We didn’t know what to expect from the Mitsubishi Pajero VRX Di-D auto long-termer when we picked it up from Mitsubishi HQ one year ago. Mitsubishi has done well in owner satisfaction surveys, but is it still delivering a 4WD that can compete with those of its manufacturing counterparts? If our extended Pajero workout is anything to go by, the answer is yes. 12 months down the track and an additional 30,000km on the odometer, the Pajero remains in fine fettle. In fact, it is one reliable workhorse and comfortable to boot.
Usually vehicle road tests last a week. You pick up the vehicle, drive it around for a few days for the typical urban shuffle, then hitch up a camper and get out of town for a few more days to test it off the road. The difficulty with such a test is that you never get to gauge how reliable the vehicle is over an extended period and, in our case, see just how well it tows under varying conditions with different campers. Things about the vehicle that can be frustrating after one week’s use might seem completely acceptable after a longer period, or vice-versa. Fuel consumption is much easier to average out over 10,000km than say 1000km during a week’s road test. In April 2013, when we were given the keys to a fresh Pajero VRX, it had just 2500km on the odometer. But it’s barely rested a minute since residing in CTA’s Melbourne HQ long-term garage. Aside from the Camper Trailer of the Year awards event in Robe last year, the Paj has headed up to the Vic High Country tow testThe camper you want is now easier to find tradervs.com.au 139 numerous times with trailer in tow, travelled to Vic’s East Gippsland, the Great Ocean Road, all over the Mornington Peninsula and Greater Melbourne. In NSW, the Pajero’s headed to the South Coast, the alpine region, the Murray River near Albury, a return trip to Sydney and a stint to Mungo NP via Swan Hill. It’s even towed a trailer boat up to the Gold Coast from Melbourne for sister publication, Trade-a-Boat.
NO SPRING CHOOK
It’s no secret the Pajero isn’t the newest 4WD on the road. Replacing the NS series Pajero of 2006 — a major revision of the NM Pajero and the first of the series in 1999 — the new 2009 NT series Pajero features an upgraded 3.2L diesel engine with better power and torque outputs. If you weren’t confused already, the NT series last year became the NW series, with minor spec changes. The 3.2L turbo-diesel engine is the only engine available with either five-speed manual or five-speed auto. Our Pajero is a VRX auto at $63,990 (plus on-road costs) with the $495 metallic cool silver paint option. We also had an $1820 towbar fitted for obvious reasons. 138 campertraileraustralia.com.au “A bit of outback touring was in mind back at Mitsubishi HQ, and that’s where the Pajero shines” Sand, mud, sea salt and coffee, the Pajero’s cabin has fared well in its 12 months with us. It hasn’t displayed much in the way of wear, despite having drivers, journalists and camera crews constantly sliding in and out of it.
BEAUTY — NOT JUST SKIN DEEP
The seats are very comfortable up front with acceptable side support and good under thigh support. Once you get your seat adjusted correctly, the Pajero is a comfortable long-distance tourer, with adjustable lumber support taking the pressure off your back. The driver has excellent vision forward and to the sides, but despite the tailgate-mounted spare rear sitting quite low, vision out the back is not ideal, although this is assisted somewhat by the handy reversing camera. This has made reverse parking on tight Melbourne streets a fairly easy accomplishment, while also easing the pain of hooking up a camper trailer solo, something our editor has done often with this vehicle. The Pajero has large side mirrors for good vision behind most campers and you can adapt them to see vehicles behind and also keep an eye on the trailer wheels when turning corners. The rear seat is a family-oriented design, meaning it is quite flat. Those with children will understand this as kids can be strapped into child seats and boosters relatively easily. The VRX is a seven-seater, with the rear two seats folding away completely under the floor of the cargo area. This means the rear space is tall, deep and unfettered. The cargo area also has good, solid tie-down points and even though side-swing doors are a bit old school, at least the Pajero’s strut-assisted tailgate has a lockout mechanism that works well on cambered roads to keep the door from slamming shut.
ON THE ROAD
The 4M41 Common Rail DI-D is a cracker. When it’s cold it clatters away like a bag of marbles dropped on a wooden floor, but it does quieten down — when cruising you can barely hear it. When you launch the Pajero off the mark there is the typical turbo-diesel hesitation, but it’s no more than that. The meaty mid-range is where it’s all at (as you’d expect) and the Pajero gets there pretty quickly and is easy to maintain there. Even though the 4M41 will rev beyond 3500rpm, it isn’t as free-revving as some other diesels and there is really no point taking it there. The five-speed auto is smooth and works well with the engine. The only downside is shuffling all that mid-range torque into the next ratio as it gets a bit abrupt when in low range. The Pajero is not alone in achieving smooth shifts when faced with the “torque multiplication effect” of low-range, but others do this better. When just pottering along at city speeds on lumpy bitumen, the Pajero’s all-independent suspension feels a bit too firm, but this beast was not designed to be a city slicker — a bit of outback touring was in mind back at Mitsubishi HQ. So it’s no surprise that’s where the Pajero shines. The Pajero eats up a slippery, bumpy goat track with such poise that you get a surprise when it occasionally bangs over a larger bump. I can’t think of many other high speed dirt tourers that do the Aussie outback as well as the Pajero. It has a docile, smooth and forgiving nature when cruising. This ability to eat up long distances is replicated with a camper trailing behind, and the Pajero remains as solid as a rock, although it feels a bit slower and uses a bit more fuel. These are the expected outcomes when you’re lugging your home away from home behind. Importantly, braking is still strong and stability is excellent.
EFFICIENCY IS KEY
Fuel consumption has been relatively miserly over the year we’ve had the Pajero. An average of 11.5L/100km for urban driving, 8.5L/100km for highway cruising (unladen) and 14.5L/100km towing around 1000kg-1500kg of camper trailer. The worst fuel reading we achieved? A grand total of 45L slurped down over 100km when towing a camper in very challenging offroad conditions in low range. That last figure is based on a very low overall distance and hardcore, slippery tracks we hope we don’t see again. A more realistic low range average in difficult conditions would be no more than 18L/100km. We will have to admit, the Pajero did actually have a “fail to proceed” moment. When climbing a near-vertical ball-bearing gravel track in the Victorian High Country recently. The Pajero, with a camper hitched up, just could not get traction from its H/T rubber. If it were better shod for offroad work, it would have shot up.
If that’s the worst complaint we can make about a stock-standard 4WD wagon, then that’s pretty good going. While the Pajero might not be the latest design to arrive at a vehicle showroom, it is in our experience one very accomplished, reliable 4WD tourer.