Mitsubishi’s faithful Challenger wagon has been reworked into the more sophisticated and stylish Pajero Sport.
Story By Bruce McMahon
In other parts of the motoring world, this Mitsubishi model has been known as the Pajero Sport for some time, but Australians have called it Challenger since the late 1990s. Now, fresh badging helps highlight the advances of this all-new four-wheel-drive wagon.
Challengers were always most competent off-road machines, if a tad rough-and-tumble as family wagons. This Pajero Sport is a wagon with better road manners, improved performance, plus a tonne of today’s mod cons, while offering better off-road ability.
The Sport is still built around Mitsubishi’s Triton chassis – albeit with coil-sprung suspension at the rear rather than the load-carrying leaf springs used on the ute.
Like that ute, however, the Pajero Sport package is far more approachable for day-to-day use than previous Challenger wagons: a nicer proposition for trips to town. It has also moved away from the plain wrappings of the old Challenger, although the adventurous front-end style and lashings of chrome could be a little polarising out on the plains.
There are three Pajero Sport models, starting at $45,000 for the GLX. Extra dollars spent on the $48,500 GLS and top-of-the-tree $52,750 Exceed models essentially go on more comfort and convenience gear. The GLS, for example, scores rain-sensing wipers over the GLX, and the Exceed boasts a blind-spot warning system and pop-up headlight washers over its two stablemates.
Standard safety items on all three Mitsubishis are rear-view cameras, reversing sensors, seven airbags, hill descent control and trailer sway control.
All three run with the 2.4-litre, turbocharged diesel engine mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine-transmission combination is smooth and willing enough. Changing gears manually adds a degree of sportiness to the drive.
Mitsubishi claim 8 litres per 100 kilometres fuel consumption on the combined cycle. This could be an optimistic figure around town or if pushing on down an ordinary country road.
The Pajero Sport’s road grip and handling is fine for this class of proper 4WD vehicle. There is still some body roll from this high-riding wagon on 18-inch wheels if playing rally driver through the trees, but in general it steers, brakes and holds the road with authority.
Some people may find the Sport’s ride over buckled and botched bitumen a touch disappointing, and there’s a lack of suppleness on smaller lumps and bumps at highway speeds. Its big brother Pajero rides better than this.
Where this particular Mitsubishi distances itself from other similarly priced wagons is the excellent Super-Select 4WD system. Drivers can choose, while moving on the tar, between two-wheel-drive or 4WD via an easy dial, which is handy when the road ahead is awash with mud and slush, snow or sand. If the going gets too serious there is the option of low range and lockable centre differential. The dual-range transfer case is aided by a push-button system for gravel, rock, sand or mud/snow settings. Through the marvel of today’s electronics these dictate different settings for the engine’s torque and transmission shifts, plus more or less traction control for different surfaces.
The clever 4WD system, good wheel articulation and 218mm of ground clearance means the Pajero Sport is a decent back track and off-road machine. Here again the ability to flick manually through the eight gears – with gear shift lever or paddle shifters behind the steering wheel – is a bonus if looking for extra control.
In the cabin there’s room for four adults or two plus a trio of children. There’s a decent 673 litres of cargo space out back.
Visibility is good, in particular over the bonnet, and the ergonomics are excellent with major controls and instruments easy to understand and use. A touch screen helps control the Mitsubishi’s navigation system, smartphone connectivity and stereo, which includes digital radio.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is a well-considered package and a step up from the Challenger it supersedes. There is value here as a family wagon that has real ability to tackle the roughest of the country’s roads and tracks.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sports are priced from $45,000. For more information, see www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au.
This Story is from Issue #107
Outback Magazine: June/July 2016