Great looking and practical 4WD
Lots of noise, little power
– by Alborz Fallah
Most cars that come through the CarAdvice garage are road tested and written up within a few weeks, but when I spent two weeks in the Mitsubishi Pajero range, trying out the diesel five and three-door variants, they were quietly forgotten.
Much to my surprise, the PR man from Mitsubishi hadn’t forgotten, maybe because one of the Pajeros decided that life was too hard and left me stranded on the Western Freeway in the middle of the night. Either way, it has been some time, so I better get on with it.
I have great respect for the Pajero range, Mitsubishi has made its name and proven the car’s superiority in the gruelling Dakar rally with seven consecutive first place finishes to date, and this year would have marked the eighth had it not been cancelled.
So there was no point for me to test out the standard petrol variants. Diesel was the flavour.
Both five and three door diesel variants are powered by Mitsubishi’s somewhat lacklustre 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine which manages 125kW and 358Nm of torque. I use the word lacklustre kindly, because listening to Kevin Rudd talk for 45 minutes straight is more interesting than trying to climb a hill in a Diesel pajero.
The difference, though, is that Kevin will eventually shut up, but the Pajero will keep on climbing at 5km/h.
When you pay an extra $2000 for a diesel engine you should expect some benefits, yes it has better fuel economy and given that you need to take out a mortgage for a tank of petrol these days, it makes sense to go diesel, but can you comfortably live with a diesel Pajero?
Using only four-cylinders, the 3.2-litre engine struggles at best. The three-door variant weighs about 75kg less than the five-door and is about 515mm shorter, so the diesel engine is slightly better suited with easier off-the-line acceleration and the occasional highway overtaking. Move into the five-door variant and things begin to change.
The five-door diesel will go from 0-100km/h in about the same time it takes you to pull over and catch a cab. You may as well forget about overtaking, or reaching the speed limit in a timely manner, the five-door Pajero diesel takes the honour of being the slowest car I’ve driven – and that includes the Proton Savvy.
But let’s stop there because to Mitsubishi’s credit, not too many buyers will care for its acceleration. It’s more of a serious 4×4 family car, but you will care about the noise level, I can assure you.
Back in the day, diesel engines used to be pretty noisy, noisy to the point that when you stopped at a set of traffic lights other drivers would start looking around for a truck. Things have changed, most new diesel engines are very easy on the ear, but not this one.
There are two major things wrong with the diesel Pajero range, not only is the engine ridiculously noisy and gutless, but the interior noise intrusion is atrocious – it just doesn’t shut up.
You would think that, sure, it has a little bit of noise when you accelerate, but than it would just quieten down and you can get on with listening to Nova play the same song for the 374th time, not so, I have had a more peaceful time sitting in an old Tupolev passenger jet while it overshot the runway.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to complain about noisy cars -I own one – but the sound of a Pajero diesel at 4000rpm will result in your kids leaving home and attending Scientology lessons.
Many times I got out of the car to listen to the engine idle and then got back in to hear the difference, the result? You might as well be sitting on the engine, because it can’t get any louder (but it might be a little hotter).
Now that I’ve told you everything that is wrong with the car, let me tell you why you should buy the diesel Pajero.
Apart from the cars more than capable off-road ability, the new Pajero is the best yet.
Think of it this way, given the current price of diesel and an average of 25,000km/year travelled, you will spend around $3700 a year on diesel, in the petrol variant, that figure increases to around $4700 for petrol.
So two years go past and you’ve made your money back, more importantly with fuel consumption figures of around 10.6 litre/100km for the five-door auto diesel in comparison to 13.5 litre/100km for the petrol, it’s hard to say no.
Ignoring the fuel debate for a minute, diesel or not, the Pajero is stunning. If you want a three-door, tough-looking true four-wheel-drive that can climb the mountains during the day and attend a cocktail party at night (well maybe not a cocktail party), you really can’t go past the Pajero.
