Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed Tow Test
The Pajero Sport is a timely addition to the Mitsubishi wagon range.
With no Pajero replacement on the horizon and the Challenger also becoming dated, Mitsubishi’s offroader wagon portfolio was beginning to look very stale as the calendar rolled into 2015. Then, late in the year, Mitsubishi breathed some fresh air into its range with its Challenger replacement – the Pajero Sport.
Like the Challenger before it, the Pajero Sport is a ute-based SUV. In this case, the Pajero Sport shares much with the new-in-2015 MQ Triton ute. So it gets the same engine, front suspension, most of the chassis and dashboard. Rear suspension in the Pajero Sport is a three-link coil-sprung live axle instead of the Triton’s leaf-spring live axle, and the wheelbase is 200mm shorter.
The Pajero Sport comes in a three-tier line-up: GLX, GLS and Exceed. We tested the Exceed, at $52,750 (plus on-road costs). The Exceed is pretty good value – it’s cheaper than all its competitors, except the Isuzu MU-X LS-T and Holden Colorado 7 LTZ, but much better specified.
The Exceed’s key features include LED headlights, Trailer Stability Assist, electric park brake, keyless entry, push button start, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, digital radio (DAB), rearview camera, diff lock, leather interior, multi around monitor system (bird’s eye view camera), blind spot warning, forward collision mitigation, ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation system, heated power front seats and rear seat DVD player. The Pajero Sport also features the excellent Super Select II part-time/full-time 4WD system. It can be driven in 2WD or 4WD high range on paved roads or with the centre diff locked 4WD high or low range on loose surfaces.
Despite this extensive list of features, some of which are simply not available on competitors’ offerings, there are two strange omissions in the Pajero Sport range – they don’t come with sat-nav or seven seats in Australia.
The Pajero Sport has a high hip point, meaning that if you’re shorter than most you will need to use the side steps and solid grab handles on the A- and B-pillars. The Mitsubishi’s fit and finish is good and the interior plastics don’t feel or look cheap. The infotainment system takes a while to learn but becomes easy to move around in once you’ve spent time with it.
The front seats have good side and under-thigh support while the rear seat is quite flat. This design suits having three passengers on board (usually rear seats can only be adequately contoured for the outboard occupants) and also baby capsules or child booster seats. There is ample leg and headroom in the back, but not much air-conditioning – there are no rear vents. At least rear seat passengers will be able to hydrate, with two cup holders in the pull-down centre armrest and one each in the door pockets. There are also pockets in the back of the front seats and, of course, the DVD player mounted in the ceiling.
The cargo area is large with 673L of space available (to the height of the seat back). There’s one 12V/120W charging port on the offside cargo wall and shopping hooks on each side as well as four tie-down points. The full-size alloy spare is tucked up under the back of the Exceed.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The four-cylinder turbodiesel engine is the same unit that Mitsubishi slots into the Triton. It squeezes out 133kW of power at 3500rpm and 430Nm peak torque at 2500rpm from its small 2.4L displacement.
The engine is smoother and quieter in the Pajero Sport than in the Triton, although it is not the most refined diesel on the market. The engine has a 4000rpm redline, but in drive mode the smooth eight-speed
transmission upshifts at 3500rpm. In manual mode, the engine spins willingly enough to 4000rpm but there seems little point reaching beyond 3500rpm anyway.
Some turbodiesels have dangerous turbo lag. Imagine you’re crossing an intersection where you have ample time to get across ahead of the traffic with a decisive prod of the accelerator. Those that suffer bad turbo lag will respond instantly to your command, get out into the intersection and then feel as though the engine has stalled, before finally gathering itself and launching into the typically strong mid-range rev band. That’s turbo lag. The Pajero Sport does have this affliction, but it’s mercifully short. You can cross that intersection without feeling as though that traffic will hit you.
The Mitsubishi performs well, with strong overtaking acceleration on call and a responsive mid-range torque that lets you grab gaps in the traffic with ease.
The all-coil suspension soaks up bumps well, and is well controlled on secondary roads at speed. On corrugations or larger potholes the Exceed does take a small side step, not unusual for a live rear axle design. The steering is too light and lacks much feedback or feel, which is typical of the class. The Pajero Sport’s turning circle is a tight 11.2m.
Driving without a caravan behind on a mix of urban roads and freeways, the Pajero Sport achieved an average of 8.2L/100km. When towing a 2110kg full-size tandem-axle caravan, consumption rose to 17.8L/100km.
The relatively small 68L fuel tank would give the Pajero Sport a safe caravan touring range of 332km (with a 50km safety margin) using our fuel figures.
With the 2110kg (110kg towball mass) caravan behind, the 2.4L diesel had to work hard to maintain speed when climbing in hilly terrain. As a rule, there’s no substitute for cubic inches when towing, and the Mitsubishi’s peak torque not kicking in until a relatively high 2500rpm doesn’t help, either. It was acceptably quiet when cruising on the plains, and the transmission was very smooth and subtle in its shifts.
While there was no Sport mode, the eight-speed auto had a predictive gearshift logarithm that changes gearshift patterns when towing, and this setup appeared to work well. Downshifts occurred earlier and lower gears were held for longer. The Exceed has the bonus of having steering-mounted gear paddle shifts, which makes using manual mode a cinch. Engine braking was average rather than outstanding.
The Pajero Sport’s side mirrors are an odd shape but, in spite of this, give a good view down the sides and may be good enough to tow a narrower van. The Pajero Sport’s side mirrors took the towing mirrors on without a fuss and they did not move or vibrate at speed.
The wagon wasn’t much affected by passing trucks and didn’t feel nervous while at a steady cruise, with no need for the Trailer Stability Assist to activate. There was some yawing, but that appeared to be the result of a light ball weight rather than anything else. We would have preferred to tow with more on the ball but, unfortunately, that isn’t always possible.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Pajero Sport Exceed has a fairly extensive equipment list (albeit with a few strange omissions) and an attractive price. It is also comfortable, handles admirably and performs well. Its towing performance is blunted up hills and fuel consumption is quite high, yet the Mitsubishi was not dynamically challenged by the extra load, and was comfortable to ride in with a caravan behind.
Thanks to Sydney RV Group, Lemko Place, Penrith, NSW, (02) 4722 3444, www.sydneyrvgroup.com.au for the loan of the caravan for this test.
The full test appears in Caravan World #555 September 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!