THE NEW 2016 PAJERO SPORT IS ONE WE CAN COMFORTABLY RECOMMEND. IT IS ROOMY, COMFORTABLE AND QUIET ON-ROAD, HAS AN ENORMOUS BOOT, AND A VERY MEAGRE THIRST.
It also has a stout 2.4-litre turbo-diesel and a very well-matched eight-speed sports automatic (with paddle shifts in the GLS and Exceed models).
And, though it rides much like a conventional light-duty SUV, but with a little more 4WD 'jiggle', it can climb a wall – or cross the Simpson, or take you to The Kimberley and back.
We drove it at its international launch in Japan and came away impressed for its smoothness and refinement. We thought it then a four-star car, but reserved judgment until Australian pricing was known.
Starting at $45,000 neat for the base-spec, but very well-kitted, GLX, we’re convinced: Mitsubishi has a very good car here in its new Pajero Sport.
Vehicle Style: Heavy Duty 4X4 SUV Wagon
Price: GLX $45,000; GLS $48,500; Exceed $52,750 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 133kW/430Nm 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo-diesel/8-spd sports automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.0 l/100km | tested: 8.6 l/100km
The Triton-based Challenger is gone. Tough, but coarse, it didn’t quite hit the mark for Australian buyers. Now we have the new Triton-based Pajero Sport, it is a vastly improved car on that hoary Challenger it replaces.
And, for pricing, this one is right on the money. It comes in three grades, the Pajero Sport GLX at $45,000, GLS at $48,500 and Exceed at $52,750.
There is only one drivetrain ‘choice’: the 2.4 litre MIVEC turbo diesel, eight-speed automatic and Super-Select 4X4 system (with locking centre diff in the up-specced GLS and Exceed models).
Each comes with a selectable and immensely capable four-mode all-terrain management system, Sand, Mud/Snow, Gravel and Rock.
Priced squarely for Australian families, and hard-working but surprisingly refined, it is – like Toyota’s new Fortuner – the perfect all-purpose family wagon: one that’s built for adventure, but equally at home when pressed into service for domestic duties.
Key Interior Features:
- Tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment
- Keyless entry, push button start
- Electric park brake
- Speed sensing auto door locking
- Auto air-conditioning
- Smartphone Link Display Audio (SDA)
- Digital radio (DAB)
- Rear view camera and reversing sensors
- Seven-inch colour touchscreen with voice control
GLS (additional to GLX):
- Dual zone A/C
- Leather interior trim, driver and passenger electric seat adjustment
- Dusk sensing headlamps
- Rain sensing wipers
- Electrochromatic rear view mirror
Exceed (additional to GLS):
- Multi around Monitor System
- Blind Spot Warning
- Forward Collision Mitigation
- Ultrasonic Mis-acceleration Mitigation System
- Heated front seats with power adjustment
- 8-speaker audio
- Rear seat entertainment system (DVD)
This is a welcoming interior. The high-set console looks terrific, the style and feel to the dash and other touch-points is smart and appealing, and the cool-metal garnishes create an air of quality that shades the Fortuner, and betters, by a long chalk, Isuzu’s MU-X and Holden’s Colorado7.
Mitsubishi’s new Smartphone link display audio (SDA), operating through Android Auto and Apple Car Play systems, is standard across the range.
It is easily connected via stored smartphone apps and accessed through the seven-inch colour touch screen or via voice control. (You can also make calls or send SMS messages hands free.)
Not so convincing is the Pajero Sport’s sat-nav system, which links via the smartphone, and, for a long trip, will require a continuous data stream. (Upgradeable ‘embedded’ systems, like Hema maps, are surely preferable for a country like Australia, especially if contemplating a long trip.)
All models get DAB (digital radio), as well as a trad AM/FM tuner and USB and aux-inputs – but no CD player. The Exceed also features a rear seat DVD roof-mounted 9-inch colour display and 8-speaker audio.
Seats are leather in both GLS and Exceed models, with a tight-weave fabric in the base spec GLX.
As a big family wagon, buyers will be pleased to see that a reverse camera is standard across the range with a good-sized screen for monitoring, and with reverse-park sensors.
