What the Australian car market has known as the Mitsubishi Challenger, for some two decades, is no longer. Enter the Pajero Sport, bringing us into line with the international naming system. Built upon the Triton platform but given Mitsubishi’s “shield” nose job to visually break away from the Challenger, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is currently available as a five seater only (the seven seater has been signed off for ADR) and is aimed fairly and squarely at the family.
Complete with a 2.4L diesel and new eight speed auto, A Wheel Thing reviews the top of the range Pajero Sport Exceed.
Straight up, it’s an imposing looking vehicle, standing 1805 mm high. There’s side steps adding to the visual appeal, plenty of chrome up front (burying the headlights in the look), a kicked up rear window line echoing the raked front window and an odd looking tail light design, almost as if the lights have melted and run down the tail gate’s sides.
It’s not as long as it looks though, with a length of 4785 mm making it shorter than Kia’s Optima. It does offer, however, plenty of room inside, with shoulders and legs having plenty of space; 1067 mm front leg room, 880 mm rear leg room, there’s 1022 mm and 1420 mm front head and shoulder room while rear seat heads get 957 mm and 1409 mm. The rear seats, though, sit up higher than the front, which would be uncomfortable for taller passengers that may not wish to take advantage of the DVD screen mounted into the roof lining. The DVD screen is simple to operate, with Mitsubishi tossing in a pair of wireless headphones and a full function remote control as well.
The interior is a step up from Triton, but recognisable as being a family member, thanks to Mitsubishi’s common design themes. The sombre black plastic and seating covering is broken by splashes of brushed alloy look plastic, and there’s there’s the colour display for the driver’s dash binnacle. Ergonomically, there’s the simple and easy to use aircon controls, red backlighting for the steering wheel controls (which are hard to read in the daytime due to the light beige/bronze plastic used) and a seven inch touchscreen complete with digital radio (the tweeters fire straight across the cabin, taking the edge off the sound quality) and Android Auto/Apple Car Play app connectivity plus external HDMI input. What it doesn’t offer is satnav, only offering GPS, relying on the app to supply mapping. If you take the car off road and out of mobile range (easy to do with some providers, then GPS only won’t cut it.
There’s heating only (grrr) for the front seats but they are both power adjustable. The tail gate, though, is not and it also has one of the numbest feeling opening mechanisms A Wheel Thing has come across. It’s literally the same as a door not closed properly, such is the lack of pressure required to open the door by using the handle. Certainly the lack of a power ‘gate stands out in this class.The seven seater version will, apparently, have the second row seats fitted into the cargo bay’s undercroft, where the spare wheel would normally go. This allows the Pajero Sport to keep the 673 litres of rear cargo space with the current rear seats up, which increases to 1624 litres when folded (they tumble fold as well).
There’s also curtain airbags, a driver’s kneebag and the usual onboard electronics as well, such as Active Traction Control, Active Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, ISOFIX rear seat mounts, plus there’s a centre and rear diff lock for off roading.
Out on the road the Pajero Sport is an adequate performer on tarmac. The 2.4L diesel feels as if it’s perhaps too small for the 2070 kerb mass it needs to move but there is 430 torques at 2500 rpm, good for 3100 kilos of towing. It’s almost a situation where acceleration is not a word seen in the same sentence as alacrity. To clarify, that’s acceleration off the line, as mid range get and go is reasonable, without being startling.
Yes, there’s paddle shifts, but they make no difference in change of speed for the transmission whereas some cars have a substantial difference between self shifting and manual changes. The changes themselves are smooth and the transmission kicks in for engine braking downhill, as well. Certainly, having the extra cogs do make a difference to the drive, with freeway velocities seeing around 1700 rpm.
Fuel economy with Mitsubishi is flexible: their onboard system gives a real time indication of usage, rather than an average, with the figure showing over 14.0L per 100 km when taken off road and used in low range to just over 8.0L per 100 on the freeway run back to the dropoff point. What’s a touch worrying is the comparatively small 68L fuel tank fitted to deal with Mitsubishi’s claim of 8.0L/100 km for a combined cycle.
Handling? Not fantastic and not helped by the compromise 265/60/18 on and off road rubber, to the point that an incident was almost had on a left hander as the tyres lost traction. It took a long moment before the electronics kicked in to help sort out the (potentially un-fun) situation. It’s a touch soft and prone to some body roll on normal roads, yet crashes on some pothole and speedbumps. Odd. The steering is numb on the straightaway, takes a bit of a turn either side before there’s any bite and does tend towards understeer most of (well, all) of the time in 2WD, and only slightly less so in 4WD H. Turning circle is tighter than the rest for the class, at 11.2 metres.
Bear in mind it’s a four wheel drive capable vehicle and seemed to tighten up in handling when the drive mode was changed from 2WD to 4WD high range. The aforementioned incident was also in 4WD high. It does seem, however, that the Pajero Sport’s forte’ is off road. Taken to A Wheel Thing’s standard off road test track, a mix of mud, gravel, rock and sand, it tested the Pajero’s off road drive and the switchable programmed modes, being all of the former plus Snow. Is it any good?
With a proper transfer case (although somewhat recalcitrant in engaging via the control dial), once the drive finally decides to finish thinking, it’s an… engaging drive. It powers through puddles (it has a wading depth of 700 mm maximum), clambered over rocks, crawled down gravel and rocky slopes (utilizing the crawl function programmed in) nicely and essentially made its on road manners look even worse. Yes. It’s good.
For its off road capability alone, it’s worth the buy for those that like to get dirty. There’s a 30 and 24 degree approach and departure angle, 218 mm ground clearance (unladen), and will climb a 45 degree slope. For downhill runs, the Hill Descent Control works admirably, easing the two tonne plus machine down cautiously, with a little huffing and wheezing from the brake system, but easily as well.
At The End Of The Drive.
It’s a three model range, the Pajero Sport, with GLX and GLS sitting below the Exceed. There’s a price spread of $46990 to 54990 plus ORCs. It’s a well priced range and certainly a range full of value. It’ll have even more of a broader appeal when the seven seater arrives, sometime before June 2017. The Exceed offers much to like, but a powered rear door would offer just a little more to like.
The new look also, hopefully, points the way towards a new Pajero, something the cash strapped Japanese maker needs, along with a new Lancer and ASX range.
For info, click here:2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport range and for info about the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport‘s service costs, talk to your Mitsubishi dealer.