2012 MITSUBISHI PAJERO REVIEW
What’s hot: Audio system, off-road ability
What’s not: No steering-wheel reach adjustment, ageing engine and styling
X-factor: That long-established reputation; proven tow-vehicle and off-road performance
Vehicle style: Medium 4WD SUV
Fuel economy (claimed): 9.0litres/100km
Mitsubishi’s Pajero SUV is one of those icons of the motoring world that seems to have been with us forever.
While the years are starting to show, especially in refinement, the Pajero can still hold its head high in the ‘heavy-duty’ 4x4 segment.
It’s tough, reliable and capable and can handle just about anything an Aussie family can throw at it.
To scrounge a bit more time before an all-new model arrives, Mitsubishi has upgraded the Pajero for 2012 with a raft of styling, safety and luxury-appointment changes.
There is a handsome new front bumper and radiator grille and new-look 18-inch alloys on the VRX and the top-spec Exceed models. We drove the heavily-specced $70,890 VRX for this review.
Quality: While the interior is a tad dated (like the rest of the Pajero), it’s functional enough. All 2012 model-year Pajeros feature new trim material and in the case of the VRX, it’s a combination of leather and ‘sports cloth’.
Aluminium sports pedals add to the ambience. There’s plenty of hard plastic but there’s still a feeling of quality to the fit and finish.
A debit however is that dash shook noticeably on corrugations.
Comfort: The heated front seats are well-shaped and bolstered, but the third-row seats are not flexible enough: they can be folded flat, but, unlike the second-row seats, can’t be split-folded.
The driver’s seat has ample eight-way movement as well as lumbar adjustment. However, the lack of steering-wheel reach adjustment is a real oversight in the VRX – I simply couldn’t get comfortable.
Equipment: The VRX’s standard kit includes 18-inch alloy wheels, Mitsubishi’s “Super Select” 4WD II system with a selectable 2WD mode, climate-control air-con, cruise control, central locking (including the tailgate), remote keyless-entry and power exterior mirrors with fold control.
Also standard is an electro-chromatic rear-vision mirror (that also houses the rear-view monitor), 12-speaker 860W Rockford Fosgate audio, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing HID headlights with automatic levelling and washers, reverse-parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity and data transfer.
Storage: There’s no shortage of useful cubby holes; these include six cup-and-bottle holders, glove box, centre-console bin, passenger seat-back pocket, front-and-rear door pockets and an underfloor compartment.
With the second- and third-row seats folded away, there is a cavernous 1758 litres of storage space.
Towing capacity: With a 3.0-tonne towing capacity, the Pajero can handle a big horse float, caravan or boat.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Under the bonnet is Mitsubishi’s 3.2 litre DOHC common-rail intercooled turbo-diesel. It delivers a lusty 147kW of power at 3800rpm and 441Nm of torque – arriving at a lazy 2000rpm.
The engine is mated with a five-speed sequential-sports-shifting automatic transmission.
The Pajero’s age comes into focus so far as the engine is concerned, especially under acceleration. It is a tad truck-like and it has nowhere near the refinement of the latest Euro-diesels (the Germans and Range Rover pack).
Refinement: There is a fair degree of wind noise from around the large exterior mirrors and some harmonic drumming from the tyres on coarse bitumen. An 11.4-metre turning circle though is impressive for a vehicle of the Pajero’s size.
Suspension: The front-end is an independent, double-wishbone/coil spring set-up with stabiliser bar; at the rear, independent multi-link/coil-spring and stabiliser-bar.
The suspension controls things pretty well, on road and off. It delivers a reasonably firm ride and while there’s some evidence of body roll in tight cornering, it’s about what you’d expect from such a vehicle.
With 225mm of ground clearance, and wading depth of 700mm, the Pajero is up with the best of them for serious off-roading. Underneath is Mitsubishi’s superb Super Select 4WD II – it works brilliantly off-road – and also allows the driver to alternate between 2WD and 4WD modes at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Braking: Beefy ventilated disc all round give the VRX all the stopping power you need; even when towing large loads.
ANCAP: 5-Star rating
Safety features: Front driver and passenger, side and curtain airbags, Mitsubishi’s MATT all-terrain technology that bundles together active stability and traction control, the ABS braking system with electronic brake-force distribution.
There are also side-impact door beams, engine brake-assist control, front seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, child-proof rear door locks and seatbelt warning.
Warranty: A ten-year/160,000km non-transferable drivetrain warranty; five-year/ 130,000km new-vehicle warranty; plus free five-year/130,000km roadside assist.
Service costs: Capped-price servicing for the first four years (or 60,000km) of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Toyota Prado VX 3.0DT ($75,404): The more expensive mid-spec VX Toyota Prado’s figures are 127kW and 410Nm from its three-litre engine, easily bettered by the Pajero, but the Prado is more refined and a technological tour de force. (see Prado reviews)
Nissan Patrol TI Wagon 3.0DT ($69,690): Like the Pajero, there is something of Grandpa’s axe about the Patrol. Tough, strong, capable: an ideal tow vehicle but feels big and heavy on narrow bush tracks. (see Patrol reviews)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Time - and the competition - is moving on for the venerable ‘Padger’. Even with the upgrades for the 2012 model-year, its slicker competition exposes its ageing styling and engine refinement.
That said, the very well equipped VRX model tested here is priced competitively. It is also right up there with the best of them for towing and in the rough (thanks to that ‘Super Select’ 4WD/transmission package).
Lastly, if you’re not fussed that it’s not at the cutting edge, Mitsubishi’s industry-leading warranty package continues to make the Pajero - and all of the Japanese brand’s products - an attractive buying proposition.