Mitsubishi first introduced the Pajero Sport in late 2015 when it replaced the long established Challenger, a five seater wagon built on the Triton’s chassis and running gear, but with upgraded suspension and interior to appeal to family buyers rather than tradies. A combination of sharp pricing, features, roominess, decent ride and hefty towing capability soon saw lots of Pajero Sport wagons in front of caravans, camper trailers and of course, boats.
This year’s offering is still based on the Triton’s underpinnings, but linking the Pajero Sport’s 2.4L four cylinder turbo diesel engine with an Aisin 8-speed auto gear shifter has given the wagon a huge lift in buyer appeal, enhanced performance and enhanced fuel economy.
Also new for this year is the addition of a third row of seats to both the GLS and Exceed models. Interestingly, the Sport is only available in auto transmission – something that certainly won’t bother anyone.
The Sport, on closer examination is an interesting vehicle. It presents as both long and high, yet does not look particularly wide, but then neither does the parent Triton! The overall presentation might even be a bit polarising, thanks to huge slashes of chrome around the massive grille, the big wide bonnet and prominent front guards. To be fair, the frontal treatment does create some positive road presence while the practical interior is a certain draw card.
At the rear things are even more eye catching than the front, with long strip tail lights snaking down each side of the big lift-up tail gate. Would this perhaps unusual design put a buyer off a purchase? Not after they’ve had a test drive! This wagon drives very well as either a city commuter or comfortable long distance tourer. Off road capable? Certainly!
Pajero Sports are available in three spec and trim levels, but let me state here and now that the base GLX is a long way from a poverty pack unit, not when they offer keyless entry, power fold mirrors, power virtually everything else, 8-speed Aisin auto shifter, wheel audio, phone, and column mounted paddle gear shifters, leather bound wheel and console gear selector, electric parking brake and many other features including Android Auto and Apple Car Play, Bluetooth phone streaming, LED daytime running lights, side steps, 18” wheels and other goodies.
Nonetheless, the reviewed GLS provides extra bling in the form of a rear cargo floor box, rear diff lock, dual zone air con, seven seat capacity, leather seat facings, power front seating, a six speaker audio system, auto rain sensing wipers and auto dusk sensing headlights, plus full length curtain SRS airbags for all three rows of seats.
Soft touches abound from different seating to a reach/height adjustable four spoke leather bound wheel with virtually every function on or close to it including gearshift paddles. I found the piano black highlighted dash with silver grey accents was very well set up with all instruments and gauges exactly where they should be, easily identified and ready for use.
The front seating was different, as both front passenger and driver sit within individual compartments created by the sheer height of the centre console. The console also featured unusual outer protrusions reaching up to the dash. Further, large grab-handle-like projections on the doors also contributed to this impression. The setup was cosy rather than cramped and certainly stated ‘Sports’ loud and clear, but I believe that larger framed drivers and passengers might be somewhat off-put.
The front and rear seats were very comfortable with ample padding and support. Head and legroom within the first two rows of seats was more than adequate – very generous, in fact. As a seven-seater the third row of seats can be lifted straight up and out from flat position with the push of a button. By pushing either of the second row 60/40 folding seats forward (very easy) a youngster could slip into the back where the paired seats are well setup.
The Sport has a three link coil sprung rear suspension mated to a double wishbone front suspension which would provide passengers with a very comfortable ride, even on some of our less-than-perfect back roads.
The Sport’s 2.4L diesel engine features an alloy block plus variable valve timing, common rail fuel injection, variable vane turbo charging and an electronic throttle. A maximum torque of 430Nm arrives at 2500rpm and maximum power of 133kW at 3500rpm. I found the 8-speed auto and engine were a perfect match; 1700rpm at 100km/h is certain to give the engine a long work life.
Moreover, in contrast to some of the 6 and 8-speed autos around the traps, the Pajero’s auto actually works well at less than license-losing speeds. A speed of 80kph on level road saw, with a quick flick of the gear selector to the side, that the unit was in eighth gear with the car willing to accelerate at a touch of the loud pedal. I achieved a fuel economy of 9.8L/100km – great for a 2t seven-seater of this size. The tank capacity is 68L.
There’s no denying the Pajero Sport is a tall vehicle. If you like command-style driving positions, this is the car for you. The engine start-up has a typical diesel rattle, which decreases nicely with speed, as it should. The engine was powerful enough, but a bit slow on the turbo uptake at times. At normal cruising speed there were no issues with the Sport overtaking highway slowpokes with ease. Handling was surprisingly good with just a little body lean if the wagon was pushed too hard.
Off road the Sport again surprised. Thanks to 218mm ground clearance and 30° approach and 24° departure angles – and that very compliant suspension – any bumps and thumps were well isolated from occupants. And with the Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4WD system offering four driving modes – 2WD High, full time 4x4 and 4x4 High or Low Range – there was gearing for all circumstances.
With 4x4 Low engaged the Sport showed what it was made of with certainty and just crawled over washouts, ruts and other obstacles on a forest track with ease. A run up the beach with 4x4 High engaged would be a breeze. Note the selection of driving mode is via a console-mounted knob.
The rear diff lock on this model is also available, but when in use disengages traction control. Perhaps a better option is to bypass the diff lock and stick with the traction control.
With the third row of seating down flat there’s 673L of space, and with the second row down and forward, there’s 1624L available. When the third row is up and in use, it’s reduced considerably, as expected. Braked towing capability is 3100kg, and unbraked is 750kg. A full size spare is underslung.
Some handy driving adjuncts are Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control. A five-star ANCAP rating is standard and there’s an impressive list of safety items including trailer sway control and no less than seven air bags.
Warranty is five years or 100,000km – very good. In summing up the Pajero Sport, I saw good on-road performance, a comfortable ride and reasonable off-road capability as being strong selling points. Value for money is in there as well with practicality of the overall unit. The styling is different, but not bad if the number of these cars we are seeing on our roads is any indication. The price of the GLS Pajero Sport would be around the $48,500 mark.Reads: 3068