A SMALLER more powerful engine, more room in the tray and the first dual-cab ute sold in Australia with traction and stability control.
On paper the MN Triton has what it takes to 'lead the pack'.
But order the automatic and you'll get a detuned version of the new 2.5 litre diesel, and a five-speed auto that struggles to keep the pot boiling.
2010 MN Triton GLX-R Automatic (click to read GLX-R and GL-R launch review)
The MN Triton is more than just an update of the ML. In GLX-R form Mitsubishi has retired the ML's 3.2 DiD (diesel) and in its place is a more powerful 2.5 litre High Performance Diesel (HPD). The old four-speed automatic has been replaced with a five-speed and stability and traction control now ensure that the Triton is safer than ever.
Tradies will appreciate the substantially larger ute tray, that has replaced the more petite, but less user friendly tray found on the ML.
What's the appeal?
Space, and lots of it. The MN Triton offers class leading interior space (especially in the back seat), and it now has a ute tray to match. The Triton can spend the week hauling loads and the weekend hauling families.
What features does it have?
The audio system has been upgraded and is MP3/WMA compatible, with iPod connectivity and six-speakers. Bluetooth connectivity is standard.
Cruise control, side and rear window demisters, tilt-adjustable steering column, leather-bound steering wheel, driver’s foot rest, halogen headlamps and rear seat head-rests, are all standard features.
As per our test vehicle, the GLX-R can be ordered with Mitsubishi’s optional multi-communication system with sat-nav, DVD, integrated Bluetooth and iPod control.
At an added cost of $3,000, you'd be better off buying one of the better performing and easier to use portable sat-nav systems, and upgrading the standard audio system. You could bank the considerable change.
What's under the bonnet?
Four-wheel-drive variants of the Triton, including the GLX-R on test, feature a 2.5 litre HPD (High Performance Diesel) inline four-cylinder engine, with a variable-vane turbo. In combination with the manual gearbox the 2.5 HPD produces a healthy 131kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
However, there is a catch for those preferring an automatic gearbox. Mitsubishi has chosen to replace the old four-speed auto with an electronically controlled five-speed transmission in the GLX-R; "a good thing" it would be fair to presume.
Unfortunately however this particular five-speed auto isn't able to deal with the 2.5 HPDs full compliment of torque (400Nm). Mitsubishi's solution has been to de-tune the 2.5 HPD (down 50Nm compared to the manual), rather than fit a stronger box - more about that in a moment.
Mitsubishi’s clever All Terrain Technology (MATT) is standard on the GLX-R, and includes the Super Select four-wheel-drive system. Super Select allows all-wheel-drive to be selected for added safety on hard surfaces and in regular around town driving.
How does it drive?
In MN guise the Triton has lost none of its on-road dynamic ability. The steering wheel is smaller and suites a Lancer more than it does a 4WD ute, but the MN remains a comfortable highway tourer, for both passengers and driver.
The most 'car-like' of all the dual-cab utes, the MN Triton really is an easy 'truck' to drive. Our only issue at cruise speed was with the cruise control, which could be heard - and felt -constantly (every few seconds) varying the throttle.
Unfortunately the 350Nm version of the 2.5 HP is a little lack-lustre. Weighing close to two tonnes, the Triton is no lightweight and the handicapped little diesel struggles off the mark.
Once on boost, things improve, but it's never close to performing like the more powerful manual. Mitsubishi has tuned the five-speed auto to work harder to cover the torque deficit, but the results are mixed.
Most disconcerting is that each downchange is followed by an off-boost pause, which makes progress in these situations painful.
Under load the 2.5 HPD is noisier than the Hilux's 3.0 D4D, but certainly quieter than the previous ML Triton's 3.2 DiD on part-throttle.
Of course the best place to test a 4x4 is off-road, and we took the Triton up past Dargo and onto the challenging terrain in the ranges around the old mining town of Grant.
Our issues with the Triton's on-road performance disappeared once low range was selected. There is little to complain about when the going gets tough.
The Triton climbed steep rutted mountain trails, straddled berms and carefully picked its way down shaley slopes with surprising ease.
Our test car was equipped with the optional rear diff-lock, but we left that off for the greater part of the drive and relied on the traction control to keep the wheels turning. It worked well.
At higher speeds off-road - trying to make up a bit of time across the high-country spurs - the Triton's ordinary stock suspension reveals a few shortcomings. Where a Hilux absorbs bumps, the Triton tends to bounce from one to the next.
Corrugations can also find it out. You need to either drop tyre pressures and slow down or fit aftermarket suspension.
What did our passengers think?
The Triton remains the class-leader for rear-seat accommodation, and, aside from some complaints about uncomfortable headrests, our adult passengers were impressed with the amount of room available.
Families with young children will find the Triton dual-cab range to be quite accommodating.
