Still underpowered, cheap fit and finish, how long will it last?
By: Karl Peskett
What a difference spark plugs make. I’m a fan of diesels, I really am. But sometimes a car just gets let down by a drivetrain to the point of indignity. The Pajero suffers from a loud, rough diesel, that would really benefit from a major upgrade, to bring it into line with the new generation we see from Volkswagen, Peugeot, BMW and others.
So your other option is to go with a Petrol model. Why? Well, just read what Alborz had to say about the diesel. And you won’t hear me disagreeing with him, either. See, if the compression ignition clatter was reduced, and that was the only change, this particular four-wheel-drive would be bearable. But it’s just not. Petrol it is then.
So what’s the petrol motor like? In a word, smooth. If you check the spec sheet of this motor, and the engine found in the (soon to be dead) 380, you’ll find surprising similarities. It’s not really much of a surprise; it’s the same family. They sound identical. So, even though we’re talking SOHC, it’s still a decent motor.
However, it needs more torque. The Pajero Exceed weighs 2250kgs, and with all aboard, it’s closer to three tonnes. Thus, overcoming inertia is a challenge that the 3.8-litre motor has to confront every time you stop. Power is adequate at 184kW, but the 329Nm needs to be up around the 400Nm to be worthwhile.
Setting off from a set of lights, in a hurry, is a matter of waiting for first gear to spool right up. Only once the revs get anywhere near 3-4000rpm will it upchange. On paper the useable powerband is from 2750-6000rpm, but in practise, it’s much higher than that. So it’s not exactly a quick car, but again it is smooth.
Which also describes the gearbox. The five-speed auto is quite competent at slurring changes. It can be made to clunk when shifting from neutral to drive, but on the move it works well. However it does dull the excellent throttle response of the motor, by responding to downshifts in its own good time. Thankfully off-road it sharpens up.
And the Pajero is quite capable of scaling rock-faces, and sandhills quite well. The high/low selector is handily packaged into the gearshift surround, the whole presentation is fairly slick. Switch off the ASC in sand, as the weight bogs you down, and the stability control kills the overrun wheelspin you need in soft-stuff. But get it onto grass, gravel, and hilly terrain, and the Pajero does very well. The Powerline track in Perth, for instance, is constantly conquered by Pajeros. Get into the rough stuff, and it does well. No question.
Here’s where there’s a little concern, though. On the road, the Pajero is smooth and quiet, with decent sound absorbtion, and a solid fit to the entire car. However, off-road, rattles and wobbles start to rear their ugly heads. The door trims seem to shake and vacillate, and the roof-mounted DVD player almost wants to unscrew itself. Of most concern is the body flex that comes when the wheels pound up and down on potholes. It makes me wonder how long everything would stay quiet for.
Just pushing on the door trim gives the game away. The padding behind the leather and plastic seems more fibrous than foamy, which seems like cost-cutting to me. Mitsubishi has done a good job in making the whole interior look good, at least. When you hop in, the presentation is actually very nice. You don’t really notice how hard the plastics are just looking at them, and the stereo and colour LCD display screen has enough sci-fi to maintain the surprise-and-delight feel for a short time. But is that enough?
Get behind the wheel, and the Pajero redeems itself. The overall drive is pretty good, with a good feel from the controls. The steering for instance has good feedback, and even weighting. Despite the size of the Pajero, it’s pretty easy to park, unlike some of its competitors. The only letdown is the wheel which tends to be a little slippery.
Braking is also decent, eclipsing the Patrol easily, but is still not quite as good as a Discovery, or a LandCruiser. At least the pedal gives you plenty of feel, even off road. And the ride is better on the road than off, too. It tends to be a little sharp especially on rutted gravel roads, when everything is clanging and banging about. But on the road it maintains its composure, and controls hard bumps quite well. It also rolls a bit, but there’s a limit to it, and you can feel it coming, so you don’t need to push too hard.
And you really wouldn’t want to, as it’s more people carrier than sports car. Indeed, the interior room is extremely good. The front seats have plenty of room, and adjustment, but the leather is a little slippery. The second row seats are good for room, but floor pan is high, and seats are mounted low, so your knees end up elevated. Thankfully, the backrest can be angled backwards. The third row is also supplied, but the sixth and seventh seats are only suitable for kids, and chew up boot space. They do lay flat when not being used, however.
The Pajero Exceed is a quandary. It’s a fantastic looking car, it’s presented well, and it is practical. It even comes with a bassy stereo (with subwoofer), and a class leading warranty. The petrol is definitely the better car, too, when compared with the diesel. It’s smoother, quieter, and responds well to your inputs. But of course, there’s the fuel consumption issue.
The thing is, the Pajero is average. By that, I mean, it sits in the middle of the road, and covers most bases. It does its job fairly well, but there’s a few drawbacks too. You just have to ask yourself, “Can I live with them?”
CarAdvice overall rating:
How does it drive:
How does it look:
How does it go:
Engine: 3.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Top speed: N/A
Safety: ABS with EBD and Active Stability Control – dual airbags, side and curtain airbags are an option on entry models.
NCAP rating: N/A
Turning circle: 11.4 metres 5-door model
Fuel tank: 88-litres 5-door model
Fuel consumption : 13.5L/100km
Fuel type: 91RON