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Overall Rating

General

Country of Origin
THAILAND
Price
$47,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine
4 Cylinders
Output
131 kW / 350 Nm
Transmission
Sports Automatic

Safety

ANCAP Rating
4
Airbags
Head for 2nd Row Seats, Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front), Driver, Passenger, Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)

Efficiency

L/100 km
9.8
C02
259 g/km

Towing and Luggage

Luggage Capacity
659 L
Towing (braked)
3000 kg
Towing (unbraked)
750 kg

Tony O'Kane | Mar 26, 2010 | 9 Comments
MITSUBISHI’S LONG-SERVING 4WD flagship, the Pajero, has long been a favourite with Australian motorists. Competent, good value and tough, it's earned the trust of the market.
Interestingly, it now has a new competitor - one that sits right next to it in Mitsubishi showrooms. That competitor is the recently-launched Challenger, and it may give its respected 4WD stablemate a run for its money.
Based on the Triton commercial ute’s durable chassis and toting a capacious wagon rump, the cheaper Challenger is positioned within Mitsubishi’s line-up as both a hard-core offroader and a family-friendly SUV.

But is it equally adept at both tasks? At face value, the Challenger, with more agricultural mechanicals, seems to be skewed more to off-road performance than school-run practicality.

We tested a base model Challenger LS auto both on and off the beaten track, and came away from the experience with mixed views.

 

The Drive

As a more civilised cousin of the Triton, the Challenger makes a good impression from the driver’s seat.

The dashboard and front seats will be familiar to anyone who’s driven Mitsubishi’s volume-selling commercial ute, and there’s that same sense of rugged durability to how it’s all screwed together.

However, lower dash plastics feel cheap and hard, and the silver trim applied to our base-specification Challenger LS tester was prone to scratches. And, like the Triton, the Challenger’s steering wheel only adjusts for tilt.

Ergonomics are further hampered by the stereo being mounted low in the centre stack, but at least the presence of steering wheel-mounted controls makes it easier to carry out simple audio adjustments.

The large rotary knobs for the climate control system are high up and within easy reach. However, when you're at the wheel, you have to lunge forward to reach the trip computer’s buttons.

Thankfully, second row passengers enjoy an environment that’s far more accommodating than what’s offered in dual-cab Tritons.

The rear backrest is adjustable for tilt, and is a great deal more comfortable than the Triton’s rather upright pews. Back seat legroom is good too, and although the cushions are flat and lacking in lateral support, they are comfy enough for the odd long trip.

Dual-cab Tritons always felt a bit claustrophobic from the rear seat, mainly because of the thick upswept window frames of the rear doors. The Challenger suffers no such problem, and backseaters are given an excellent view of the outside world through a large glasshouse.

On the road, outward visibility is great for the driver too.

While a reasonably large car, parking manoeuvres at the wheel of the Challenger are made easier by the large wing mirrors and big back window. Not having a spare wheel hanging off the tailgate also helps.

Driving around town however, where, arguably, the Challenger will spend most of its working life, starts to reveal some flaws.

Chief among these is a lack of NVH suppression. The new 131kW 2.5 litre turbodiesel is a noisy thing by current standards (though somewhat quieter than the 3.2 in standard tune), and the clatter it produces under light throttle is especially noticeable.

It’s the same engine that does duty in the 2010 Triton range, and it’s just as cacophonous in that application.

On the plus side, the Challenger’s handling is a vast improvement over the Triton. The adoption of a coil-sprung live axle rather than the leaf-sprung rear-end used by the Triton means a far more controlled ride, and a more comfortable one at that.

The Challenger is no sportscar, but its on-road manners aren’t too shabby. It’s well-damped and absorbs lumpy roads nicely; and it doesn’t wallow around as much as the softly-sprung Toyota Prado – one of its chief competitors.

Unfortunately, the new five-speed automatic spoils the experience. Aside from neutering the engine’s torque output (auto-equipped models have a peak torque of 350Nm, compared to the 400Nm of manual models), it’s an indecisive unit.

