There are three things you need to know about the naming of the just-updated 2018 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed.
Firstly, this medium SUV is based on the Triton ute, not the two-decade-old Pajero large SUV, thankfully. Being based on that separate chassis platform means it prioritises rugged off-road hauling over on-road dynamics, so best only consider that Sport tag as referencing the boating and bushwalking activities it can assist with.
And as has long been the case with Mitsubishi, Exceed is the flagship model grade that in this case sits atop a range that spans $45,500 to $53,650 plus on-road costs.
Price-wise that places it directly against the Isuzu MU-X and Holden Trailblazer, but below the Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner equivalents. So, then, where does this not-properly-sporty, wagon-backed version of a Triton sit among them, and can it rise above that expanded description to properly justify its own Pajero Sport badgework?
Mitsubishi has just updated its Pajero Sport with forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control now standard. It’s an impressive move that teams with the addition of soft-touch console trim, a rear powerpoint, two rear USB posts and illuminated vanity mirrors for all model grades.
This Exceed only adds a rear tailgate spoiler to that list, however the pricing span of these diesel/all-wheel drive-only model grades is narrow – from five-seat-only GLX at $45,500 (plus orc), to the newly added five-seat GLS at $48,500 and its seven-seat twin at $49,500 (plus orc), then to this seven-seat-only Exceed at $53,650 (plus orc).
Consider that a Fortuner spans $47,490 to $56,990 (plus orc), for example, while only the Trailblazer packs its range in a tighter $47,990 to $52,490 (plus orc) reach.
The Everest includes rear- and all-wheel drive models from $49,190 (plus orc) to $73,990 (plus orc), as does the MU-X from $42,800 (plus orc) to $56,200 (plus orc). Taking the lowest and highest pricetags of the above rivals, the average is $53,393 –of which Mitsubishi’s flagship Exceed, erm, exceeds by $257. Competitive, indeed.
From the outside the 4785mm-long and 1815mm-wide Pajero Sport looks tall and narrow, an impression that isn’t helped by those vertical snake-strip tail-lights. But the Mitsubishi is also 30mm, 35mm and 40mm narrower than the MU-X, Fortuner and Everest, respectively, while length is down 10mm on even the shortest (Toyota).
Despite such dimensional differences, though, the Exceed doesn’t feel cramped up front and it delivers excellent legroom in both rows behind. The swathes of hard plastics are the greatest indication that this interior design started life as a ute, but even then they are of a smooth and consistent variety, while fit-and-finish is tight.
Ergonomically, everything is easy. It all starts with decent climate control button tactility and ends with a simple colour trip computer screen and intuitive touchscreen with digital radio, smartphone mirroring and a 360-degree camera. The biggest issue isn’t the lack of satellite navigation, though, but the absence of a digital speedometer.
While the woodgrain and ruched leather won’t be to all tastes, the heated and electrically adjustable front seats feel comfortably Exceed-worthy. Perhaps these days front ventilation is expected of a flagship model grade, while a sunroof and electric tailgate certainly are – yet both are missing here.
Even so, particularly considering the active safety equipment, this level of standard equipment costs $2500 to $3500 more in an Isuzu or Toyota, respectively, and only the Holden really gets close.
What is lost in roof glass is also made up for with middle-row fan controls, and roof air vents for both back rows. Thanks also to the standard side steps, and to a simple one-touch fold-then-flip middle row, getting into the furthermost quarters is easy.
Even third-row headroom is decent, and the tilted base aids under-thigh support.
The downside is that, ultimately, this still isn’t a full-sized seven-seater, and with all rows in place the boot’s loading lip conspires with a dreary lack of depth to become as cramped as any in this class. Mitsubishi doesn’t quote a volume, but it claims only 237mm – less than a 30cm ruler’s length – between tailgate and third row backrest.
ON AND OFF THE ROAD
Its stature may be smaller than some, but the Mitsubishi stands taller than many off road. For example, it has 218mm of ground clearance, a 30-degree approach angle, 23.1deg ramp-over angle and 24.2deg departure angle, as well as 3.1-tonne towing.
A larger Prado from the next class up has 219mm of ground clearance and 30.4deg approach/22deg ramp-over/23deg departure angles, plus 3.0-t towing. So what’s good for that enormously popular Toyota is probably great for Pajero Sport buyers.
This Exceed shares its 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine with the GLX and GLS model grades, as well as the Triton, but unlike that latter ute it mates with an eight-speed (rather than five-speed) automatic transmission.
With 133kW of power at 3500rpm, and 430Nm of torque at 2500rpm, outputs are identical across the board, and performance remains moderate at best in this 2105kg medium SUV application. At least eight gears makes for both step-off urgency and relaxed 110km/h-cruising, where the engine sits at 1750rpm.
It isn’t a supremely silent diesel, but the four-cylinder unit is impressively vibration-free and it melds well with generally low road noise and surprisingly comfortable ride quality. We say surprising because, with a live rear axle and a ute as its base, that isn’t always the case in these rugged wagon-backed off roaders.
While the Pajero Sport’s suspension manages a solid balance between softness and firm control, however, the steering lets the side down. It’s actually consistently mid-weighted and decently linear, but whether around town or making sharp off-road changes of direction, there are just too many turns lock to lock.
Mitsubishi’s rotary dial for its all-wheel drive system is thankfully easy to use, though, with simple rear-wheel drive (2H), four-wheel drive (4H), four-wheel drive with locked centre differential (4HLc) and four-wheel drive with low-range and locked diff (4LLc) modes. The middle two are rare in the class, where having the option to keep the centre diff open makes for easier manoeuvrability around town, plus extra traction.
An excellent off-road performance was emphasised by the fact that some steep rock crawling could be conducted in high-range without the extra rear locking differential button activated. The chubby 18-inch tyres scrambled for a moment, but with the flicker of an electronic stability control (ESC) light, the SUV scrambled forth easily.
Add that fine towing ability, plus solid on-test economy of 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres (including freeway and off-roading), and it’s enough to make you wonder whether the Exceed is all the rugged flagship a driver may ever need.
ANCAP Rating: 5 stars – this model scored 36.22 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2015.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, driver’s knee and three-row curtain airbags, ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitor, and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Average annual or 15,000km service intervals are charged at an average capped-price cost of $400/$475/$550 for the first three respectively.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Trailblazer is the value pick, while it ramps up the torque (to 500Nm) but lowers the interior quality compared with this Mitsubishi.
The MU-X is trusted for its truck-based engine and the promise of reliability it brings, but the Pajero Sport promises to be the smoother and more refined drive. Likewise against the Fortuner, which is also even more downmarket inside.
Conversely, an Everest trumps all with those latter attributes, but it is exceedingly expensive compared with this Exceed.
- Holden Trailblazer LTZ
- Ford Everest Trend
- Isuzu MU-X LS-U
- Toyota Fortuner GXL
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Pajero Sport Exceed does everything quite well, and nothing badly. That isn’t damning it with faint praise, either, because it doesn’t tread a merely average line but instead consistently treads above it in virtually every area.
Indeed, polarising rear styling aside, this could be Mitsubishi’s most convincing model. It’s refined and performs well, without being quick, and it cossets occupants while maintaining decent body control – sans-sportiness and with ordinary steering.
It is also well-equipped and roomy inside, and while it never hits ambience or material highs, it also doesn’t ask much money for what it offers. It’s budget luxury without feeling like cash has been saved.
Want the all-rounder of the class? It’s here, and deservedly with its own badge.
- Interested in buying Mitsubishi Pajero Sport? Visit our Mitsubishi Pajero Sport showroom for more information.