An old watch is reliable, timeless and still works like it did when it was new. The 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS is much like that old watch.
Despite being on the market for what seems like an eternity, the Pajero still manages to achieve its primary goal — be an off-road-capable family hauler.
The Pajero range starts with the GLX from $53,990 (plus on-road costs), moving all the way through to the range-topping Exceed at $65,990 (plus on-road costs). The GLS tested here is priced from $58,990 (plus on-road costs) and offers buyers an affordable seven-seat off-road-capable SUV.
Powering the entire Pajero range is a 3.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces 147kW of power and 441Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox that can be manually shifted on the fly. Mitsubishi claims that it consumes 9L/100km on the combined cycle.
Much like its Pajero Sport sibling, the Pajero operates primarily as a rear-wheel drive vehicle, but can be transitioned to a four-wheel drive high-range mode at the push of a lever.
Unlike some of its competitors, activating the Pajero’s high-range four-wheel drive leaves the differential open so that the car can be driven on all surfaces. Many other vehicles in this segment that don’t operate as full-time four-wheel drives will lock the centre differential on four-wheel drive activation.
Mitsubishi’s long tenure with the current Pajero platform and design hasn’t affected sales, with Mitsubishi still moving a strong number of cars. This year it sits ahead of its Pajero Sport sibling, Ford Everest and even the Toyota Fortuner.
The design still cuts a sleek line in traffic with LED daytime-running lights, a chrome horizontal grille and a proudly worn Mitsubishi badge. The traditional boxy shape and swinging rear door offers a cavernous interior that happily seats seven passengers.
The cabin doesn’t quite match the exterior for modern styling, featuring a raft of cheaper materials and a more traditional layout. The aftermarket looking seven-inch infotainment system is easy to use but doesn’t feel in tune with the rest of the vehicle.
It’s out of tune due to the fact it’s quite modern and packed with features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, bringing an older car into the modern day and age. It also comes with voice activation, but limits satellite navigation to the smartphone. The advantage of this is the removal of map updates, but the downside is that you always need mobile reception for navigation to operate.
Navigating the infotainment system is easy, but the lack of volume knob can be frustrating if you need to reduce or increase the volume in a hurry.
A cluster above the infotainment system offers a dot matrix display that incorporates the trip computer and four-wheel drive information. The speedometer and tachometer cluster features drivetrain information, along with the vehicle’s vital running status.
Leg and headroom up front is excellent thanks to comfy seats and masses of room. Getting in and out requires a decent step up from terra firma, but once inside the driving position offers a commanding view over traffic and the road ahead.
The second row is equally as impressive, offering both adults and kids enough room to stretch out. The huge glasshouse means that kids can easily see out the windows, regardless of their height. Second-row passengers also score roof-mounted air vents with individual controls.
Getting in and out of - along with erecting - the third row isn’t exactly the easiest task. While the seats fold flat into the floor, it takes time and a great deal of effort to get the third row up.
When it is in place, there’s enough room for kids, or adults at a squeeze. Third-row passengers get their own roof-mounted air vents, along with storage cubbies that sit atop the wheel arches.
Conveniently, the spare tyre sits on the rear door, meaning it doesn’t occupy space beneath the vehicle or within the floor cavity. The disadvantage of that is the swinging rear door, which is heavy and hard to open in tight spaces.
With the second row in position, the Pajero offers an impressive 1038 litres of cargo capacity, while that increases to 1758 litres with the second and third rows folded flat.
One of the main benefits of the Pajero is its towing capacity. While it’s down 100kg on its five seat Pajero Sport sibling, the seven seat Pajero can haul 3000kg with a braked trailer and 750kg with an unbraked trailer. Payload sits at 775kg.
Out on the open road, the Pajero barely sets a performance or dynamic benchmark. The diesel engine is noisy and requires time to wind up to its 441Nm peak torque output.
But, once moving it’s a pleasant driving experience with a simple, yet effective gearbox. The five-speed automatic gearbox is far from a segment leader, but offers smooth gearshifts and prompt changes when demanding movement.
The hydraulically-assisted steering rack errs on the side of heavy and doesn’t offer a great deal of feedback. It’s further inhibited by a steering wheel coated in a slippery leather-esque material that makes it tricky to work with at times.
Brake pedal feel is good, but also doesn’t offer a great deal of feedback. It can be spongy at times and is accompanied by a minor dive of the front end under heavier braking.
The most pleasant aspect of the Pajero is its ride. It’s soft and cushy, which is what one would expect from a car like this. The front end features independent suspension with a double-wishbone coil spring and stabiliser bar. The rear features independent suspension with a multi-link coil spring arrangement with stabiliser bar.
We look at the Ford Everest as the dynamic benchmark in the seven seat off-road SUV segment. The Pajero offers a softer ride and more body roll through bends, but is more composed and predictable with a load on board.
It’s also quite competent in its rear-wheel drive mode, offering little fuss through corners with a throttle load. It’s also just as easy to switch to all-wheel drive in situations where the added traction is required.
Where the Pajero shines most is in the off-road environment. The four-wheel drive system features three high-range modes (rear- and all-wheel drive, along with all-wheel drive with centre differential locked), along with a low-range mode with centre differential lock. Finally, the rear differential can be manually locked at the push of a button.
With 235mm of ground clearance, a 700mm wading depth and 36.6/25 degree approach/departure angles, the Pajero has the goods to take on whatever is thrown at it.
A five star ANCAP safety rating and $53,990 starting price makes the Mitsubishi Pajero a sound purchase proposition for a buyer after a seven-seat off-road capable SUV.