BIG SPLASH: The new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport with five-speed manual gearbox is more than capable of tackling any terrain. Picture: Supplied
Almost a year since Mitsubishi’s operations in South Africa were taken over by the Imperial Group, the brand last week introduced its new manual Pajero Sport, which goes to market in direct competition with Toyota’s popular Fortuner.
To assess the Pajero Sport’s abilities, Mitsubishi invited me to sample the vehicle over a two-day driving bootcamp that tickled more than an epiglottis or two as our convoy of 12 vehicles travelled to the Thaba Inkwe 4x4 trail in the Magaliesberg region.
Now I’ve tackled this trail before in Toyota’s FJ Cruiser, which simply ate up the course, and this made me sceptical of the Pajero Sport’s ability to ramp certain obstacles we would find in our path.
Nevertheless, with 4L engaged and a rear differential lock available on the fly, I was assured by Mitsubishi Motors CEO Jaco Oosthuizen that it climbs over simply anything.
The Pajero Sport is powered by a 3.2-litre direct injection turbo diesel engine that delivers 120kW of power and 343Nm of twist, which came in handy when climbing near-sheer vertical inclines and hopping over large rocks.
It’s also able to run on 500ppm diesel as a regular source of energy, ensuring you needn’t worry about plotting your holiday destinations based on the availability of low-sulphur (less than 50ppm) diesel in an area. And thanks to its sub 10l/100km average fuel usage, it’s frugal too.
Thaba Inkwe’s rough terrain and chassis twisting trail allowed me to get to grips with the Pajero Sport’s latest-generation Super Select 4WD system.
The new five-speed manual is complemented by the addition of a low-range transfer case that almost cuts its final drive ratio in half when 4L is engaged. The vehicle’s smart computer and drive train then ensure the right amount of power is sent to the four wheels at any given time. For looser sections, it’s equipped with a locking rear differential.
I called upon the rear diff-lock on several occasions during my off-road expedition, especially as the going got rougher deeper into the mountains. At one point our convoy was stopped by a sheer incline of rock and slate that seemed nearly impassable and again the Pajero Sport simply climbed on and up without breaking a sweat or a drive-shaft in the process.
Yes, the new Pajero Sport is more than capable of carrying its occupants, up to seven of them, to destinations far off the beaten trail and thanks to its sheer levels of refinement and luxury won’t make for a bad daily drive either.
Interior equipment levels remain high in the new manual addition to the range, with leather-covered seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, a multi-information display, park distance control, central locking with keyless entry, electrically operated windows front and rear, single zone automatic air conditioning system, electrically controlled folding-exterior mirrors and a thumping six-speaker MP3 and iPod compatible audio system listed as standard fare.
It also comes with a multi-function display in the centre of the dashboard with embedded features like a compass and altimeter, outside temperature reading, fuel tank range until empty, average fuel consumption, audio information and time and date display.
It’s all very high tech, despite its utilitarian underpinnings. It won’t ride as well as more expensive SUVs, but it does offer a distinguished combination of on-road composure and comfort with dramatic off-road capability.
Like the Fortuner, it’s spacious and versatile and will appeal to those who prefer a no-frills solution for towing, exploring and family transportation. It is arguably great value for money, considering the cost of mobility in contemporary times.
The new Pajero Sport five-speed manual 4x4 sells for R424000 and comes with a three-year/100000km warranty and five-year/100000km Mitsubishi service plan.