Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is just Unbreakable

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is just Unbreakable

Mitsubishi took a huge risk when it forego the famous Pajero and launched a new Pajero Sport that is very fashionably up market. They say if it is not broken do not fix it. This is one time when going against this saying works. How many of its extremely loyal customers would conclude that the famous Pajero, with Dakar heritage ingrained in its DNA, had gone “soft”?

After driving the new Pajero Sport we were astounded for two reasons: The first is that it retains that familiar “unbreakable” feel of the previous, tough-guy-looking Pajero. The second reason is that, on dirt, it is even more accomplished than it was before, and that is one hard act to follow.

Ladder-frame chassis remains

Underneath all the curvy-swoops of the new body, it is reassuring that a good old ladder frame chassis still resides in its rightful place, connecting engine, drivetrain and suspension together in a no-nonsense, rigid structure.

Sure, it is not going to be as refined on smooth tar as a unit-construction body-shell. This old-school truck-like approach to off-roading is designed to withstand all the rigours of rock-bashing and donga-digging. This is typical for a  4X4 adventure may to dish up, sometimes in a very unexpected manner.

As far as the interior goes; while the new Pajero Sport is more comfortable than before, in terms of niceties, thankfully it has not gone the super hi-tech route. The dash and controls on the console are just as easy to understand as before.

New electronic assistance for off-roading

Time marches on, it does not stand still. Mitsubishi has used its vast experience in the world of hard-core off-road environments to introduce electronic assistance in key areas.

The first new feature DRIVEtorque sampled was a device on the eight-speed automatic gearbox that enhances stability on dirt roads (rather than in serious rocky or deep-sand bush driving). When the “sand” mode is selected with the transmission in 4-High mode, at a constant speed, the gearbox automatically shifts between two gears. Depending on what is appropriate for the speed, the ‘box either changes up or down seamlessly, reacting to ever-so-slight changes in dirt-road conditions, and the traction the tyres are getting.

The gearbox selects two ratios at once, one of them being on “stand-by”

This is apparently achieved by special valving on the fluid-drive transmission that, in effect, selects two gears at once, and with wheel-speed sensors providing feedback, detects when a lower or higher gear may be appropriate.  It does not require you squeezing the throttle or backing off, it simply does it all automatically. Now because the gaps in the higher ratios are so small, you have to concentrate hard in order to feel the difference (or watch the rev counter).

Fully automated hill-descent system

The second new feature we tried was one of the best hill-descent systems I have yet to experience. Hill descent systems are nothing new, though – you select it via a console button (before approaching a very steep downhill) and it automatically uses the ABS braking system to slow your vehicle down on a steep slope. Land Rover introduced it way back with the launch of the Freelander in the late 1990s. The great part about this new Mitsubishi Hill descent device is that you can modulate it on the way down a hill. If you are going too slow, you touch the accelerator and it picks up the pace. This is an important but, touching the throttle or the brakes does not deactivate it. So you dial in your speed down a steep slope that is absolutely appropriate for your skills and the prevailing conditions – a brilliant feature.

Hill descent in reverse too

There is also Hill Descent Control in reverse, the first time I have experienced this system on an off-road vehicle. This is a great safeguard, in case you run out of talent or grip, half-way up a very steep rocky incline, and have to descend in reverse. You actually select reverse and it allows you to slowly back down – a great confidence booster.

The new, lower first gear ratio on the Pajero Sport’s new gearbox also helped. Naturally, being a “proper” off-roader, the Pajero comes with both high and low-range transfer case ratios, as it did before.

More refined engine, better on-road ride

There are other factors about the new car to mention here, in this hard-core off-road application. The new-generation 430 Nm MIVEC turbo diesel engine has a much quicker spool-up time, thanks to its variable vane turbo, and maximum torque is available from below 1 500 rpm.

Suffice to say that on-road, it retains all the rugged appeal it possessed before, but enjoys a new level of sophistication that is way ahead of the previous model.

It is a bargain in this league

Taking all this into consideration, the new Pajero Sport is absolutely fantastic!! It imparts a sense of confidence in its abilities without anything being in any way superfluous. This feeling of unpretentious solidity with its pricing from USD$55,000 and warranty of 3 years or 100 000km makes it one of the great bargains on the market locally

Contact Zimoco on 0242-885329/30 for a test drive

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