Front seating is improved over the previous model. With height and rake adjustment now a feature, the front seats are a vast improvement over the previous model's flat and uncomfortable offerings. There is still room for improvement there though.
Another welcome improvement is the addition of an armrest between the front seats. Triton drivers now finally have a place to rest their left elbow.
Interior Quality and Feel
Built in Thailand, the Triton displays a high level of quality in its fit and finish. Our test car had a slightly ill-fitting glove-box lid, but this is not indicative of Triton interiors in general.
The two-tone interior colour scheme, leather steering wheel and gearknobs, all help to lift what is essentially a hard plastic and utilitarian interior to an acceptable level.
Door cards unfortunately remain all plastic, and its hard to find a soft place to rest the right elbow, but at least it makes for easy cleaning.
The Triton dual-cab now comes with a more useable ute tray, both in size and shape.
It's 14 percent larger than the previous model, growing from 1325mm to 1505mm in length and a further 55mm in depth.
In fact the larger tub is a match for any in the segment. It is just 25mm shorter than the longest tray - found on the Ranger and BT-50 dual-cabs.
The increased depth also means that some of the larger eskies and car fridges that wouldn't fit under the ML's lockable ute lid, will fit in the MN.
However that lockable lid is no longer a standard feature on the MN GLX-R. If you want load security then you'll need to pay extra for the lockable lid, or go the popular route of fitting a canopy.
How safe is it?
With a 4-Star ANCAP rating, the MN Triton comes with standard driver and front passenger airbags, side and curtain airbags, front and rear door impact bars, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, front seatbelt pretensioners, and child restraint points.
Mitsubishi’s All Terrain Technology (MATT) is standard on the GLX-R, and features Super Select four-wheel-drive system, Active Stability and Traction Control, Multi Mode ABS, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
Fuel Consumption and Green Rating
Officially fuel consumption for the manual version of the 2.5 litre HPD is 8.3 l/100km while the struggling automatic variant returns 9.3 l/100km. In reality though you'll be unlikely to see a figure that low.
The best we could manage was 11.1 l/100km across a mix that was predominantly highway travel, mixed with some urban and offroad work.
The government's Green Vehicle Guide has awarded the Triton GLX-R two and a half stars out of a possible five. In auto form the Triton GLX-R produces 245 g/km of CO2.
How does it compare?
There are really two classes of dual-cab ute on the Australian market: what separates them is how viable they are as a 'family car' option (as well as a hard working 'fourby').
Nissan's D22 Navara, Holden's Colorado, Isuzu's D-Max and the Ford/Mazda Ranger/BT50 twins just don't have the back seat room to truly be considered for full-time family duties.
The Triton GLX-R dual-cab does, and its only real up-spec competitors are Toyota's Hilux SR5 dual-cab automatic ($55,690 plus onroad costs) and Nissan's D40 Navara ST-X automatic ($46,860 plus onroad costs).
The Triton (in auto form) has more in common with the D40 Navara than the Hilux. They both use smaller 2.5 litre diesels, lack genuine low-down torque, and have over-eager and wearying automatic gearboxes.
They are also the most 'car-like' on the road, with the Navara still maintaining its advantage in this regard.
The 3.0 D4D Hilux SR5 on the other hand is a more relaxed drive in most situations, and in standard form is considerably more comfortable off-road.
The Triton of course has that suite of electronic safety and traction aids to set it apart from the Hilux (for the time being at least). It's also considerably cheaper, yet just as well built.
But the real competition for the MN GLX-R Auto, is its cheaper manual sibling. In manual form the Triton is a significantly better driving experience.
Is it expensive to maintain?
Retail buyers of the Triton GLX-R will receive Mitsubishi's Diamond Advantage Capped Price Servicing, which allows for 4 years or 60,000kms of capped price service costs. The total cost for the four scheduled services required in the first 60,000kms is $1,900.
Mitsubishi offers a five year/130,000kms vehicle warranty, and a ten year/160,000km drivetrain warranty (with conditions).
Red, Dark Blue, Black, Ironbark (Brown), White, Cool Silver and Gunmetal. Metallic and Pearlescent paint are both $450 options.
Pricing for the 2.5 HPD manual GLX-R starts at $47,990 (plus on-road costs).
The GLX-R automatic is priced from $50,490 (plus on-road costs).
Our test vehicle was fitted with the MCCS Communication System + Diff Lock ($3700), and metallic paint ($450). Total retail price $54,460 (plus on-road costs).
Buy the Triton GLX-R auto and there is no escaping it, you'll be paying more for less. In isolation, the GLX-R auto isn't really a bad thing, but this is the real world, and there are better options.
The best of those options is the GLX-R manual. With an extra 50Nm, it is a far superior drive, and perversely a $2,500 cheaper one.
If you've got a lazy left foot and must buy an auto, then we'd recommend stretching the budget and taking the Hilux SR5 dual-cab for a drive.