Mitsubishi's Pajero is an ageing warhorse in a competitive segment. Does it still have the weapons to fight the segment leaders.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Pajero has hit the market, with a number of changes for the Japanese brand's flagship large SUV. Heading that list of changes is an $8000 price reduction for the range-topping Exceed model – the perfect excuse then to spend a week behind the wheel.
It’s been a while since I’ve sat behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Pajero – and not a great deal has changed. Like a favourite old jumper, the Pajero - despite some tweaks and changes for 2015 - feels very much as it always did. That’s both good and bad. Good, as in you know exactly what you’re going to get. Bad, as in the competition – especially in terms of tech inclusions and interior design – has moved on a long way.
You can read our story on the additions and changes to get a full run down. Suffice to say that as you expect, Mitsubishi has thrown everything except the kitchen sink at the Exceed to ensure that what is now an ageing model still retains some appeal.
The $65,990 (plus on-road costs) price for the Exceed automatic as tested here is by no means cheap. There’s no other way to cut it. You need to take into account, though, the equipment on offer for that price. Cross-shop the Pajero against any of its Japanese competition and you need to spend some serious money to get the same inclusions. More than 90 grand in the case of a top spec Toyota Prado. The price leading Land Rover Discovery 4 has really thrown a (hand made, beautifully crafted) spanner into the works though with a price just under $70K.
Starting with the exterior, the Pajero is still a decent (and tough) looking off-roader. It’s aged well, there’s no doubt about that, and for 2015 there’s revised styling front and rear. Attractive 18-inch alloy wheels mean you can still fit serious off-road tyres if you want to, and the HID headlights with LED running lights smarten things up at the front. The HID headlights especially were a noticeable improvement out in the country as darkness fell.
Take your seat behind the wheel, and there’s a high riding feel to the Pajero’s cabin. My only bugbear with Mitsubishi interiors (and it’s more than just a Pajero issue) is the fact that you tend to sit ‘on’ the seats rather than slide ‘into’ them. They can be quite flat and board-like. Still, the interior is comfortable as my 500-plus-kilometre country jaunt helped prove.
The audio system worked well enough, but still had an aftermarket feel to it. The Bluetooth is a little fiddly to set up and connect, and on occasion it didn’t re-pair when getting back into the Pajero. The satellite navigation system was a highlight, though, proving easy to get your head around even if you’re inputting a destination for the first time.
There’s a surfeit of space inside the rest of the cavernous Pajero's interior. Seven seats are now standard, and they fold flat so as not to encroach on the load space when not in use. There’s room for fully-grown adults in the second row, even with long legged drivers/passengers up front. The slightly high seat squab in the second row means passengers aren’t staring at the backs of people’s heads, either.
The luggage area is huge. I managed to fit two medium and one large sized hard suitcases in there with room to spare. Parents with small children will love the fact that they can carry all manner of toys and luggage back there as well.
I don’t recall the old Pajero being particularly noisy from behind the wheel, but nonetheless Mitsubishi has spent plenty of development time improving the NVH of this model for 2015. That comes in the form of insulation added just about everywhere throughout the cabin. Aside from a few stretches of particularly coarse country road, there was very little noise intrusion into the cabin. There is some tyre noise that comes from the 18-inch rubber, but again, only on nastier surfaces.
The 3.2-litre four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel engine is as solid as it’s always been. Its 147kW and 447Nm combine nicely to get the Pajero up to speed, though it’s no powerhouse in terms of brute acceleration, and felt a little breathless when I needed to execute a roll-on overtaking move on country roads. However, its five-speed auto proved to be smooth and hesitation-free both around town and out in the country.
The ADR claimed fuel use figure of 9.0L/100km with the auto transmission is excellent for a full-sized 4WD. My measured fuel figure over 650km was 10.4L/100km, which is impressively close to the manufacturer’s claim.
The Pajero remains a favourite with caravanners and its 3000kg tow rating (with electric brakes), is more than enough to tow a fair-sized van or boat for weekends away. The efficient diesel will have to work harder with a load hitched up so expect the fuel usage figure to rise from what I achieved without any weight being dragged around.
When we headed off-road for some sand driving, the famed Mitsubishi 4WD system came into it’s own. You can select 4WD High with or without the rear diff locked in, and then 4WD Low with the diff locked in. I’ve always liked Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD system, which means you can leave the Pajero in 4WD mode all the time if you wish. It’s a great safety feature for country owners who might live down dirt roads, or need to spend plenty of time on scrabbly surfaces.
The Pajero coped with heavy, fine sand without any issues whatsoever. You’d need to be doing something silly to get into trouble with the Pajero off-road, such is the system’s competence. As I discovered on-road, the Pajero remains comfortable when you’re belting around off-road too. Off-road enthusiasts love the tough as nails Pajero, and it’s easy to see why.
Speaking of being off-road, the spare tyre, mounted at the rear and hanging from the tailgate, is in my opinion, a smart provision. Some people hate it, and it does make the door heavy, but have you ever tried getting to the spare wheel mounted under a 4WD on a rutted dirt track? Usually in mud and filth? Much smarter having the spare where the Pajero’s is fitted.
The Pajero gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating, and there's also a five-year/100,000km warranty. Unlike some diesels, which can be expensive to service, Mitsubishi's capped price servicing programme extends to Pajero, so there's no nasty surprises. The average annual service cost (with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km) over the first four years is $582.50.
Whichever way you cut it, the Pajero is an ageing vehicle in a competitive segment that continues to move ahead technologically. While an all-new model is due within the next 18 months, the 2015 Pajero is still as capable as an all-rounder as it always was, despite starting to feel behind the times in many ways. While I can live with the Pajero’s not-so-new style and tech, I reckon the price is a little high. The Exceed we had on test did have every conceivable feature fitted as standard though.
Pajero fans will still love the new model though, regardless of the price. I spoke with a few Pajero owners out in the country and they loved the new model I was driving – whether or not they'll buy one is a different question.