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A midlife update usually brings some design tweaks to the grille and bumper, but Mitsubishi has gone a few steps beyond this with its MY19 Triton ute that arrives less than four years into the current version’s life cycle.
The company has completely redesigned the front, adding its familiar ‘dynamic shield’ face and making the side-view more bluff. It’s prouder, bolder and more macho, which is exactly what ute buyers want.
It’s also made the bonnet sit 100mm higher, put lights 700mm above the ground, and added squarer wheel arches with more dramatic flares in the sheetmetal, though the width isn’t changed.
Throw in more sculpting along the side of the tub and chunky tail-lights, and you have a 'tougher' truck from every angle. There are also four new colours, including a pearlescent white, a burnt orange and a flat red.
Despite these changes, the dimensions are the same, meaning existing bed liners, sports bars and canopies can be transferred over and reused. MMC will offer a new bullbar locally, made by EGR.
Of course, looks aren’t everything, and it’s not like the Triton is unpopular. Quite the contrary, it’s Mitsubishi Australia’s best-seller and inside the market’s overall top 10. It regularly beats the Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and Nissan Navara on the sales charts, and sits only behind the unstoppable Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
Indeed, Australia is its second biggest market behind Thailand, out of 150 globally. Much of the company’s development testing is done in the outback, as well as altitude testing in the South American Andes (where it also serves duty in coal mines).
But Mitsubishi wants to lure aspirational buyers, people who buy their pick-up because they love the way it looks and drives, as well as the pragmatic value-shoppers who’ve long loved the Triton’s price tag and reliability.
The crux of the changes beyond the extensively revised sheetmetal are more modest, but nevertheless add a veneer of sheen to the Triton that was absent, and give Mitsubishi the firepower to reach upmarket with certain spec grades.
The layout of the cabin isn’t much different, though there are more padded soft bits and extra stitching, plus silver plastic inserts scattered about. Higher grades also get roof-mounted air vents. Plus, rear occupants get two USB points, a new storage area, and a B-pillar-mounted grab handle to help you climb up.
Everything remains tough and functional, and the steering wheel column has reach adjustment. The new instruments are clearer, too. As before, the only downside is the narrower-than-average cabin, though rear leg room and head room were acceptable for my 193cm frame.
Disregard the images of the Thai-spec cars driven here, which show a smaller 6.1-inch screen. We’ll keep the flush 7.0-inch unit in the current Triton, with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto available at the expense of sat-nav. There’s also a neat 360-degree overhead camera like the Navara’s available, but with better resolution.
We won’t know pricing and spec until December, just before the Triton’s local launch, but we can assume the headline feature additions will likely be standard only on the Exceed grade, and perhaps optional on others.
These features include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) up to 140km/h, making it just the third pick-up in its class with this feature after the more expensive Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Ranger, blind-spot monitoring that beeps and flashes if you move to merge with traffic at the wrong time, and rear cross-traffic alert for reverse parking blind.
There’s also a system called Ultrasonic Mis-acceleration Mitigation, which cuts engine power if you accidentally move forwards or backwards from standstill towards an object and don’t brake (perhaps engaging R instead of D, for example). Thankfully, the UMM system disengages in low-range, or if you've locked the centre diff in 4HLc.
You may not care about this tech, but plenty do. Who’d have thought Mitsubishi would be a bit of a tech leader?
The engine is familiar, a 2.4-litre variable geometry turbo-diesel (codename 4N15) running what appears to be a higher compression ratio. Peak power is 133kW at 3500rpm and maximum torque is 420Nm at 2500rpm.
These figures are at the low end of the class, but so is the price. Typically, only the Chinese utes (like LDV’s increasingly popular T60) are cheaper. If number-bragging is your game, keep away, but if you’re using your Triton like most people it’s more than adequate.
MMC has also added a stop/start system to cut fuel use and improve emissions in Thailand, but Australian models won't get it. Hmm.
The tow rating remains 3.1t, and we’ve previously found it a little less assured in this area than some others, due perhaps to its proportions. We didn’t get the chance to tow anything during our Thai launch drive. The Aussie launch isn’t far off.
The other major replacement is the axing of the old five-speed automatic gearbox in favour of a new six-speed unit, instead of the related Pajero Sport’s eight-speeder that clearly costs too much for the car’s target audience in MMC’s eyes. The familiar six-speed manual ’box has not been changed.
It’s a little disappointing the 8AT hasn’t been added, though the tall sixth makes it a quieter and more pleasant cruiser. We’d add that the Triton was actually already better at NVH suppression than most utes.
The Super Select 4WD rotary dial system remains. You can drive in RWD, but unlike most utes there’s also a road-ready shift-on-the-fly 4H (AWD) system with a rear torque bias, meaning you can leave the Triton in 4x4 mode on the road. Clearly this assists lateral stability and grip on acceleration.
You also get a 4HLc mode that locks the centre diff (meaning the torque flow) and is made for mud and snow, and a 4LLc ‘proper’ low-range gearing set. There’s also a new hill descent control system, if you don’t like engine braking.
The company has also added the Pajero Sport’s Off-Road mode that fettles throttle mapping, transmission shifts and ESC parameters to best work with any surface, from gravel to mud/snow and rock. These features mean taking off on a slippery surface in a Triton is easier than many rivals, the 4Motion Volkswagen Amarok excluded.
The ground clearance is 220mm and the revised design is a bit more 4x4 friendly, with an approach angle of 31 degrees, departure angle of 23 degrees (historically a problem due to that huge overhang), and ramp break-over angle of 25 degrees (dual-cab).
There are no major changes to the suspension, which comprises double wishbones at the front and leaves at the rear. However, the company does claim to have fitted larger rear dampers to smooth the ride out and improve NVH. There are also bigger front brake discs.
The ride doesn't feel hugely different. It's still a little busy at the front at times, and there's some minor kickback through the wheel, but the rear end seems a little more settled when unladen. The hydraulic-assist steering remains pleasantly light and resistance-free, and that small wheelbase gives the Triton a nimble turning circle.
Mitsubishi set us loose on a dirt track where the 4H system's grip acted more decisively and pre-emptively than any ESC would. We also got some air over jumps and didn't bottom out.
We don’t have any data yet on payloads, which will once again vary depending on body style (two-door, extender cab or dual-cab) and spec level. We think it’s safe to guess it’s similar to the outgoing model…
Ownership-wise, the company’s five-year/100,000km warranty and capped-price servicing plan with annual/15,000km intervals will remain. That warranty isn’t the outlier it once was.
In short, Mitsubishi has made some worthy tweaks to its Triton staple. There’s more modern safety and tech, and the driveline gets an extra gear ratio. More importantly, it actually looks halfway tough and desirable now, meaning it won’t be just pragmatic types shopping for it.
As before, its dimensions and outputs mean its tow rating falls short of the class leaders, but this is not something we’d have expected to be different as part of an update.
The big question is price. The Triton has long sold so well because it’s so damn affordable, undercutting key rivals by thousands. Clearly, the higher-end models with all the new tech may get some hikes, but the company will need to be careful to maintain its position as the value-leader. Even if it is better than ever.
You can bet that at launch it'll wear a higher retail price, but we all know people rarely pay RRP on utes. You can rightly expect the Triton will still be the most affordable ute, that isn't Chinese, for the most part. We'll scale up (or down) the ratings once we know this for sure.
Naturally, we’ll bring you all the specific Australian information as soon as we learn it, which we expect will happen in December ahead of the January 2019 market launch.