The Skinny: Even a short drive in the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport shows that this is a very different car to the ‘not greatly loved’ Challenger it replaces. Turn the key and the new 2.4 litre diesel settles at a more refined idle than the former car's coarse 2.5 litre unit.
And there is an all-new eight-speed automatic at the left hand, driving through Mitsubishi’s well-proven Super Select ‘four-position’ 4X4 system.
The immediate feel is of a snug well-finished interior, with very comfortable seats – quite possibly best-in-class (but we’ll reserve judgment there) – and with no traces of the ‘light commercial’ Triton origins that sit below.
If Mitsubishi Australia can get the pricing right, it will win over a lot of buyers with this new Pajero Sport.
Vehicle style: Large 4X4 SUV Wagon
Price: (undisclosed, mid-$40k to mid-$50k range expected)
Engine/transmission: 133kW/430Nm 2.4 turbo diesel 4cyl | 8sp automatic
Fuel consumption (claimed): Undisclosed.
Straight off the bat, Mitsubishi’s new Pajero Sport suddenly leaves ‘big brother’, the larger Pajero, looking a little naked. Just a few minutes at the wheel and you’ll feel it: this is the newer, more modern and better car.
So it will steal sales there. And it will far outsell the hoary old girl it replaces, the capable but truck-ish Challenger.
Like that former model, the Challenger name is dead. Instead we now have the Pajero Sport – a global name (except for those markets where ‘Wanker’ Sport will never work) – to do battle here with the Isuzu MU-X, the Holden Colorado7 and Toyota’s new and impressive Fortuner.
We’ve driven it, off-road only and just some light-duty laps of a 4X4 track in the foothills ringing Japan’s Mt Fuji.
Not enough to really discover the car, but enough to form some early conclusions; the first being that Fortuner has a surprise new contender about to ‘glove-up’ against it.
The new Pajero Sport might only be packing five-seats against the Fortuner’s three-row seven-seat capacity, but there is no shortage of comfort, space nor refinement in here, and a boot that’s as big as a cave. “Game on” I would think.
- Features: (note, Australian specifications TBC) Sat-nav, air-conditioning (roof-vents for rear passengers), Bluetooth phone audio, USB audio input, surround-view camera, frontal radar with anti-collision system, blindspot monitoring.
- Storage: Internal dimensions TBC
Smart interior, no doubt. Not the last word in style, but things are where they should be, it’s well laid-out and the touch-points – gear shift, rotary drive selector, and switchgear – have an appealing solid ‘built-to-last’ feel.
(And no, thank the stars, we will not get the faux-wood trims shown in these photos.)
The steering wheel, not too large and with a reasonable grip, adjusts for both reach and rake (just like the Fortuner, but score one up on the Ford Everest, Colorado7 et al).
Also score another for the quality and comfort of the seats. These will impress; they’re wide, generously-padded in the right places, and with a softer more-cosseting feel than we’re used to in a car like this.
The brushed metal garnishes across the dash and doors and each side of the centre-stack look good, and the styling of the console is cleaned up with the replacement of the handbrake lever with an electronic brake (not our preferred arrangement).
There is a bunch of smart technologies on the feature list, but we don’t yet have information to share on how these might appear across the model range.
Perhaps the interior party piece is the company’s latest Mitsubishi Connect communication software. With Androidauto and Apple CarPlay, it puts smartphone apps onto the headunit screen display, offering a vast suite of music and communication platform features.
Rear seats are both comfortable and roomy, with lashings of leg and headroom, and, like the front, generous padding for long stints on the highway.
You may also note that both front and rear passengers get ‘assist grips’ above each door for when swinging in and out.
Further back, the boot is a bear-cave; wide, deep and high, it is immense.
It is helped by the absence of third-row seating, and, though we don’t yet have its dimensions, is visually larger than the Pajero’s cargo space.
There are otherwise pockets and cubbies around the cabin, bottle holders in the doors and a good-sized glovebox.
- Engine/transmission: 2.4 litre turbo diesel/8-spd sports automatic
- Power/torque: 133kW/430Nm
- Suspension: front double wishbone with coil springs; three-link coil spring rear
- Turning circle: 11.2m,
- Off Road: Ground clearance 218mm, 30-degree approach angle, 23-degree ramp-over, 24-degree departure angle, wading depth 700mm
- Towing capacity: 3.0 tonne (braked trailer)
The first impressions of the new Pajero Sport, in as much as can be learned on a light work-out around a controlled 4X4 track, are good.
It is easy to get set and comfortable at the reach and rake-adjustable wheel. Add nicely padded seats and the Pajero Sport has the driving feel of a comfortable light-duty SUV.
And it’s certainly snug and refined. The 2.4 litre MIVEC turbo diesel shared with the Triton is one of the quieter operators and there has been a lot of attention to sound-deadening at the firewall and under the floor.
The steering feel is light at low speeds and gives a reasonable feel for what’s happening underfoot when picking up a rutted trail.
The turning circle of 11.2 metres is tight by 4X4 standards and will make the Pajero Sport more liveable than most when tackling the wilds of an inner-city carpark.
The most enduring impression off-road however is of the long-travel suspension and the isolation and relative stability of the cabin when down below things are really working.
With coil springs all-round, and a live axle rear (but with an unusual sway-bar arrangement), the Pajero Sport can be easily picked over large obstacles or along a deeply rutted track thanks to the surprising range of vertical travel and suspension compliance.
It errs to comfort, but, though relatively soft, we found the bump-stops only after hitting a ‘berm’ a little too vigorously, followed by a hard landing on the next.
The 23 degree ramp-over angle also helps off-road, as does the 30 degree approach angle, but with the centre diff locked in either 4H or 4L, and the control of the Super Select system working below - with Snow, Mud, Rock and Gravel slectable modes - there will be few tracks that will leave the 'Padger' Sport stranded.
We barely got out of second gear (in 4Hlc), but the eight-speed automatic down below (with paddles at the wheel of our tester) gives the Pajero Sport some bragging rights in the showroom, and will be appreciated on a long outback haul.
Towing capacity is a raw 3.0 tonne (braked, that is, but get the calculations on GVM and GCM done before you hitch the mobile Buckingham Palace behind).
Mitsubishi has a well thought-out car in this new Pajero Sport. We think you’ll like it.
The unusual rear-styling didn’t appeal much when early images of the new car surfaced; and it still looks a bit arsey, but works ok ‘in the metal’.
In fact, those unique rear lights in that muscled rump may become something of a selling point when a few examples get out and about on the roads.
The cavernous boot and its low load-lip, will win lots of friends – like empty nesters, grey nomads and fleet buyers looking for a useable and useful cargo space – as will the compliant, long-travel feel to the suspension.
And the Super Select AWD is a very well-known and trusted commodity; it’s one of the very best heavy-duty AWD systems out there and easily able to make short work of a crawl up a ragged fire-trail.
But what will win-over most is that (on this first impression) the Pajero Sport doesn’t feel like a ‘truck’ at the wheel, certainly not like the Colorado7 or the Challenger it replaces.
It feels like an SUV wagon, and as comfortable and manoeuvrable as a light-duty soft-roader. If the indications from Mitsubishi about the pricing prove correct, its new Pajero Sport will convince a lot of buyers to look its way.
It certainly makes the bigger Pajero look like an old uncle in a bad wig. (But the Padger, though ageing, is good buying at current prices.)
Disclosure: Tim O’Brien travelled to Japan as a guest of Mitsubishi Australia