The seats too are as good as you’ll find at the new Sport’s price point; they are generously padded, wide, well-shaped and nicely bolstered.
In the leather-trimmed GLS and Exceed, they feel particularly sumptuous and have an up-market look thanks to the sunken stitching, finely grained leather and the soft, heavily-padded shoulders.
In both GLS and Exceed, the front seats also come with electric adjustment.
The rear seats are set higher, theatre-style (for younger passengers to also get a good view of the great outdoors), and offer a chasm of room and a wide floor for long shanks and big teenage feet.
(A 6’3” companion easily slotted in behind the driver.)
That chasm of room, and the wide door-openings, will also be appreciated if lifting junior in and out of a child-seat there. There are also ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
For seat comfort, and spacious accommodation, and for the comfortable compliance of the suspension, the Pajero Sport has most comers in the segment comprehensively whipped.
Offering just five-seats in a mostly seven-seat category is a bit of miss by Mitsubishi, and one that will have buyers looking elsewhere until the seven-seater arrives.
One of the biggest omissions however is the absence of ‘air’ to the rear seats. No roof vents, no side vents and no vents in the centre-console to pipe the air-conditioning to the back.
It is a ‘modern’ expectation – cars a decade or so back rarely had such a feature – however, in such a big family wagon, it is now an expected feature and an omission that will be a deal-breaker for some.
(With all that space, and the heat of an Australian summer, it will get a bit hot and airless for back-seaters.)
The boot is a cave: wide, deep and square, it is immense (only the bats are missing). It offers 673 litres to the top of the rear seats, or 1624 litres with the rear seats folded.
There are cupholders front and back (two, curiously, in the boot, waiting for the third row to appear), bottle-pockets in the doors, a decent cubby underneath the centre console and a handy sunglasses holder in the roof.
ON THE ROAD
Key technical specifications:
- Engine/transmission: 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo-diesel/8-spd sports automatic
- Power/torque: 133kW @ 3500rpm/430Nm @ 2500rpm
- Suspension: coil springs with stabiliser bar, front and rear (three-link rigid axle rear)
- Tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, turning circle – 11.2 metres
- Brakes: front – 17-inch ventilated discs; rear – ‘drum-in’ 16-inch ventilated discs
- Kerb weight: 2060kg (GLS); payload 650kg, towing capacity (braked) 3.1 tonne
- Ground clearance – 218mm; wading depth – 700mm
- Lateral travel angle: 45 degrees
- Approach angle – 30 degrees, ramp over angle – 23 degrees; departure angle – 24 degrees
- 18-inch alloy wheels with 265/60R18 tyres
We spent much of the first day on sand at the wheel of the top-spec Pajero Sport Exceed. The venue was Stockton Beach, north of Newcastle – a vast expanse of dunes, steep drop-offs and deep valleys running kilometres inland and, for our drive, shrouded by heavy skies and a steel-grey ocean.
Soft sand is one of the real tests for any 'four-by-four' system: it puts enormous drag on the driveline, relies heavily on engine torque and the ability to keep moving, and, often, requires a deft balancing of revs and wheelspin to push up and over steep overhangs.
You can get it wrong quickly, and suddenly find yourself sitting on the axles.
With a very low 14psi in the tyres, low-range selected and with the centre diff locked (LLc), and with the terrain selection to Sand, the Pajero Sport made light work of everything we pointed it at.
If we had any lingering doubts about Mitsubishi’s Super-select 4X4 system, they were dispelled there on Stockton Beach.
In fact, from when it first appeared in the Pajero, then found its way into the Triton, the off-road capability of this system (with the centre differential at its core) has always impressed.
The ease with which the big Pajero Sport tackled both climbs and very steep descents, and pushed through soft hollows and along the sand ridge lines – without wild churning and ‘slamming’ into the tops to get over – was a total surprise for a car basically set-up for the highway.
We kept things at around 2500rpm, right where the 2.4 litre MIVEC turbo-diesel produces its 430Nm of peak torque, and it just kept on pushing on. And only once did we need a second run, and a new line, to push over a steep inward-folding lip.