With 50Nm less torque to play with, the gearbox will 'hunt' through the ratios when under load (thanks, in part, to the Challenger’s substantial 2.0 tonne mass).

The throttle is also lazy to respond; overtaking can require a deal of forward planning.

Fuel economy is claimed to be 9.8 l/100km on the combined cycle for the LS auto, but after testing it both on and off road, the best figure we got was 11.5 l/100km.

But, off road, the Challenger shines. Excellent approach and departure angles, a decent ride height and a body that’s not too wide make it easy to clear obstacles on challenging 4WD tracks.

And here, the Super Select 4WD system gives the Challenger amazing off-road ability. Changing between 2WD, 4WD and 4WD low-range is a bit cumbersome (the lever also digs into your left leg when in 4WD low), but there are very paths that will stop it.

It feels secure on gravel, and, when the going gets slippery, there's an electronically-locking rear differential to pull you out.

On one occasion during our off-road test, the rear diff-lock hauled the Challenger up a steep 30-degree incline on loose soil – an obstacle that would have otherwise been impassable.

Wheel articulation and travel is excellent, and by sticking with a low-tech live rear-axle the Challenger can keep all four wheels on the ground over very lumpy terrain. Huge wheelarches allow the wheels to move up into the body and also permit the fitment of larger, grippier off road tyres.

The engine/gearbox combo works particularly well in low range. The low gearing and the lazy throttle is good for picking a line up steep inclines and maintaining control on deeply rutted tracks.

 

The Verdict

And that’s what it boils down to. The Challenger, like the Prado it competes with, is a much better vehicle off the road than on it.

It handles well enough on the tarmac (surprisingly well for a body-on-frame 4WD), but its powertrain package has a few shortcomings for everyday use.

Our advice would be to forget the automatic and choose the manual. You gain 50Nm and you’re unburdened by that indecisive auto. The claimed fuel economy for the manual is also better: 8.3 l/100km – 1.5 l/100km better than the auto’s claim.

As a family-friendly wagon, it’s perfect for weekend camping getaways, particularly if you plan on going off the beaten track.

In five-seat form there’s a sizable load area in the boot, while the seven-seat option is there for those with bigger clans to cart around.

Is it a good buy? Yes. At a retail price of $44,490 for the base LS manual five-seater, it’s a veritable bargain compared to the $55,990 Toyota Prado GX and the $47,490 Nissan Pathfinder ST.

The Drive

As a more civilised cousin of the Triton, the Challenger makes a good impression from the driver’s seat.

The dashboard and front seats will be familiar to anyone who’s driven Mitsubishi’s volume-selling commercial ute, and there’s that same sense of rugged durability to how it’s all screwed together.

However, lower dash plastics feel cheap and hard, and the silver trim applied to our base-specification Challenger LS tester was prone to scratches. And, like the Triton, the Challenger’s steering wheel only adjusts for tilt.

Ergonomics are further hampered by the stereo being mounted low in the centre stack, but at least the presence of steering wheel-mounted controls makes it easier to carry out simple audio adjustments.

The large rotary knobs for the climate control system are high up and within easy reach. However, when you're at the wheel, you have to lunge forward to reach the trip computer’s buttons.

Thankfully, second row passengers enjoy an environment that’s far more accommodating than what’s offered in dual-cab Tritons.

The rear backrest is adjustable for tilt, and is a great deal more comfortable than the Triton’s rather upright pews. Back seat legroom is good too, and although the cushions are flat and lacking in lateral support, they are comfy enough for the odd long trip.

Dual-cab Tritons always felt a bit claustrophobic from the rear seat, mainly because of the thick upswept window frames of the rear doors. The Challenger suffers no such problem, and backseaters are given an excellent view of the outside world through a large glasshouse.

On the road, outward visibility is great for the driver too.

While a reasonably large car, parking manoeuvres at the wheel of the Challenger are made easier by the large wing mirrors and big back window. Not having a spare wheel hanging off the tailgate also helps.

Driving around town however, where, arguably, the Challenger will spend most of its working life, starts to reveal some flaws.

