Words – Paul Maric Pictures – Brendan Nish and Andrew Spence
When the advertisement first popped up on TV, I wondered why they were advertising a Triton as a family vehicle. It wasn’t until the car was turned around and the back was on display that I realised it was the all new Mitsubishi Challenger.
Upon closer inspection, it’s hard to realise where or why the Challenger fits within the Mitsubishi range. It’s certainly bigger and more capable than an Mitsubishi Outlander, but doesn’t appear any more capable or comfortable than a Mitsubishi Pajero.
If we forget about the challenges presented in selling the Challenger alongside the Pajero, it doesn’t take long to realise how unique and appropriate the Challenger really is.
The cabin has Triton written all over it – not literally, but it’s quite clear when it all originated. The hard plastics and rugged climate control buttons are amongst the few downsides. Lashings of woodgrain on the up-spec XLS model add to the luxury of leather seats and satellite navigation.
Head and leg room in the front and second row is beyond impressive. Built on the Mitsubishi Triton platform, there is ample room for five adults. The Challenger can also be optioned with seven seats, further increasing passenger capacity.
If you think the head and leg room is impressive, just wait until you see the size of the boot. 1813 litres of cargo capacity is on offer with the second row folded flat. That kind of capacity makes the Challenger versatile enough to carry passengers, while also catering for masses of luggage and all the other bits and pieces associated with tasks such as holiday making.
Under the bonnet you will find Mitsubishi’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. Producing 131kW and 400Nm of torque, the engine easily overcomes the Challenger’s two-tonne mass. Mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox (five-speed manual also available), the transmission is always in the right gear for optimal acceleration.
When optioned with the five-speed automatic gearbox, torque is reduced to 350Nm.
The Challenger’s main trump card is its fuel consumption. The five-speed manual Challenger achieves a combined fuel consumption of 8.3L/100km, while the automatic jumps to 9.8L/100km. It’s an impressive fuel consumption figure for a 4WD of its size.
The downside to the Challenger’s torque laden engine is the amount of noise it makes. Sounds buffering remains unchanged from the Triton, so the engine can be heard from miles away with the windows up or down. It’s at its loudest when started from cold and takes around 10 minutes to go from a wielding drone to a slightly more respectable, but still too loud tractor-like note.
Although the advantages of cabin space are achieved by basing the Challenger on the Triton platform, inherent handling characteristics remain. A big steering ratio means more turns are required to get the Challenger around tight bends and corners.
The Challenger uses a three-link live coil and stabiliser rear suspension setup, allowing for a comfortable ride, unfortunately handling is very average. Plenty of body roll occurs when lobbing the Challenger into sweeping and tight corners.
Manoeuvring the Challenger around the city is relatively pain-free, especially with the addition of the reversing camera on the XLS model. The 1.82m height can give you a bit of a fright when travelling through tight city car parks though, as they are often limited to 1.85m.
Off-road is where the Challenger feels most at home.
The Challenger literally walked over anything thrown at it. In most situations, four wheel drive high range was all that was required to climb rocky hills and wade through muddy ruts. For harder terrain, the Challenger features a low range four wheel drive mode in addition to centre and rear differential locks further increasing traction.
The Challenger’s suspension articulation is amazing. The off-road juggernaut has no problems maintaining traction, even when a wheel is fully extended.
Approach and departure angles are also reasonable at 35 and 26 degrees respectively. The optional tow bar further decreases the departure angle, but can be removed for off-roading situations. With 220mm of ground clearance, the Challenger bypasses all rocks and body damaging protrusions.
The optional tow pack provides a towing capacity of 2,500kg with a braked trailer and 750kg with an un-braked trailer.
Priced from $44,490 for the five-speed manual five seat LS, the range finishes at $58,890 for the seven seat five-speed automatic XLS.
At first glance, the Challenger seems to be a lost cause. If you take a closer look though, it presents a fantastic case for families after a large 4WD with plenty of room inside for both passengers and luggage. The way it performs off-road also confirms that it’s the 4WD king of the Mitsubishi range.
If you’re happy to sacrifice the luxury of the Pajero, the Challenger provides the best alternative option at an affordable price. To top it off, it doesn’t look too bad either.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: