of high strength steel. Probably that’s more than you can say about what/who comes into your way. Our guess is that anything smaller or less sturdy than a mountain will be crushed. Safety equipment includes about everything you could ask for, of course including ESC.
Inside, it’s less well appointed than some of its competitors. It’s almost like if Monolith is trying to get some kind of workhorse image by leaving out the fully leather interior and head restraints with integrated screens, while focusing on more important stuff, you won’t be missing anything though, it’s just nothing impressive either. The comfort is, to be honest, adequate. Average, but adequate. It becomes appearant that cars like this one are compromises, not really being great at anything more than being big. Rugged construction and heavy duty springs compromises comfort for utility, which in its turn is not a very strong side either compared to vehicles more specialized on the task of moving goods.
It’s good at being big, and it’s good if you love being seen. And we guess that the (all grey import) market in Sweden of some cars per year will be exactly there. Among people that likes being seen.
And that has $47324 too much in their wallet.
MONTES X90 4.5 430 Luxury
Finally having a look at the Montes, I am still convinced that this is an AWD station wagon, not a SUV. Reports also say that it’s about as good off road as a Farox Aerio which should give some clues too. I start to wonder if the word “station wagon” is something the automobile manufacturers are ashamed of? Please, don’t be that! The station wagon has been a great concept for ages, and it will continue to be in the future. Just let it live, it will survive all the trends that are coming and going.
With that said, what first meets the eye is a nice car. Discrete without being anonymous, modern but yet timeless, good fit and finish overall. Glued aluminium construction with aluminium outer panels means lower weight (though on this car one can question it) and no rust issues, but can mean very expensive repairs should a collision happen.
Stepping inside, there is soft, comfortable leather wherever you watch, nice thick carpeting on the floor, a dashboard that’s more a piece of art than a piece of wood veneer and molded PVC. 4 zone electronic climate control, a state of the art infotainment system with HUD, whatever you mention, chances are that this vehicle will have it, including a full list of safety equipment.
Propelling the heavy (2.2 tonnes) vehicle forward is a 5 litre 429 hp twin turbo magnesium V8. It’s tremendously smooth, the turbo lag is hardly noticeable and the throttle response is great. At idle you only hear a quiet whisper, and not even when pushed hard it will give much of a noise, just hints of the familiar V8 growl. Behind it is an 8 speed automatic that, for some reason, felt a little bit thin. It’s not a bad gearbox, but it was like if something was not really calibrated to the rest of the car with the gearing. The AWD is biased slightly to the rear and has an electric LSD to help in slippery conditions. Top speed is (limited to) 250 km/h and 0-100 is done in 5.82 seconds, one has to say that performance wise it’s doing well. 0.85 litres per 100 km is also acceptable, considering what kind of car this is.
One could believe that with rear biased AWD, double wishbone front suspension and multilink rear, it would be a real driving machine, but the fact is that it is quite boring when it comes to handling. The understeering is heavy already at slow speeds even if the car is said ro be a decent performer on the skidpad. The brakes could bite though, 37.7 metres to stop from 100 is a value that is fully acceptable even if some cars have managed to brake better. That without using much of any advanced technology either, just well balanced and sane brakes. When it comes to comfort, it’s better though. Hydropneumatic suspensions are a rare sight nowadays with even the french avoiding them, But it’s not only helping offroad performance, it’s giving a lovely comfort too, it’s really like riding on clouds.
It will never be an everymans car though. Complicated construction with service costs following that, and a price of $57883, it puts it out of perspective for most buyers.
But even with a few flaws, it IS a great car. When looking at it from the right perspective. As a wagon. Not a SUV, not a crossover. W-A-G-O-N!