Approaching the Mitsubishi Pajero GLS at the press car pickup location in Melbourne had me wondering what in God’s name people do with these monstrous creations. Just half an hour earlier I had one of these giants cut me off on the Princess Highway. So to say that I had prior perceptions of 4WD drivers would be an understatement.
Entering the cockpit of the Pajero gives you a few instant feelings. Space, visibility and power. You enter the Pajero with a big step up from terra-firma, making a landing in the very soft and welcoming driver’s seat.
The front end is modelled in quite an ugly fashion; thankfully there is a reason behind this. The approach angle on the Mitsubishi Pajero is 39 degrees, which in layman’s terms is the maximum angle at which you can approach an obstacle without having it touch the front end of your vehicle. And vice versa for the departure angle, which is 24 degrees on the Pajero. The approach angle is fantastic when comparing it to its direct competitors (Prado – 31 degrees, Landcruiser – 34 degrees, Patrol - 37 degrees and LX470 – 32 degrees).
The GLS comes with a 3.8ltr V6 that produces 149kW @ 5000RPM and 310Nm @ 3250RPM. Our press car was fitted with the 5-speed manual transmission. The Pajero we were driving had a very stiff change from second gear to third gear, which became more evident under harder acceleration. The 3.8ltr V6 provides fantastic pickup in second and third, making the 2.1 tonne Pajero feel quite powerful and gaudy under spirited driving.
The GLS comes standard with a 7 stack CD-Player (6 stack, plus single slot on the head unit). It provides a very decent sound package, it only has 4 speakers but, there is ample bass and sound clarity. At the top of the dashboard there is a ‘RV-Meter’, which is an LCD that contains the barometric pressure, an altimeter, the time, the date and a compass.
The Pajero is fitted with four driving modes, 2WD, 4WD, 4Hc and 4Lc, selectable via a control leaver next to the gear shifter.
The 2WD mode operates the rear wheels with the rear differential locked. 4WD mode controls power delivery via a computer. 4Hc is 4WD mode with the centre differential locked, providing equal power to all wheels. 4Lc is 4WD mode in the low-range gearbox with the centre differential locked; it provides more than double the transfer case gear ratio, providing the vehicle with more torque and control.
With some harder driving and some tight corners, you really can tell you are driving a vehicle with a high centre of gravity and large ground clearance (235mm). In 2WD mode, we found the Pajero would understeer through tight corners and provide a very unbalanced sensation, making a Toyota Camry feel like a Ferrari Enzo…! When we switched to 4WD mode, we found the handling to be far better, through corners you could really feel it sticking more thoroughly to the road and providing better handling.
All the positives come to a complete halt when you approach the ‘E’ on the petrol gauge. The Pajero is fitted with a 90 litre petrol tank! It’s ginormous. Over our 1300km trip we travelled on highways, The Great Ocean Road, un-sealed tracks and 4WD tracks. We managed to average 15.21L/100km, which is almost 2L/100km more than the 13.6L/100km stated in the vehicle’s specifications.
The Pajero GLS is fitted with 5 seats (including a set of two retractable rear seats). The driver and passenger seats are extremely comfortable; they are designed in a way that moulds around your body, providing maximum comfort for both highway driving and off-road driving. The same can’t be said for the middle row of seats or the rear row of seats. The middle row of seats are quite hard, especially the middle seat, it has the drinks tray attached to it and creates a very firm backing for anyone who sits there. You can also forget about fitting anyone older than 13 in the rear row of seats that fold up from the floor. Once you have figured out the mechanism that hides the 3rd row of seats under the floor, your next goal is to actually get in there. I tried getting in there (6”5’) and I didn’t stand a chance. It seems their sole purpose is to provide seating for children, very young children.
Boot size is very generous in the Pajero. There is ample room to load the boot with shopping or pack it with gear for your camping trip or weekend away. One thing it certainly lacks is the cargo blind that is fitted with most other 4WDs. It merely makes the contents of your boot more visible from the outside, which is something that simply attracts thieves. If the 3rd row of seats is erected there is a large space available in the floor of the boot where the 3rd row of seats are stored when they’re not in use.
Off-road driving is made easy with Pajero’s 235mm ground clearance and powerful V6 engine. We ventured to Anglesea to test the Pajero’s ability near the coal mines. With much ease the Pajero was able to manoeuvre through ruts filled with water and mud, steep gradients and uneven surfaces. First gear wasn’t quite long enough for long, steep gradients. We found that when we reached the end of first gear and made the change to second the revs would drop enough to almost stall the car; it would be more useful if first gear was longer.
Stability control and traction control works well in the Pajero. There is a switch in front of the gear stick that allows you to switch the stability control and traction control system on and off. With the system off and the Pajero in 2WD mode, it has a striking ability to spin the wheels with ease. It was comic witnessing a 4WD with its back end out, something I definitely had much respect for.
At 100km/h in 5th gear, the Pajero happily revs at 2500RPM. The electronic throttle allows the Pajero to operate cruise control without moving the throttle at all. The cruise control is hidden slightly behind the steering wheel. A big issue we had with it was the fact that it didn’t illuminate with the headlights on, making it very difficult to see the writing on the controls to indicate positioning.
So what’s the final verdict?
Much to my surprise, the Pajero is a fun car to drive. Who would have thought that a car of such size could actually be used for so many applications? The petrol usage was also far less than I had initially imagined it would be. It goes off-road, it hauls the family and kids, it travels nicely and quietly and it intimidates other drivers. What else more could you want?
The only downfalls we can touch on include the damn frustrating humming noise from the centre console LCD, the length of the first gear, firmness of the middle row of seats and the lack of room in the 3rd row of seats and last but not least the lack of styling of the instrument cluster.
- by Paul Maric
CarAdvice rating (out of 5):