With the sudden onset of Christmas and being advised by our Victorian families that it was our turn to host, and the Matriarch was "not up to the travel to Queensland", we opted to drive so that our children (okay, Schnauzers) could be with us.
Rather than put 3700km on one of our cars (a Tiguan Diesel or a BMW 440i), we opted to rent a car. At $440 for nine days and unlimited kilometres, why wouldn't you?
And that was when the Pajero Sport GLS 7-seat came into our lives for 9 days.
We were initially supposed to get a Forester, but due to issues with supply, we got an upgrade for the same money. Score!!
So, to the car. We drove the following route; Brisbane, Goondiwindi, Narrabri, Coonabarrabran, Dubbo (for the night), Parkes, Narrandera, Shepparton, Mount Martha, Daylesford, Albury (for the night), Gunadgi, Cowra, Wellington, Spring Ridge, Tamworth (another night), Uralla, Wallangarra and then back to Brisbane.
So we got to experience lots of B and C roads, especially on the Albury to Tamworth leg.
As a sized vehicle, it is big, which is great in that you can fit so much stuff in it. We were loaded up with clothes and presents for eighteen people and we could still see out the back windows, with the back seats still upright for the fur people. The front cabin is roomy, the "leather" seats are comfortable, though the husband thought that they needed a tad more lumbar support. The controls are all logical (though both coming from Euro cars there was a need for adjustment), with the bonus of radar cruise control making the cruising very easy, and it was quick to "beep" as obstacles came up.
The air con (climate control) was perfect and all it required was a subtle adjustment of the temperature to keep the car nice. The added bonus of roof-mounted vents in the rear meant we all had good air.
There was no sat-nav but Android Auto and Apple Car Play were at our disposal (and after using both on this trip, Android just edges out Apple for ease of use and nice interface). Apple CarPlay was a little "buggy."
Storage up front was also ample, with room for two Keep cups in the centre console, and water bottles in the front and rear doors.
I go back to "It's Big", which means it does handle like a tank. Whilst easy enough to drive, the turning circle is fairly large, and parking it requires lots of space, deft skills, or a lot of back and fill. The aid of sensors and a reverse camera were invaluable, particularity in shopping centres.
The diesel engine is willing, and after a few hours with it, we became used to its torque. Except in the rare occasion that a hill was involved, passing maneuvers on single lane roads were easily executed. Again, back to "It's Big", the height gave it a distinct advantage when passing rows of traffic.
The engine was remarkably quiet. We hardly heard it at cruising speed (the whole cabin was fairly quiet, bar Spotify) though when idling in traffic that familiar agricultural diesel clatter was apparent (albeit at a low volume).
Ride ... hmmm. Comfortable, yes, as we never got out of the car with any sort of issue. However, the ride is very "floaty" and if you travel over any significant bump in the road, you'd know about it. It's also a little too floaty in passing manoeuvres. Given it is a 4WD, I think it is set up for all types of terrain. If you were only using it for highway running, then you might want to invest in the suspension being tuned.
Fuel economy. The car had just over 4000km when we picked it up, and we averaged 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres over the 3700km we travelled. It's not awful Kluger territory, but not as good as we thought it may be (and nowhere near the ADR number of 7 for highway). Thankfully, diesel was cheap and plentiful everywhere we went.
As for the design of the car. Its a freaking big box on wheels. Stylish, no, but practical, yes.
So whats my impression after 9 days and that many kilometres? For a highway runner for long distance, driving it was really great, comfortable, and spacious, with enough power to feel safe.
Would I buy one? For my inner city driving, no, but if I had a large family, or I lived "out west" (you know, past Jindalee) then yes, it would certainly be top of the shopping list, given what we drove was worth just over $50,000. A lot of car for the money.
I'd also like to recommend for you all to get out of the urban areas and do a similar holiday. Not only does it refresh and sharpen your driving skills, but you get to see some great parts of the country (which as I write this, is very, very, very dry)
Would I do it again? Yes (but maybe not in 9 days) and I would certainly be putting the Pajero at the top of the list for rentals.