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Road Test: Mitsubishi Pajero X 3-Door

Review by Feann Torr - 22/Feb/2008

Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWBThe Mitsubishi Pajero nameplate is a proven mudslinger. 

It has a rich heritage that spans back to the early 1970s when it was released as a concept car in Japan.

It wasn't until 1982 that the first Pajeros started appearing on the roads, and shortly after its inception Mitsubishi entered the new 4WD in the gruelling Paris Dakar rally. 

Though it wasn't an instant success, it won the Dakar Rally after only it's third entry in 1985, cementing it's place as a rugged performer in both the history books and the eyes of eager off-road enthusiasts.

As one of the most successful vehicles in the famous desert rally's history, the new Pajero has a lot to live up to. 

Changing the design and transporting the 4WD well and truly into the 21st century was Mitsubishi's first challenge, and with an increasing number of buyers who will rarely take the vehicle off-road it's urban manners also had to be improved.

Boasting a modern design, new suspension, advanced AWD systems and an option list that should make Land Rover buyers take notice, the new Pajero is aiming high.

But can the Pajero be a 'best of both worlds' vehicle? Let's find out:

Make: Mitsubishi
Model: Pajero X (3-door)
Price: $49,990
Transmission: 5-speed auto (with MATT)
Engine: 3.2-litre, Inline 4-cylinder, turbo, diesel
Seats: 5
Safety: 6 airbags (driver/front passenger (x2), front side curtain (x2)), ABS, EBD, ASC, AWD
Car SupplierMitsubishi Motors Australia


Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWB Review

Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWB Review

Mitsubishi's 3-door Pajero 'X' is the funky urban
model (pictured); the 'R' model loses the body kit
and is fitted with more rugged running gear

Engine: Mitsubishi 3.2-litre 4-cylinder Turbo Diesel

The longitudinally mounted 3200cc inline 4-cylinder diesel engine features a cast iron block and aluminium alloy cylinder heads. Dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) work with 16-valves (4-valves per cylinder) and an air-to-air intercooler works with the turbocharger to increase torque levels. The engine has a 17.0:1 compression ratio and 69 litre fuel tank.

Fuel consumption: 10.5L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 270g/km

Max Power: 125kW @ 3800rpm
Max Torque: 358Nm @ 2000rpm

Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWB Review

Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWB Review

Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWB Review

Mitsubishi Pajero 3-Door SWB Review

The Pajero has an impressive array of off-road
driving modes, but it's the chassis that impresses
the most, able to tackle some fairly serious terrain

When the Pajero first launched in Australia, it was called a 4WD. None of the this 'SUV' stuff... 

But as time inexorably wears on, customer's lifestyles and needs are changing and the sports utility vehicle moniker is becoming more apt.

While the new NS Pajero is not devoid of rugged off-road ability, it's on-road manners have improved greatly and the 3-door model on test proved itself to be adept in the art of navigating traffic congestion and short trips to the shopping centre. 

With a revised suspension system that forgoes the more rugged rear leaf suspension of some core 4WDs in favour of car-like independent suspension front and rear, the new Pajero has a pretty decent ride quality.

When driving around the suburbs and the city, the 3-door Pajero is a pretty handy SUV. The 3.2-litre diesel isn't exactly overflowing with power (125kW) and does take time to hit 100km/h, though the torque is easily accessible and the 4WD can be fuel efficient if driven smoothly.

Mitsubishi quotes a figure of 10.5L/100km for the automatic diesel Pajeros which compares well with the petrol figures: 13.5 litres per 100km. 

This 3-door model gets a 69 litre fuel tank, while the 5-door models get larger 88 litre bladders.

The stubby 3-door Pajero also has a turning circle of just 10.6 metres (11.4 in the 5-door Pajero) which helps when trying to park the vehicle and navigating tight spaces and nasty traffic. The 3-door models only come with the 5-speed automatic gearbox which made the short-wheel base Mitsubishi SUV effortless to pilot.

The high ride height is a godsend in heavy traffic, though the low-slung sports car behind you won't think so... 

Huge side mirrors provide excellent rearward vision down the cars flanks, which takes the stress out of lane changes in traffic congestion and though it drives well, I did find the loose steering more suited to rougher stuff and off-roading than the hustle-bustle of city traffic. 

It also looks more at home in traffic thanks to a new design, which comprises a squarer but more contemporary-looking front end plus a new look rump that sees the spare wheel carrier in a lower position. This provides better rearward vision.

Unlike the Toyota LandCruiser's new design which is pretty hard to discern from the previous model's at 50 yards, the new Pajero has a more defined look - particularly the stocky 3-door model.

Generally speaking, the Pajero's proportions are still quite similar but there are enough differences between its predecessor to keep the rugged Mitsubishi looking fresh faced.

Climbing into the 3-door model for the first time painted a very modern picture; it was clear that Mitsubishi wanted to deliver a modern feel.

Once you've settled into the smooth leather seats that provide a commanding view of your surroundings, you're greeted with new and far less agricultural instruments than the previous model, while a wide array of steering wheel controls makes it feel suitably up-to-date.

The interior has a defined, modern ambiance that will probably attract compact AWD owners who are looking something more rugged - yet still sophisticed - to be parked in the driveway.

