The big news in the 2009 Mitsubishi NT Pajero is the heavily revised version of the 3.2-litre diesel engine now fitted to the vehicle and we can set the record straight, it is quieter, but then it would need to be.
- David Twomey
The previous diesel engine sounded more like a chaff cutter than an engine and was a serious drawback to what was otherwise a very good medium SUV.
However, for 2009 Mitsubishi has concentrated on improving the diesel power train and has also revised its model line-up, taking the range from three to five models, so that it can match arch-rival Toyota Prado spec-for-spec.
At yesterday’s brief media launch of the NT Pajero we were only able to drive a VRX model over a reasonably short drive route but it was immediately obvious that considerable work had been done on the diesel engine.
The petrol engine cars retain the 3.8-litre, V6, SOHC, 24-valve engine with MIVEC (Mitsubishi’s variable valve timing), introduced with the NS model in 2006, which produces 184kW at 6000rpm and 329Nm at 2750rpm.
While the diesel gets a new AISIN five-speed auto with the sports-mode the petrol car retains the previous automatic transmission and both models will also offer a five-speed manual transmission.
Mitsubishi has also spent quite a bit of effort on improving quietness in the cabin of the latest Pajero and after driving the vehicle on both tarmac and gravel roads we would have to say they have achieved this.
There’s a definite new level of refinement in the Pajero, but much of that is due to the fact that the harsh engine noise from the diesel has been substantially reduced.
On the road we found the Pajero was, well very much like a Pajero, competent and confident although the power steering had a certain vagueness to it that left you feeling a little unsure about just where the front wheels were pointing at times.
Just how much difference the engine and NVH upgrades really make to the vehicle will have to wait until we have the chance to spend more time in the driver’s seat as about two hours is not enough time to make a full evaluation.
The new model has an increased towing capacity, with the previous model’s 2500 kilogram limited increased to 3000kg.
Mitsubishi’s product manager Tomm Pitman, made it clear that the major aim for this revised Pajero is to tackle the Toyota Prado on all fronts.
To that end the model range has been revised and two models previously dropped from the range, the GL and the GLS, are back.
The GL is an entry level, plain-Jane, Pajero aimed at fleet and corporate buyers, who want a five-seat vehicle with plenty of rear load space. All other models are offered with seven-seat configuration.
However, like the entire Pajero range, it doesn’t scrimp on safety equipment, offering dual airbags, stability control, ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Side and curtain airbags are an option, along with a rear diff lock.
The GLS, which is aimed squarely at family buyers, will offer a high level of specification and enable Mitsubishi to take on the Prado GXL, Toyota’s volume-seller in this market segment, head-to-head.
“This is the model we are really targeting for sales growth as it is 70 percent of Toyota’s sales,” Mr Pitman said.
The new diesel engine, designated the 4M41, offers common-rail direct injection and has significantly higher power and torque outputs than the previous diesel.
Mr Pitman said this had been achieved through a variety of mechanical improvements, including new heads, and the use of a larger, variable-vane geometry turbocharger.
The new engine produces 147kW at 3800rpm and 441Nm at 2000rpm, which compares to the diesel engine in the NS Pajero which produced 125kW and 373Nm.
That’s an enormous 18 percent increase in both power and torque over the outgoing diesel and as is the case with modern technology, more power and more torque also means better fuel economy, in this case a 13 percent improvement.
It also compares more than favourably with the diesel offered in the Prado, which produces 127kW and 410Nm.
Fuel efficiency has also been improved with the new engine using 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres, which compares to 9.2L/100km for both the NS Pajero and the current Toyota Prado.
Mr Pitman told CarAdvice that to promote a much quieter and more efficient mode of operation, the 4M41 has received significant modifications, including an adjustment to the injection system has improved combustion efficiency, the intake port to the cylinder head has been upgraded, a larger size variable geometry turbocharger has been adopted for enhanced power delivery and the swirl ratio and port form of the Swirl Control Valve has been modified.
He said an improved emission control system included upgrades to the airflow, intake air temperature and boost pressure sensors, and EGR valves and coolers. Mr Pitman added that the new diesel engine conformed to Euro4 emissions controls.
Mitsubishi offered a range of price comparisons for the revised Pajero model range that showed the NTY Pajero to be a much more favourable purchase proposition, especially given that Toyota has already said it will increase the price of its Prado range by about $2000 from January 1, 2009.
However, Mr Pitman also conceded that give current exchange rates Mitsubishi would struggle to hold its Pajero price much beyond the early part of next year.
Mitsubishi expects the GLS to become the volume seller in its range, replacing the VRX, which has moved to a slightly higher specification and price range, at $66,490, between the GLS and the range topping Exceed at $74,790.
For full details of the new model line-up see our earlier story on the release of the 2009 NT Pajero, which goes on sale on December 26.
The 2009 model range is:
Mitsubishi Pajero GL
Mitsubishi Pajero GLX
Mitsubishi Pajero GLS
Mitsubishi Pajero VRX
Mitsubishi Pajero Exceed