2009 Mitsubishi Pajero VRX DI-D Review & Road Test
Versatile, strong, capable… but oh so average.
– by Matt Brogan
You might recall quite some time ago CarAdvice took an Aston Martin DBS through the middle of the Simpson Desert.
What’s that got to do with a Mitsubishi Pajero I hear you ask?
Well as it happens very little, but what we did notice driving the long straights of Queensland’s channel country was the staggering number of Pajeros manned by grey nomads towing caravans.
So when it just so happened that my need for a tow vehicle coincided with our booking of a Pajero VRX DI-D last week it wasn’t hard to see how I put two and two together.
While the Pajero may not be the most attractive or trendsetting four wheel drive on the market, it certainly is a very capable one, something proven by the amount of recognition it has earned through the numerous FWD magazine awards received and confirmed by my brief yet muddy off-road encounter last weekend.
Although looks may be subjective, I can’t help but mention that when it comes to bland interiors, the Pajero really takes the cake.
It’s not that it isn’t practical, or that it doesn’t work. It’s just that the mass of dark, cheap plastics, gloomy matt black leather, poor colour continuity (note the centre stack, ash tray and storage compartment lids), constant plastic rattles and flat, non-supportive seating really let down what is otherwise a spacious and well equipped cabin.
Similarly I found a number of the control buttons are either too fiddly, especially those of the touch screen satellite navigation unit; poorly placed, such as the rear diff-lock, ESP or fuel lid release; or, for some strange reason, just not illuminated at night, like the power mirror switch.
They’re little, almost insignificant annoyances in the scheme of things, but really I believe in getting what you pay for, and when the rivals can manage it for the same price, it’s unfortunate Pajero is left lacking.
Perhaps the single most noticeable downside to the DI-D (direct injection diesel) Pajero is the incredible amount of engine noise.
Now I know it’s a diesel, and I know direct injection is a little louder than other fuel aspiration systems, but the 3.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged unit found in the Pajero is especially noisy, and not just at idle.
It really is atrocious, almost embarrassing, and while most diesels seem to only present any sign of engine noise while stationary, the Pajero’s large capacity four-cylinder is raucous no matter what speed travelled.
That’s not to say it isn’t any good, because it really is a very confident and capable oiler developing 147kW at 3800rpm. The real strength of Pajero however lies in its 441Nm of torque availed from just 2000rpm.
There is a little turbo lag, and yes it is noticeable, but not so much that it detracts from the vehicle’s likely orientation as an urban dweller with inner city behaviour much sharper and more responsive than some of Pajero’s direct rivals.
But how does it tow I hear you ask?
Exceptionally well as it happens. Loaded with a fat tandem trailer and my 1976 Holden HJ Monaro GTS the Pajero’s 3000kg of braked towing capacity made light of the task, even managing to return 13.6 litres per 100km average while doing so.
It maintains the same steering feel as when unloaded – which isn’t crash hot by the way – yet remains planted and settled on the road, even at highway speeds.
Larger hills will knock 10 or 15km/h off the Pajero’s top speed, but with an additional 2000kg on board it’s easy to see why. So in all I have to say this part of the equation is quite impressive.
Ride and handling are about what you’d expect from a large four-wheel-drive – average – and though you don’t exactly expect a large 4WD to corner well, the Pajero has a tendency to push the front wheels, in other words understeer, at even the lowest of speeds causing a lot of tyre howl even through such fundamental manoeuvres as navigating a roundabout.
Steering feedback to the driver is also a little on the light side with a touch too much assistance offered through the wheel.
The ESP system too is a little confused in some instances with wet asphalt seeing the delayed threshold system sustain its intervention for an unnecessarily long period. Reassuringly the Pajero also offers front and side airbags to afford it a four-star ANCAP rating.
Cargo capacity of course varies depending on the car’s configuration, but as a five-seater Pajero offers a generous 1081 litres. The side hinged tailgate however is quite a bother needing a fair amount of swinging space which in urban parking bays does limit access to the rear.
The third-row of seating is handy only as a short-term solution and is serviced by pop-out windows and rear ventilation ducts, though in reality small children are perhaps the only people really suited to this style of travel.
In all I have to say the Pajero is a decent vehicle considering its intended purpose, and if you’re all for long family road trips, hooking up the van or the boat, or even towing the occasional Monaro then you could certainly do a lot worse.
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