Long before there were SUVs or “jacked up” station wagons on 4 wheel drive chassis’, there was Land Cruiser, Land Rover, and Patrol. Then Mitsubishi Japan said “we like this party” and thus Pajero was born.Long gone are the hey-days of this once unstoppable giant. It now sits on the automotive porch, quietly sipping a mug of oil, watching the pretty young things swan by with their fancy electric drivetrains, or their barely bigger than their originator SUV bodies.
Pajero’s time in the sun is fast approaching the end, but one of the grand-daddies of four wheel drives still has a thing or two to tell and teach the youngsters.
With a starting price of just $51,490 drive-away in GL form, with the Exceed an extra $10,500, the GLS slots into the middle with its $58,490. Drive comes from a engine not unlike Lenny from “Of Mice and Men”, with its big 3.2L size lending itself to gentle, low revving, characteristics and delivering 441 torques at a barely stressed 2,000rpm. Towing is rated at 3,000 kilograms.Economy is perhaps the weak point thanks to its dinosaur-like five speed auto. We saw a best of 7.8L/100km, with a final average of 9.8L/100km. The official combined figure is 9.9L/100km for the 2,330 kilo (dry) Pajero…
It’s an engine that is old-school diesel in one context. It’s rattly, but not in a bone shaking sense. It’s a noisy diesel, but put that down to it stemming from a time when the creatures that now feed the engine walked the earth. Refinement and noise isolation weren’t part of the original design brief, low down, stump pulling torque was.
The five speed auto is also from a time long lost in the mist. Although relatively smooth in changes, there can be jerky movements and an occasional drive backlash depending on the throttle application. By missing out on two or three or even four ratios it comparison to more modern machinery marks it as out of date.
Outside and inside, the era that the Pajero in its current form stems from is also evident.A big, blocky, squared off profile, (4,900mm x 1,875mm x 1,900mm) with a large glass area, short overhangs (it is a proper off-road capable vehicle, remember) along with an interior look and feel that largely says, loudly, 1990s.A display interface that is in pixel form, for example, which shows barometer, height, fuel usage and more. Handy info, but built on a hand held gaming platform from the 1980s.
For the driver, nowhere to be seen is the now expected centre of dash display with a full colour LCD screen or a smallish tiller loaded with tabs to access it.Here is a simple box representing the Pajero with two or four engaged corners and its rear differential lock.
The dial displays are standard analogue with a gunmetal sheen which matches the airvent surrounds. In the centre console there are a pair of levers.
No dials, no rotating buttons or tabs, two levers to engage drive and to select which driven (two or four) wheels to roll upon.Techwise, it’s the 7.0 inch touchscreen that stands out, complete with Rockford Fosgate sound. It’s typical Mitsubishi in being able to be read easily thanks to a clean layout, simple font, and a welcome resistance to attracting fingerprints.
Aircon is familiar in having dials and as is the deal with Mitsubishi they are as simple to use as they come. That’s the same with the seats. Cloth centred, and leather bolstered, they suffice, feeling a little slabby yet don’t lack for comfort over a drive of an hour.That applies to the controls at the end of the centre console which the centre row passengers can access. That console has a double level storage locker with a pair of press levers.
Centre row seats are fixed in a fore and aft sense, and have levers to fold. The third row aren’t difficult to access but are weighty, making raising and lowering a chore. But when the second and third row are folded, there’s a capacious 1,789L of cargo space. Third row head room is good at 961mm but a bit cramped for legs at 615mm. Middle row passengers have 1,017mm and 907mm respectively. Driver and front pew passenger luxuriate in 1,056 and 1,049mm head and leg room.What isn’t a chore is driving this venerable lump. The throttle response is instant, and we mean instant. There are barely a couple of millimetres of pedal travel before the engine reacts, and the tacho flickers in response.
Acceleration is progressive and diesel linear. Thanks to that low rev point and the amount of torque on tap, getting going is as easy as drawing breath.
The suspension shows its age on tarmac, with a harder than expected ride. There is some compliance but little of it on bumps that need instant damping.Freeway driving brings out a sense of each corner doing its own thing but telling the other three what it is. This keeps the boxy body flat and level, unfussed and diplodocus like in its mannerisms.
The five cogs hold back the Pajero too, with rolling acceleration and overtaking moves leisurely propositions.It’s noticeably twitchy at times, with the steering geometry such that road joins and the like unsettle the steering, jolting the front end momentarily and the steering wheel jumps in the driver’s hands. Dynamically, it’s not the first word yet, for all that, it can be manhandled to something appraoching….a lumbering dexterity.
Age spots here too, as the wheel is a larger style than seen in younger chariots. Lock to lock feels closer to four turns than three. 225/55/18 wheels and rubber provide plenty of footprint, don’t unduly tax the power-assisted steering with an 11.4 metre turning circle, and can be coaxed, on wet roads, to provide a little bit of traction loss.
Off-roading is, or was, one of the strengths of the Pajero lineage, and the four wheel drive system has passed through to the Triton and Triton-based Pajero Sport in a more refined, electronically activated, sense. The stubby front and rear offer a 36.6 degree approach and 25.0 degree departure angle.
Here it’s a stubby lever, with a push down and forward to move from two wheel drive to the three four wheel drive modes. There’s plenty of grip, thanks to both the gearing and the torque, and partly why the Pajero, dinosaur it may be, has plenty to offer to drivers, older and younger.Where new drivers can learn how to drive safely is by driving a vehicle not loaded up with all of the latest must-haves. The onus them comes back to the organic component of the car. There is no Autonomous Emergency Braking, no Rear Cross Traffic, no Blind Spot Alert, no Vehicle Ahead has Moved, no Traffic Sign Recognition. Everything the Pajero GLS needs to do to be safe on the roads is left up to the person between the tiller and the seat.
Warranty is five years or 100,000 kilometres. Depending on where the services have been conducted, there may be a ten year or 200,000 kilometre warranty available.
At The End Of the Drive. in comparison to the Land Cruiser and patrol, neither a spring chicken themself, the Pajero GLS nevertheless delivers upon a promise. That promise is deliver the basics without fuss, without glitz, glamour, and show-ponying. It’s old, tired, the automotive equivalent of yelling at a Kona or T-Roc: “get off my driveway” but it still commands respect.
It’s not quick, it’s not agile, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s got grunt and this makes it docile to drive. Like a tiring ankylosaurus, there are still a few swings of its tail-punches left, but the opposition is waiting for the fall. Mitsubishi have confirmed that production comes to an end this year, after nearly four decades and 3.3 million sales. In 2020 build guise, the Pajero GLS is a dinosaur that still lives. Marvel and enjoy it for what it is and represents.