As for the five-door, while it faces stiffer competition from fellow Japanese manufacturers, it’s still one of the best lookers on the market.
You can buy any new Pajero with either a 5-speed fully synchronised manual transmission (not available on three-door), or Mitsubishi’s 5-speed INVECS II ‘Smart Logic’ automatic transmission with ‘Sports Mode’ sequential shifting function (tested).
The man at Mitsubishi spent a good hour telling me just how great this car is at climbing mountains, and while I did no such thing, I took it to a small 4WD track to test out the car’s ‘Super Select II’ drive-train.
Like a Japanese video game, version II of Mitsbishi’s Super Select system has a lot to live up to, and it passes with flying colours. The system comes with everything in the company’s arsenal.
Starting with the basics of ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) it also receives Engine Brake Assist Control (EBAC), Active Stability Control (ASC), Active Traction Control (ATC), Hill Hold Assist and a Rear Diff Lock (option) for those with a little more enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Best of all though, you can play around with the car’s 4WD system on the move, you can pick between 2WD high and 4WD high at speeds up to 100km / hour.
Switch between 4WD high and 2WD (rear) high and cornering is a whole new game, if you want to achieve best fuel economy, 2WD is the way to go, but when you come to a winding road or a slippery surface, there is nothing like the benefit of four-wheel drive.
However, the driving experience is ruined by, yes, you guess it, the engine. From the lights it’s a case of nothing, nothing, nothing, then a massive surge in torque, then back to step one.
The rear brakes are also ventilated discs in drum with one-pot callipers, but at least they are large, 333mm for the five-door and 305mm for the three-door.
Ride quality is acceptable, although in Brisbane, where the roads are built to third-world standards, it can get a little bumpy. Mitsubishi hasn’t gone cheap on the suspension though, with double wishbone with coil springs at the front and multi-link with coil springs for the rear.
You have to wonder how bad the ride quality would have been had Mitsubishi not fitted two stabiliser bars to the sub-frame (at both the front and rear).
From the inside, you can get comfortable in the Pajero very quickly, my pick is by far the three-door, not only does it look better, but you still have enough room to comfortably move four adults and one kid.
The car is equipped with a superb audio system that is MP3 capable, an inbuilt digital compass (the party piece for your friends) and comfortable seats both front and rear – although the front seats can really do with a little more side support.
The only downside to the interior is the air-con controls, they just keep on spinning, there is no end on either side, you can reach minimum temperature but you can keep on spinning that knob. Immensely distracting.
Handling is superb for a car this big, both the three-door and five-door can (almost) defy physics around corners – you can credit Mitsubishi’s involvement in Dakar for that. The turning circle isn’t too bad either with 11.4m (kerb to kerb) for the 5-door model and 10.6m for the 3-door.
Safety is taken care of by ABS with EBD and Active Stability Control – side and curtain airbags are an option on entry models.
Getting back to the breakdown on the Western Freeway, the diesel particulate filter had decided to die on me, and despite my hardest attempts, the car would not get past 1500 RPM, forcing Mitsubishi to send out a tow-truck.
The tow-truck driver started by saying “another Pajero!” which wasn’t reassuring, and after waiting another hour for the RACQ man to arrive and say something that rhymes with bucket, Mitsubishi took the car back on a truck – I was told it was a rare issue and easily fixed.
I would love to give the Pajero four stars, and I would, if I could hear the editor yelling at me.
CarAdvice overall rating: How does it drive: How does it look: How does it go:
Engine: 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 125kW Torque: 358Nm Top speed: N/A Safety: ABS with EBD and Active Stability Control – dual airbags, side and curtain airbags are an option on entry models. 0-100km/h: N/A NCAP rating: N/A Turning circle: 11.4 metres 5-door model – 10.6 metre 3-door Fuel tank: 88-lires 5-door model – 69-litres 3-door model Fuel consumption : 5 door diesel – 9.2-M/10.6-A — 3 door diesel – 10.4 auto Fuel type: Diesel