Chief among these is a shortage of NVH suppression. The new 131kW 2.5 litre turbodiesel is a noisy thing by current standards (though somewhat quieter than the 3.2 in standard tune), and the clatter it produces under light throttle is especially noticeable.

It’s the same engine that does duty in the 2010 Triton range, and it’s just as cacophonous in that application.

On the plus side, the Challenger’s handling is a vast improvement over the Triton. The adoption of a coil-sprung live axle rather than the leaf-sprung rear-end used by the Triton means a far more controlled ride, and a more comfortable one at that.

The Challenger is no sportscar, but its on-road manners aren’t too shabby. It’s well-damped and absorbs lumpy roads nicely, and it doesn’t wallow around as much as the softly-sprung Toyota Prado – one of its chief competitors.

Unfortunately, the new five-speed automatic spoils the experience. Aside from neutering the engine’s torque output (auto-equipped models have a peak torque of 350Nm, compared to the 400Nm of manual models), it’s an indecisive unit.

With 50Nm less torque to play with, the gearbox instead hunts up and down through the ratios in its attempts to best shift the Challenger’s substantial 2.0 tonne mass.

The throttle is also lazy to respond to sudden calls for acceleration, and overtaking requires a deal of forward planning.

Fuel economy is claimed to be 9.8 l/100km on the combined cycle for the LS auto, but after testing it both on and off road, the best figure we got was 11.5 l/100km.

Off road, the Challenger shines. Excellent approach and departure angles, a decent ride height and a body that’s not too wide make it easy to clear obstacles on challenging 4WD tracks, but it’s the driveline that gives the Mitsubishi its go-anywhere ability.

Using the Super Select 4WD system to change between 2WD, 4WD and 4WD low-range is a bit cumbersome (the lever also digs into your left leg when in 4WD low), but the traction advantage it offers is excellent.

On gravel roads it feels secure and planted, and mud is no obstacle for the Challenger.

When the going gets truly slippery, there’s also the electronically-locking rear differential to help pull you out. On one occasion during our off-road test, the rear diff-lock helped haul the Challenger up a steep 30-degree incline on loose soil – an obstacle that would have otherwise been impassable.

Wheel articulation and travel is excellent, and by sticking with a low-tech live rear axle the Challenger can keep all four wheels on the ground over very lumpy terrain. Huge wheelarches allow the wheels to move up into the body and also permit the fitment of larger, grippier off road tyres.

The engine/gearbox combo is also easier to live with when in low range and off road. The low gearing means the engine is under much less pressure to work hard, and the lazy throttle is good for maintaining control on bumpy tracks.

Verdict

And that’s what it boils down to. The Challenger, like the Prado it competes with, is a much better vehicle off the road than on it.

It handles quite well on the tarmac (surprisingly well for a body-on-frame 4WD), but its powertrain package leaves something to be desired.
We have mixed views about the Challenger. A week at the wheel exposed a few more shortcomings - particularly in everyday use - than weren't apparent in our first drive.

Our advice would be to forget the automatic and choose the manual. You gain 50Nm and you’re unburdened by that indecisive slushbox. The claimed fuel economy for the manual is also better: 8.3 l/100km – 1.5 l/100km better than the auto’s claim.

As a family-friendly wagon it’s perfect for weekend camping getaways, particularly if you plan on going that little bit further away from the beaten track.

In five-seat form there’s a sizable load area in the boot, while the seven-seat option is there for those with bigger clans to cart around.

Is it a good buy? Yes. At a retail price of $44,490 for the base LS manual five-seater, it’s a veritable bargain compared to the $55,990 Toyota Prado GX and the $47,490 Nissan Pathfinder ST.

It’s just a shame about that engine and flawed auto.

Get the best deal on this car!
Get a great deal from our national accredited supply network. Fill in the form or call 1300 438 639
 
Name required
Last Name should be a hidden field. Please delete if you are a real person.
Valid Phone required
Valid Postcode required
Valid Email required
Thank you for your enquiry.
One of our accredited supply network will be in touch in the next 24 hours.
 
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