SUVs built on a dual-cab ute platform are not new but lately the class has flourished. They tend to be more serious off-roaders than many of the popular similar-sized “soft-roaders” medium-class SUVs.
Experience pays off
It’s a vehicle style Mitsubishi knows well, as its Challenger followed this formula for 17 years. The new Pajero Sport, which replaces Challenger, puts all Mitsubishi’s experience here to good use. It is built on the Triton dual-cab 4WD ute chassis and uses similar running gear that’s been tailored to suit the purpose. Mitsubishi hasn’t tried to hide the commercial-based origin but serves it up in an extremely civilised manner to deliver an appealing blend of roomy family wagon comfort with serious off-road ability.
Different equipment levels
The three models in the line-up have the same mechanical configuration; only equipment levels differentiate the versions. Each is competitively priced and well equipped for its position in the range, starting with GLX at $45,000 plus on-road costs, followed by the $48,500 GLX and, the vehicle we reviewed, the $52,750 Exceed, which is kitted out more like a premium car than a rugged off-roader.
Mitsubishi Australia has opted initially to sell Pajero Sport only as a five-seater, even though many of its competitors have seven-seat options. While this may limit its appeal for some buyers, those not requiring the extra seats will certainly appreciate the cavernous rear cargo space.
Good seat shaping, support and design make Pajero Sport a comfortable place to sit. Front and rear seats recline and the 60/40-split rear seat has a double fold action to increase the cargo capacity further. The cabin measures up well with good head and leg room in both rows, and three medium adults fit in the back.
The interior presentation and trim materials have a quality, soft-touch feel. For the driver, the instrument layout, switch gear and seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system with voice control all work well. Digital radio is standard, while the system also enables compatible phone connectivity through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All Pajero Sport variants have a wide range of standard safety equipment and a five-star ANCAP rating. The Exceed includes autonomous emergency braking, blind spot warning, a misacceleration mitigation system and all-round monitoring in addition to the standard rear-view camera.
Mitsubishi has used the 2.4L MIVEC (variable cam timing) turbo-diesel engine from Triton and it drives through an excellent new eight-speed automatic transmission, rather than the Triton’s five-speed auto. As our performance figures show, Pajero Sport is unlikely to sprint away from the traffic lights but the turbo-diesel’s strong torque pulls well to deliver flexible performance. In combination with the close-ratio eight-speed automatic transmission, which always seems to be in the right gear, everyday driveability is ideal.
During our review, we found the extra gears in the automatic also help fuel economy. Official consumption is an efficient 8.0L/100km, and in real-world driving we averaged only a little more, at 8.8L/100km. Some diesel engine noise is evident on hard acceleration but otherwise Pajero Sport is a relatively quiet cruiser.
Mitsubishi has done a lot of work fine-tuning the suspension from Triton to give Pajero Sport the type of compliant ride and sure handling people want in a comfortable family wagon. It also has quite a nimble feel thanks to the well-weighted, responsive steering and a class-leading 11.2m turning circle.
On our test Pajero Sport’s off-road ability, particularly in sand, was impressive. Combining Mitsubishi’s Super Select II all-wheel-drive set-up and a new four-mode off-road terrain control covers pretty much every base. A simple, console- mounted dial allows the driver to easily select the appropriate drive: 2H provides rear-wheel-drive only for less drag and better fuel economy, while 4H drives all four wheels for extra traction and can be used on any surfaces. Swapping between these two can be done at speeds up to 100kmh.
For even greater traction, 4HLc engages the centre differential but it’s only suitable for slippery conditions. When the terrain gets tougher and more torque is required, selecting 4LLc provides low-range gearing and locks the centre diff. Additional electronic assistance via the four-mode off-road terrain control moderates the throttle input, transmission shifts, traction control and stability control at the push of a button. These modes are for gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock.
The term cross-over vehicle is broadly applied but in the case of Pajero Sport Mitsubishi has managed to find a good balance between serious off-road ability and comfortable, well-mannered family transport. The fact Pajero Sport only seats five, whereas similar vehicles often provide a seven-seat option, limits its appeal for some buyers.
MITSUBISHI PAJERO SPORT EXCEED
PRICE: $52,750 + $2240 (est) ORC. Metallic paint $550. Range $45,000-$52,750.
SAFETY: ESC. ABS. 7 airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Reversing camera/sensors. LED headlights with daytime lights. Auto lights/wipers. Blind spot warning. Surround monitor.
CONNECTIVITY: 7” touch screen. Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. Digital radio.
VEHICLE FEATURES: Dual-zone climate-control. Leather trim. Heated front seats. Rear-seat entertainment with DVD player.
DRIVER FEATURES: Electric driver’s seat. Selectable drive modes. Keyless entry/start. Hill-start assist. Hill-descent control.
SPECIFICATIONS: Drivetrain: 2442cc 4cyl turbo-petrol engine. 133kW@3500rpm, 430Nm@2500rpm. 8spd auto. 4WD. 8.8L/100km (RACV test figure); 8.0L/100km (govt figure). 68L tank. Wheels: Alloy, 265/60 R18 tyres. Full-size alloy spare. Acceleration: 0-60km/h, 5.2 sec. 0-80, 7.9. 0-100, 11.7. 50-80, 5.1. 60-100, 7.1. 0-400m, 18.2. Braking: 25.8m from 80km/h.
Environment: 212g/km CO2. Service/repairs: 12-month/15,000km capped-price services. 5yr/100,000km warranty.
OVERALL RACV RATING: ****
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