Was it working hard? The fuel consumption for our few hours on the sand at Stockton Beach tells the story – over 40 l/100km (see image below). But it just kept on ‘doing the business’.
There was no tell-tale smell of transmission oil getting superheated and under stress – left to its own devices, it performed flawlessly in the sand. With eight speeds, it is smartly ‘mapped’ for both off-road and highway work.
With ‘tight’ ratios, and quite small steps between them (sixth is direct drive), we like the ‘smart’ settled way the transmission holds the right ratio when working hard.
Our second day, which took in a long highway drive and some steep off-road sections along fire-access trails (taking the ‘long way round’ to Muir’s Lookout), also showed the versatile nature, and the refined manners of the Pajero Sport.
On the highway it is both remarkably quiet and effortless. Even on coarse bitumen, there is very little tyre noise, just a muted growl from the diesel under the bonnet, and the slightest of wind noise.
We have mentioned it before but this is another ‘commercial’ 4X4 that is quieter on-road than at least two of the premium German sedans (who just can’t seem to engineer a car for coarse, noisy, Australian road surfaces).
Bump the gear-lever to ‘Sport’, and you can use the paddle shifters when a bit of extra urge is called, but the eight-speed transmission is quite able to keep things hustling along without driver intervention.
It is no powerhouse away from the line, but, in typical diesel fashion, once moving it has no trouble picking up its skirts if needing to overtake, or when accelerating out of a corner.
Despite a solid stabiliser bar up front, and the rear bar linked forward of the solid axle, there is a fair degree of body-roll with the Pajero Sport. In fact, we feel the suspension tuning may not be quite right and a little more rigidity at the front end may be needed.
While it turns in eagerly enough, it has a tendency to kneel heavily on the outside wheel, and the back follows and then rebounds a little awkwardly (like the tail is trying to wag the dog).
It is only noticeable when cornering quickly, and otherwise offers a comfortable and compliant ride.
That same soft suspension, however (and there is always a compromise for a dual-purpose vehicle), allows tremendous articulation and travel when stepping over rocks or down a deeply rutted fire trail.
The GLS model that we took along these bush tracks had no trouble dealing with a very steep, heavily-rutted descent, and neither was it troubled climbing back out again. In low range, with the diff locked, the Pajero Sport can tackle nearly any off-road challenge you might sensibly throw at it.
It also comes with trailer sway control, and a 3.1-tonne braked towing capacity should you be considering that big round-Australia jaunt. It will do it effortlessly, and it won’t burn your pocket while doing so.
We recorded an average of 8.6 l/100km for the highway and off-road driving loop combined. With a lot of low range in there, that’s pretty darn good.
SERVICING AND WARRANTY
Warranty: Five-years or 100,000km new car warranty.
Servicing: The Pajero Sport comes with Mitsubishi’s capped price servicing program with service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Certainly, the three key rivals for the Pajero Sport are similarly-priced and similar ute-based 4X4 wagons. We’re thinking here of the excellent but dearer Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu’s cheaper, but more ‘truck-ish’ MU-X, and Holden’s off-the-pace Colorado 7.
The Ford Everest, much dearer, is hardly a rival, though some who may at first have considered an Everest may be pleased to find they have a much cheaper option in the capable Pajero Sport.
There are also buyers who may have drawn to lighter-duty family wagons such as Kia’s sublime Sorento and Hyundai’s Santa Fe. They may also be pleased to find they have a similarly priced option in the Pajero Sport, which has the space and comfort of these soft-roaders, but adds genuine ‘outback Australia’ off-road capability.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
On sand, on the highway and in the bush, the Pajero Sport is a very capable and appealing drive.
That it is so well-finished inside, and offers such comfortable accommodation is a real bonus, and should help it steal sales from ‘soft-roaders’ like the Kia Sorento and Santa Fe – your family will love this car and the ‘adventure’ capability it affords.
It is very well-priced, frugal, and, though offering seating for five only (in what is largely a seven-seat category), is very spacious inside with one of the biggest boots you’ll find.
It gets a big tick from us; but, don’t take our word for it, go and check it out.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
2016 MITSUBISHI PAJERO SPORT
- ?GLX $45,000
- GLS $48,500
- Exceed $52,750