Johannesburg - Mitsubishi’s Pajero has been around for some time and over the years the SUV has undergone numerous changes and alterations to keep it fresh and in-line with the trends.
The last update was in late-2015 when the Pajero received the Shogun treatment. Prior to that was in 2012 with the Legend I Edition.
Now the Japanese automaker has opted to adorn its stalwart SUV with a new jacket, called the Legend II.
The Legend comes again
For both the short- and long wheelbase variants, the Pajero will look a bit more rugged for the next phase of its lifecycle.
Each derivative will receive, as standard, accessories and equipment to the value of R50 000 for the LWB and R40 000 for the SWB.
READ: Mitsubishi launches special edition Pajero Legend II in SA
These accessories have been added to give the Pajero’s off-road appeal and ‘go anywhere’ attitude a boost.
Mitsubishi says: "Pajero customers make up the bulk of their client base and that 95% of Pajero buyers add 4x4 accessories. The added accessories may just be for the show in most cases, but will provide proper functionality when the going gets really tough."
Inside very little, if anything, was done to give the interior the same treatment as the exterior. The car feels dated and the materials used are really showing their age.
For the purpose this vehicle was designed for it probably isn’t a bad thing, but to make it a bit more special would not have been frowned upon.
On the open road
Expecting the Pajero to transverse in serene comfort that is a bit of a stretch. The vehicle has been around for quite some time and is not as refined as its modern peers. The suspension is on the soft side and with too much excitement can feel a bit wobbly.
The 3.2-litre diesel engine (140kW/441Nm) feels sluggish and the five-speed automatic gearbox is aching to be replaced.
Overtaking, for instance, needs to be planned ahead and the auto ‘box should rather be shifted manually for better performance.
What it was made for
The Pajero’s demeanour changes when tar roads are swopped for gravel.
Getting dirty is the Pajero’s speciality and the off-road course we went on tested both driver and vehicle (the driver more than the vehicle!). The engine’s aforementioned sluggishness makes way for something more assertive and the slow gearbox takes on a more confident persona.
Choosing the right off-road setting is done in a jiffy. Whether in high or low range, or whether the rear diff is locked or not, the Pajero will quite literally scale any mountain.
Going up or down a steep embankment is done with virtually no effort, but best of all is that the Pajero will not buckle or swerve.
Independent rear suspension and a very user-friendly AWD system mean that it is easier to get out of a sticky situation. Getting stuck in the off-road course’s sandpit happened once or twice, but easy modulation of the throttle had me out of the situation and on my way again.
Understanding the Pajero
Having come to grips with Mitsubishi SA’s number one product, a few aspects stood out about the Pajero. This no-frills vehicle is ideal for adventure and the lack of modern technology makes it one of the more ideal SUVs to venture into dark Africa with.
The Legend II kit basically underlines the Pajero’s Bush-ready credentials. A perfect vehicle it is not, but a robust, no-excuse off-roader it definitely is.
Not too shabby...
All teams were scored on the day and points were deducted when you hit a pole or had to redo a maneuver or obstacle. Teams would also be disqualified if the driver did not have his/her seatbelt on or if the windows were not opened correctly. Lots of things you can lose points for.
For guys who tried proper off-roading for the first time, Ernest Page (my navigator for the day) and I did not do too badly. Even if we say so ourselves...
Out of the three modules, each counting 1000 points, we scored a decent 2510 out of a possible 3000.
We did module 2 (slopes) first and scored a modest 745/1000. This was by far the most difficult and most cringing. Following this was module 3 (sandpit) where we scored 890/1000 - the best result for this challenge on the day!
Lastly we did module 1: a proper, hardcore 4x4 off-road course and scored 875/1000!
From the outside
Navigator Ernest Page writes: Navigating is not my favourite pastime. The last time I rode shotgun I had a gag reflex mishap, we crashed into a wall (albeit lightly) and I swore never to do it again. I reluctantly accepted the role of being Charlen’s navigator for Wheels24.
He assured me that we didn’t need helmets and I’d be spending most of my time outside the car for the #pajerotough challenge. Little did I know…
From driving on three wheels, to mill metric precision while reversing and turning uphill, both driver and navigator were thrown into deeper waters than either could have imagined. I quickly developed a profound appreciation for the skills needed to finish an obstacle course silver side up.
I’m sure Charlen will not soon want to hear me scream "Tuck it in!" anytime soon. With barely enough space to navigate between the articulated gaps, and me being a 4x4 noob, my prodigy driver didn’t always get the most technical instructions.
When panic set in as the car either came close to tipping point or millimetres from hitting a demarcating pole, all I could muster was “Tuck it in!” “Turn!” or “NO!” Our 'system' did however get us the top result for the day in the Blindfolded Sand Gymkhana stage. Yes, blindfolded!
Future modelsImage: Mitsubishi SA
The recent emissions scandal Mitsubishi is finding itself in plays a big role as to when, and if, these vehicles will be market ready, as well as when it will be coming to SA. Mitsubishi hopes the new partnership with Nissan will see these products roll off the production line sooner rather than later.