The dash plastics have improved when compared against the previous Pajero model and with sporty dials the cockpit feels far classier than its predecessor. 

The rear seats offer a decent amount of room for a shortwheel-base 4WD (it measures 4.38 metres, compared to the 4.9 metre 5-door long-wheel base model), though boot space is cramped. 

Electric everything is a given (windows, mirrors etc), as is cruise control, remote keyless entry and more cupholders than a coffee shop. Our test vehicle also featured a sunroof, which isn't bad value as a $2,000 cost option - especially considering how large it is.

Options such as a rear seat DVD entertainment system and Bluetooth phone connectivity can also be purchased as added extras.

Unlike almost every other new car on the market however, the Pajero models benefit from what Mitsubishi calls a 'multi mode display' which is basically a beefed-up trip computer, which can make an ordinarily boring journey all-the more revealing.

As well as detailing a range of data - elevation above sea level, barometric pressure, fuel consumption and so on - the multi mode display can project this data in line graph form. Not only does this make disseminating the info much easier, but it also shows you a time line of your altitude (which is great when off-roading), fluctuating fuel usage, the list goes on.

It's easily one of the best in-car information systems I've used, especially with the addition of the altimeter.

Adding to this impressive array of in-car telemetry is a tidy little display that sits between the speedo and tacho on the instrument display. 

It shows which wheels and differentials are engaged in the various 2- and 4WD modes (which is great for off-road novices) and the tyres also flash to show you which wheels are slipping or spinning when the stability control kicks in.

I found this feature to be very useful off-road (and curious to see on sealed roads) as you can instantly determine which wheel is slipping and made steering/throttle adjustments as necessary.

While the Pajero has improved its on-road manners by delivering a better ride, it's off-road skills haven't suffered - but neither has it made any great strides forward.

It is slightly more accomplished off-road than its predecessor, and though the 4-cylinder diesel engine takes time to build steam, its low end torque helps greatly in keeping momentum as the wheels struggle for purchase on muddy bush tracks.

The light steering is well suited to off-roading and 225mm of ride height means that it can push relatively deeply down inhospitable 4WD tracks. 

Mitsubishi has also included what it calls MATT - the Mitsubishi all terrain something or other. This nifty feature simplifies all the off-roading modes into one intuitive control module.

There are 2H, 4H, 4HLc and 4LLc modes with the optional locking rear diff, which are coupled with ABS, EBD, Engine Brake Assist Control (EBAC), Active Stability Control (ASC), Active Traction Control (ATC) and Hill Hold Assist.

Even better is that the Pajero's 4WD systems can be toggled on the move while travelling at at speeds up to 100km/h.

Approach and departure angles - 36.7 and 34.8 respectively - are pretty good for a factory standard 4WD and better than the 5-door Pajero thanks to the short overhangs and even shorter wheel base. 

Wheel articulation is fairly substantial, which allows the Pajero to traverse uneven terrain without losing too much traction, and a water fjording depth of 700mm isn't too bad either.

It's also got decent ride height and though the diesel engine isn't one of the Pajero's strong suits it still has a strong bottom end to keep it steamrolling through low friction surfaces. 

The thing that stopped this model from exploring the more serious bush tracks and seldom used fire trails was tyre choice.

Being the flagship Pajero X model, it sits on trendy 18-inch wheels with 265/60 R18s. There's plenty of width there, but the sidewalls aren't as tall as they could be and the tread pattern is more suited to bitumen roads than rain-soaked bush tracks. 

The more affordable 3-door Pajero R gets 265/65 R17s but ultimately a spare pair of dedicated off-road tyres would really do the 3-door Pajero's chassis justice.

Safety systems on the range-topping 3-Door Pajero X model include six airbags covering front and rear passengers, ABS, EBD, active stability control, and a rigid passenger that Mitsubishi calls RISE: Re-inforced Impact Safety Evolution. 

Overall: 3.5/5


Mitsubishi's 3-door Pajero is the closest you'll get to one of the highly modified Dakar Pajero Evo vehicles, performing as a true mudslinger should - reliably and with gumption.

At the same time, it is also a 'best of both worlds' SUV; a more accomplished vehicle on the blacktop than at any time in its past.

The upmarket 3-door Pajero X version we tested had an interior that could rival the Land Rover Discovery LR3 on a good day and though it's not marketed as such, the luxury Pajero models are impressive modern-day SUVs with almost all the trimmings and mod cons you could want.

Mitsubishi's Pajero is an improved vehicle in most respects with a more refined ride, and in particular the 3-door X model with its creature comforts and intuitive controls is quite a treat to drive. Everything is easy to manipulate, even the 4-mode 4WD system.

The diesel engine is the vehicle's only weak link. While relatively efficient, the 3.2-litre oil-burner lacks the surge of torque that modern European diesels offer, and it's louder too. 

Overall, the Pajero is a very good medium sized 4WD with greatly improved on-road manners. And if the 125kW diesel doesn't tickle your fancy, there's always the 184kW 3.8-litre petrol V6.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Exterior Design
  • Off-Road Ability
  • On-Road Manners
  • Hi-Tech Interior
  • Boot Space
  • Diesel Engine
  • No Manual Gearbox for 3-Door Models

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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