WITH the Outlander taking on soft-roaders such as X-Trail, RAV4 and the like, Mitsubishi was able to retain a proper bodyon- frame design for its Challenger replacement, the Pajero Sport, which it claims is the most technically advanced off road-capable SUV it has produced.
Those words might be robustly discussed by some – a three-link live axle is hardly the last word in tech, especially when big brother Pajero had all-independent suspension 15 years ago – but adding refinement and polish, and a suite of chassis and safety electronics, to a tried-and-true chassis package makes for a fine all-rounder.
A surprising inclusion is an eight-speed automatic. Teaming it with the new 2.4-litre turbodiesel provides a confident and competent driveline. And, unlike some lots-o-cogs transmissions, the calibration allows the torquey diesel to be assertive in its search for, and holding of, top gear. For those who wish to play, there are column-mounted paddles as well as +/– at the shifter in the high and hard-edged centre console.
Seating is cloth in the GLX, leather in the GLS and Exceed variants (Exceed also scores a rear-seat DVD and the full suite of safety electronics such as blind-spot monitoring, lowspeed collision mitigation and what’s called a Multi-around View Monitor system). The rear seat might be a little tight for taller teens, but the split-fold seat tumbles forward easily to increase the useable load area.
Our test drive included a burst on the dunes north of Newcastle and a good dose of wheel-lifting offroad, which the Sport spanked. As before, Mitsubishi’s drive system allows 2WD and full-time 4WD operation, but new is a multi-mode function that provides Gravel, Mud/Snow and Rock settings from a console-mounted button.
On-road, it’s a serene and quiet cruiser, though there’s more wind rustle around the A-pillars and mirrors than you’d expect of an all-new design. Top gear and 110km/h sees less than 2000rpm on the tacho, which sits in a simple and concise cluster.
We didn’t get to drive any twisty gravel roads, but suspect it would not live up to either its Pajero or Sport badges; it feels set up for comfort, not speed. The roughroad noise isolation and NVH seems to be pretty good but there’s a little too much buzz and kick up the steering column on patchy bitumen or forest tracks.
Minor – and subjective – criticisms aside, Mitsubishi looks to be onto a good thing with its new Challeng…err…Pajero Sport.
Keep in mind it gives away two seats to, say, Fortuner, but it’s a well-equipped, sharply priced and rugged, if ungainly, all-rounder.
Despite its new-for-Australia name, the Pajero Sport shares nothing with its bigger brother Pajero. Like the two generations of Challenger before it, the Pajero Sport is built on the separate chassis of the Triton ute.
For now it’s a five-seater – like the Challenger – not seven as offered by other brands. However, this new generation is designed for three-row seating so expect an announcement soon that Mitsubishi will also be making a seven-seater.
Lumpy styling; on-road dynamics; wind noise; back seat a little tight Willing diesel; well-calibrated eight-speed auto; off-road prowess