You might not think of the Mitsubishi Pajero as an almighty off-road conquering machine, but you’re in for a shock! I recently had the opportunity get behind the wheel of the Unsealed 4X4 long term test Pajero GLX on a 1,900km round-trip jaunt from Sydney to the High Country.
On this action packed week of exploration we traversed over 800km of the region’s roughest tracks, in a nearly stock configuration with cold temperatures, cloudy skies, and plenty of rain to keep things interesting.
Most people look at the Pajero and think of a shopping centre queen designed to do little more than transport the whole family and all your friends – up to seven people. Few give it the credit it deserves as a value-packed off-road adventure machine. Luxury touches like HID headlights and dual zone climate control are standard, and when combined with the GLX’s rear locking differential and other standard off-road kit, it all comes together to create a great value in a large SUV package.
The fully independent suspension unibody format of the Pajero is understandably not most people’s first choice when choosing an off-road vehicle. When you look elsewhere in the marketplace though, you will see more and more very capable vehicles going to this format, which usually produces better crash test ratings and a smoother, more refined on-road ride as well as better fuel efficiency, mainly through reduced weight. If you’re not rock crawling or taking the hardest lines, you’ll probably notice a benefit from the suspension architecture by way of a smoother ride off-road.
The 3.2L intercooled turbo-diesel engine produces plenty of power, while the proper 4WD system, with low-range and rear locker, allow you to put that power down where it matters. The Super Select II 4WD MATT system even provides an all-wheel drive option, which is great for towing and when cruising on graded tracks where traction, speed and fuel efficiently are all important. The gear selection option on the Pajero’s automatic transmission gives you immense control over the vehicle when off-roading. In order to navigate steep, technical, and many times muddy terrain in the High Country I utilised low-range 4WD and the manual gear selection options much of the time. This allowed me to reduce wheel spin in loose conditions, maintain control on slippery rocks and conserve the brakes on steep descents, though the Pajero’s brakes are quite responsive and seem to be well adverse to overheating or brake fade. While having the rear locker there when you need it is confidence inspiring, with careful driving I never needed to engage it on this journey … even on Blue Rag in the wet!
With plenty of power, a solid 4X4 system and a very competent suspension system, the only thing you could consider a real weakness about the stock Pajero off-road is the stock tyres. While they aren’t very aggressive, they are a great compromise between on-road handling, noise and comfort, with mild off-road terrain confidence. Some of the muddy and steep, slippery rock scenarios encountered on this high country trip provided a bit of pucker factor on these tyres, but in the end they held up quite well and never got me into a situation where I was stuck or out of control. Obviously this is an easy fix with an upgrade to a more aggressive AT tyre, but probably isn’t necessary until you wear out the stock tyres, unless you plan on doing lots of extended or difficult off-road touring. We couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a puncture.
The factory accessories on this vehicle also helped elevate the experience while off-road. The canvas seat covers and rubber floor mats helped keep the rain and mud off the interior, of which there was plenty. The installed Cargo Barrier worked well to keep all of my camping gear contained and not bouncing around the cabin. While the HID headlights are impressive, and the stock LED fog lamps worked well, the addition of two Lightforce 170 Striker driving lights on the Alloy Front Protection Bar allowed me to confidently make it to my next campsite after a long day on the trail. The alloy bull bar also provided protection against the abundance of roos on these remote tracks at dusk and dawn, though luckily we never had to test that.
With a week of off-road adventure that ranged from smooth graded tracks to muddy, steep and rutted out technical terrain, the Pajero conquered all with style and grace. It was really at home on the mid difficulty terrain, but took on the mud and technical rocky sections with surprising ease. After 800km of off-road driving you’d expect some dings, pin striping and the like, but the Pajero came away unscathed from this journey, although it was in need of a good bath. In fact the only “damage” to the vehicle was a very small paint chip in the drivers door (sorry Mitsubishi), which happened when another car opened their door into it in the supermarket car park as we provisioned for the trip. The best part about the Pajero is that after a fun week of off-road touring, I just aired the tyres back up and hopped back on the highway, and then ate up the 700km drive home with ease and comfort.