The last generation Mitsubishi Pajero Sport served its purpose as a rugged, go-anywhere seven-seater SUV with tried and trusted underpinnings.
These were based on the previous generation Triton bakkie and, while reliability and capability remained the model’s fortes, it lagged behind on the refinement aspect. Updates were given to the model over the past eight years or so, but a new one was needed to challenge the establishment that is the Toyota Fortuner and, more recently, the Ford Everest.
While the new Pajero Sport may have been standing in the wings for a while, the exchange rate meant the model could not be launched at a competitive price for some time, so local fans of the model have had to wait.
Now it has finally been launched and the company used the recent SA Motoring Experience event at the Kyalami racetrack as the backdrop to present the new model to the media, although it was only an unveiling at this point.
The new model has adopted the company’s latest SUV design language that includes a great number of chrome embellishments up front as seen on the updated Outlander, but it nonetheless elevates the model’s overall appeal.
Based on the latest Triton’s impressive underpinnings, the new Pajero Sport also shares that model’s superb 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine.
It puts out 133kW and 430Nm and, in this instance, is paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is a first among its competitors. The model is offered in both 4×2 and 4×4 guises with the latter also incorporating the firm’s Super Select 4-II all-wheel drive system.
Hill descent control has been added for additional safety, while the selectable off-road mode is said to maximise traction on more challenging surfaces. Meanwhile, the additional electronic assistance system allows the driver to select either gravel, mud/snow, sand or rock conditions and optimise engine output, transmission settings and braking accordingly.
As we have come to expect of the Pajero brand, the Pajero Sport should be sublime off-road, but the main question is how it will fare on the road where the vehicle will spend the bulk of its life. We have already lauded the Triton for its smooth engine and exemplary ride quality for what is a conventional, ladder-on-frame with leaf spring setup.
On the Pajero Sport, double wishbone coil springs with a stabiliser bar in the front are complemented by a multilink suspension with stabiliser bar at the rear. The company claims this gives the model a sedan-like level of comfort.
The cabin shares similar appointments with the Triton, including the fascia and instrumentation. Still with seating for seven occupants, the model comes with leather seats, including an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, while the second row of seats offers a 60:40 split-and-tumble setup. They also have a slide-and-recline function for added convenience.
Some of the array of standard equipment includes rear park distance control with a rear-view camera, dual automatic air-conditioning with rear passenger temperature controls and keyless entry and engine start. There is cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity with voice control and power folding side mirrors.
Safety items include Active Stability and Traction Control (ASTC), ABS (anti-lock braking system), EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), brake assist system, brake override system and six airbags.
The new Pajero Sport is priced from R569 995 for the 4×2 and R599 995 for the 4×4, both being significantly more expensive than equivalent rivals. Whether the extra capital outlay it commands over its rivals can be justified remains to be seen. – Lerato Matebese