ROAD TEST Pajero Sport a ‘go anywhere’ SUV

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Sixteen years after its launch, the current Mitsubishi Pajero, the ageing warrior of our large SUV market, now has a brother in arms in the form of a smaller all-new Sport variant.
Unlike any of its predecessors going back nearly 35 years, this newcomer is based on Mitsubishi’s Triton ute. Filling the ute-based SUV space in the company lineup up until now had been the Challenger. What they have cleverly done is rebrand its successor a Pajero Sport, in the hope that the strong Pajero brand will bring more buyers into the tent.
Mitsubishi are fairly bullish about the prospects for the Pajero Sport, positioning it as a well-equipped premium new-generation SUV. This is despite it being based around ute technology which is hardly cutting edge, although it does impress with a raft of advanced safety equipment. It is a model that notches up a number of firsts for Mitsubishi, most notably an eight-speed automatic.
As is the case with most Mitsubishis they are big on offering value for money and are masters of the special deal. A good example is the recommended retail for the entry level XLS Pajero Sport is $58,990, but is now selling for a special promotional price of about $9000 less than that figure. The flagship VRX supplied for this road test sells for $63,990.
The engine compartment is home to the same all new 135kW 2.4-litre turbodiesel used in the Mitsubishi Triton ute. It may be a clean-sheet design, but the power and torque outputs are only marginally better than the 2.5-litre unit it replaces, with 2kW more power while the 437Nm of torque is only a 30Nm gain. One of the biggest differences between this engine and the old one is its superior smoothness and refinement that are among the best in its class.
With a sophisticated and slick-shifting eight-speed automatic, the Pajero Sport offers a couple of ratios more than most of its rival vehicles which largely run six-speed autos. The only other eightspeeder ute sold here is the Volkswagen Amarok. Having gear options to burn making it an effortless drive both on and off the road.
Cabin space hasn’t increased a great deal over the Pajero Sport’s predecessor, the Challenger, a little disappointing, and a lost opportunity for Mitsubishi to create another point of difference over its competitors. Overall, passenger and load space is adequate, but the passenger compartment feels rather narrow and underdone on room.
A fully integrated communications system lets you keep in touch with all your conversations, music and map apps. Whether you’re in the iPhone or Android camp, the smartphone link display audio helps you stay connected. You can use all that bluetooth offers too, including voicing and listening to messages.
This model incorporates Mitsubishi’s ‘‘RISE’’ crash safety body construction, comprising 30% high tensile steel to support cabin integrity and promote weight reduction. There is the reassurance of seven airbags, ABS braking and stability control.
The Pajero Sport is the ‘‘real deal’’ go anywhere vehicle with its off-road mode that allows the driver to select modes to maximise performance depending on the terrain they are planning to tussle with: gravel, mud/ snow, sand or rock. It takes to water like a duck. With a wading depth of 700mm, which equates to a thigh-high stream, this vehicle possesses semiamphibious qualities.
Cornering is competent but the handling suffers from a tad too much body roll. The light steering comes a bit short on road feel for establishing convincing two-way communication between the driver and what is playing out between front tyres and the road. Ride comfort on and off the road is sufficiently well cushioned so the vehicle occupants aren’t unduly shaken or stirred, particularly over the more brittle and brutal surfaces encountered when you head off road, where this vehicle really shines.