We all know that the Pajero is underwritten by its strong showing in the gruelling annual Paris-Dakar rallly, an event that has virtually become Mitsubishi territory for a number of years.
And after driving the Pajero, in normal production guise of course, there is no doubt that the Mitsubishi Pajero has proven itself as a worthy competitor in the local SUV segment.
It has tough competition and the Pajero competes against rivals such as the Toyota Prado, Jeep Grand Cherokee, VW Touareg and Land Rover Discovery. However the Pajero still has what it takes to be considered as a strong competitor when buying a capable luxury off-roader.
Although the 2004 Pajero's styling enhancements are minor the car has more appeal than before as it is now available with beige leather, plus wood trim for the dashboard in the 5-door models, and sporty titanium-look trim for the 3-door models. Furthermore the instrument cluster now features a white background.
On the outside the latest Pajero can be distinguished by new six-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, new lights front and rear, a new grille and illuminated side steps.
Furthermore the Pajero offers loads of versatile vehicle. For example the five-door model features an innovative third row of seats which folds away easily when not in use - or it can be completely removed by opening up a big under-floor compartment.
Sascha Gaede, divisional manager for Mitsubishi Motors in South Africa, told us that a key design goal of the most recent Pajero was the concept of greater power with better control.
"This goal has been achieved by mating a new higher-displacement 3.8-litre V6 engine, the most powerful engine in a Pajero, with the new intelligent Mitsubishi Active Stability Traction Control system (M-ASTC).
M-ASTC employs a series of active sensors for each wheel and a new electronic throttle control. Mitsubishi claims that it precisely manages engine output, power distribution and braking force to deliver improved vehicle control, traction and tracking in all driving conditions.
This system will automatically eliminate understeer and oversteer in corners and it adjusts braking force to each tyre independently via the ABS system, while managing engine output via the electronic throttle control.
The new 3.8-litre 24-valve SOHC V6 unit replaces the 3.5-litre engine. Power output is now 150 kW at 5 000 r/min and torque is 314 Nm at 3 250 r/min.
It also features Mitsubishi's Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and Electronic Throttle Valve (ETV) for better response and control, which basically translates to improved interaction between driver and vehicle.
The V6's new variable intake manifold optimises performance by automatically varying the rate of air intake through the primary and secondary ports.
At low and mid rev ranges only the primary intake port is used, boosting intake speed and producing more torque for quicker acceleration and better off-road escape-ability, while at the same time enhancing fuel efficiency.
At higher rev ranges both intake ports are used for maximum power output.
The four-cylinder 3.2-litre, twin-cam, quad-valve turbodiesel from the previous range has been carried over with 121 kW of power at 3 800 r/min.
The 2004 Pajero range is only available with Mitsubishi's INVECS-II automatic transmission, which according to Mitsubishi matches gear selection and shift timing to driving style. It also uses two two sophisticated programmes - Optimum Shift Control and Adaptive Shift Control.
With Optimum Shift Control INVECS-II compares current driving style and road conditions to its databank of shifting patterns to automatically select the best gear and ideal gearshift timing for a variety of driving situations.
Adaptive Shift Control monitors and learns each individual driver's acceleration and braking patterns to adapt its timing and gear selection to suit that individual's personal driving style.
In addition a sports mode allows the driver to shift up or down by moving the lever forward to "+" or back to "-".
The Pajero also offers full and part-time four-wheel-drive. In addition to the normal full-time 4x4 mode, it enables the driver to select direct-coupled four-wheel-drive, direct-coupled low range four-wheel-drive or two-wheel drive modes. This can be done up to a speed of 100km/h:
GLS petrol - R347 000
GLS diesel - R359 000
GLS 5-door petrol - R431 000
GLS 5-door diesel - R449 000
All Pajeros GLS models come with two-year/100 000 km warranty as well as a standard five-year/ 100 000 km maintenance plan.
Later this year Mitsubishi will add a budget version of the five-door which will sell for R359 000.