Four wheel drivers of Australia, we have good news. There’s another serious touring 4X4 on the market.
Mitsubishi has had a long and storied history in the off-road scene. The Pajero was one of the first vehicles to marry serious off-road capability with family-friendly dynamics at an affordable price, and today there are many owners who are on their fourth, fifth or even sixth Pajero. They’re rugged, they handle well, and while not ‘up there’ with the very best for off-road performance – the famous ‘Pajero salute’ is well known – they’re more than good enough for everyone bar the hardcore. Oh, and there’s all those Dakar wins, too.
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But the Pajero isn’t the only 4X4 in the Mitsubishi stable. There’s also the Challenger: One of several ute-based wagons. Basic, capable and cheap is what these wagon-utes are all about, and the Challenger was no exception. Didn’t matter, as us touring off-roaders don’t care much for luxury (particularly if it gets in the way of capability), so the Challenger found many a home with those looking for no-frills 4X4 fun.
But now the Challenger is no more. In its place, all hail the Pajero Sport. The name is similar to the bigger brother – but it’s a different vehicle. There are coils all round, independent suspension at the front; but the rear is a beam axle much beloved of traditionalists. It’s a slightly smaller vehicle (115mm shorter, but the Pajero has a rear-mount spare), 60mm narrower and 100mm lower in height. Some overseas variants are seven-seat, but it looks likely we’ll get five seats only as Outlander and Pajero both offer seven. And because none of you lot apparently care about petrol or manual transmissions, our sole option will be turbo-diesel auto. Mitsubishi says less than 5% of Pajero customers opt for manuals, so why bother?
Towing capacity is 3,100kg, same as the Triton; whereas the Pajero is 3,000kg (but really 2,500kg once you read the towball mass small print). The engine is a 2.4L diesel good for 133kW and 403Nm, and the gearbox is a smart eight-speed unit so you really will get the benefit of all those horses and Newton metres. The Sport payload is a ‘not bad’ 710kg or so. The exact Australian specs and pricing haven’t yet been announced, so this may change.
I got the chance to drive a Pajero Sport that was ‘close to Aussie spec’ ahead of its local launch, on a recent trip to Japan and the Toyko Motor Show. As usual with these things, the course was a pre-set affair you pretty much could have driven a Commodore around for the most part … but nevertheless a few things became apparent. The gearbox is very good, always in the right cog, and there’s plenty to choose from. The electronic hill descent system is also excellent, it works down to 2km/h and is light years ahead of the older systems. The handling, as far as I could tell around the course, is also above average; and in particular I was impressed with control at speed over large bumps. The car was entirely unloaded mind, but even so it’s a good base to start from.
Perhaps the most impressive part was the traction control, which I tested at low speeds over mounds that got the vehicle cross-axled up a slight incline. The electronics kicked in pretty much at idle, and braked the wheels in the air immediately – allowing very slow and controlled progress, helped by the rather good throttle calibration. Impressive stuff. There’s also a cross-axle rear differential lock, which is welcome; but the traction control is so good you won’t need it very often. And you won’t like the fact that you need to be nearly stopped to engage it either – ‘safety reasons’ apparently, but nobody could explain any further. Mitsubishi says that the traction control works on the front axle when the rear locker is engaged, but the terrain didn’t allow us to verify this. Let’s hope so.
The transmission is the usual Super Select which has a pointless 2WD system, all wheel drive, 4WD with centre diff lock, and low range with centre diff lock. The selector is a dial, not a lever; and we aren’t likely to see levers ever again, so kiss them goodbye. There’s a terrain selection system similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response but it doesn’t seem to be as effective – something we’ll need to look at when we get an extended test on Aussie soil. Gears can be changed by the gearshift lever; or by paddle shifts which don’t rotate with the steering wheel (as should be the case on off-roaders, good work Mitsubishi). There are recovery points front and rear, too.
Cargo space is not a major plus point, so those looking for giant interiors will need to still consider the likes of the bigger LC200 or Discovery. About the only irritation was the release point for the full-sized alloy spare located too centrally in the cargo bay – try getting to that with a full load! I hope the aftermarket comes out with a wheel carrier, and that will solve the another problem I noticed which is that the 68L fuel tank is going to be too small (even with a light car at less than two tonnes with a modern engine and gearbox). So with the spare out the way, there will be room for a second fuel tank; and you’re set.
The interior is a standard five-seat setup, with a 40/60 rear split and tumble-forward seats. Nothing special, but one drawback is the second row centre seatbelt point is roof-mounted which will get in the way of cargo barriers and the like. The tailgate is one-piece lift-up. The handbrake is electronic, but there is a manual release if needed – via a tool stored next to the jack.
The Pajero Sport will be ahead of some of its direct competitors such as the Fortuner and MU-X because it has a lot of active safety such as autonomous emergency braking and forward collision mitigation … in case you get the brake and accelerator confused. The Everest has some of that too, but I am tipping the Sport will be much less expensive.
Overall, I was impressed with the general air of robustness on the Sport, its handling and its off-road creds. It’s great to see that Australia now has another wagon on the market which is a true off-road tourer.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Specifications:
The Australian pricing, trim levels and exact specifications will be confirmed in December when the vehicle is launched.
|Engine||2.4L 4-cylinder diesel|
|Power||133kW @ 3,500rpm|
|Torque||430Nm @ 2,500rpm|
|Torque split||40/60 f/r|
|4WD system||Super Select II|
|Suspension||IFS, rear beam,|
|4 coils||2 x 95L and 1x 62L tanks|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||8|
|Fuel capacity (L)||68|
|Estimated range (km)||658|
|Ground clearance (mm)||218|
|Turning circle (m)||11.2|
|Wading depth (mm)||700|
|Kerb weight (kg, approx)||2,000|
|Power/weight (kg per kW)||15.0|
|Rear diff lock||Standard across the range|
|Safety||TBA (expect 5*)|
|Active safety||BWS, UMS, AEB|
|Camera system (some models)||Surround|
Words and photography by Robert Pepper