Cape Town - I know what you’re probably thinking; the Mitsubishi Pajero is long past its sell-by date, its lags behind in terms of technology, its engine and gearbox are dated, etc.
I won’t argue. It’s all true. The Pajero is getting a bit long in the tooth, but fortunately a replacement is due in 2017.
Mitsubishi has kitted-out its Pajero three-door 3.2DI-D GLS short wheelbase (SWB), as well as the long-wheelbase variant, with accessories that should keep it as fresh as possible, at least until the new generation arrives.
...the automaker calls it the Legend II.
How do I work Bluetooth?!
As a millennial I'd like to think that I have an inkling of how to navigate my way through a vehicle's infotainment system but I had never felt more out of place trying to pair my phone to the Pajeor's Bluetooth system. Ultimately it wasn't all that difficult...
One of the menus reads Bluetooth, but selecting it will only take you to the audio section. After fiddling around for what felt like an eternity, I accessed the Settings tab and saw a link to the Bluetooth menu. So... why have two Bluetooth menus?
Gallery: Mitsubishi Pajero Legend II
The USB port is hidden behind a latch in the cabihole, but though there is a feature for an auxiliary connection, no ports were found anywhere. If there is one, better get your expedition gear ready.
The on-board computer gives all the relevant details drivers would require, but the digital layout is old and dated.
However, the Legend may be a bit behind in terms of the digital aspect, but it it boasts an easy-to-use electric driver seat, heaters for both front seats, an electric sunroof, folding side mirrors, cruise control and headlight washers!
Rear passengers may find the three-door configuration a bit of a hassle, because it's only the front passenger seat that makes provision for rear entry/exit.
Driven: Pajero Legend II vs. slopes, sand and boulders
On the open road
The Pajero Legend II is quite at home on tar, but it does have a couple of niggles. The 3.2-litre diesel engine may kick out a very punchy 140kW/441Nm, but the engine sounds unrefined, rough, devoid of any sophistication and is quite heavy on fuel. A jab of the right foot will ignite a grunt within the SUV’s engine and send it forward, but it is far from being called responsive.
READ: Why the Mitsubishi Pajero Legend II makes a great mom's taxi
The five-speed automatic gearbox is also reluctant to show any confidence and will not work in tandem with the engine as one would have liked. It offers the option to change gears manually, but I've found that the Pajero is more than able to handle it on its own - despite the sluggishness.
Surprisingly, even though its mechanicals are age and dated, the Pajero Legend II SWB is a relatively comfortable vehicle. Seats offer decent support over long distances and dials and buttons are easy to see and use. But the ride quality is, at best, a bit squashy. The Legend II requires a firm tug on the steering wheel to change direction and when braking the SUV nose-dives like a failing Olympic diver trying to preserve some pride.
Yet, when the vehicle is on the move, occupants are ‘protected’ from any jiggles the ride quality imperfections might bring up thanks to loads of interior space and the aforementioned comfort.
Showing its worth
If on-road manners are not the Pajero's forte, then surely it must be able to excel in other areas. Read: off-roading.
And yes, by no stretch of the imagination the Pajero Legend II SWB is undoubtedly one of the best off-roaders in South Africa today.
During the test period I paid a visit to one of the off-road trails just outside Cape Town. It's a daunting experience going there for the first time, and a proper machine is needed to tackle the obstacles. After deflating the wheels to 1.0-bar I lined up at the start of the course and set off into the unknown.
READ: Mitsubishi launches special edition Pajero Legend II in SA
Engaging the various 4x4 settings is still done with an extra stick next to the gear lever and for every setting the gearbox needs to be put in Neutral. For the sand, I started off in 4x4H (default mode is 4x2). But as I ventured deeper into the unknown and the wheels spun a bit more than usual, I engaged 4x4HLc and the Pajero carried on as if the sand was not even there.
At the first incline I positioned the SUV and set off, but experienced too much wheel spin and had to let the Pajero do a roll-back. If this had been a competition that would have been ten points gone!
I lined up again, but this time elected to engage 4x4LLC. This mode deactivates the traction settings, but manages power to all four wheels for improved grip. I approached the incline and managed to scale it without any hassle. More inclines followed throughout the course and not once did the Pajero show any signs of finding something difficult.
Navigating around bends and through tight spaces proved easy for this Pajero thanks to its short measurements. And with approach and departure angles of 34.8° and 36.7°, respectively, no obstacle could halt the progress this scallywag was making.
Is it worth it?
At R689 900 this 3-door Pajero GLS Legend II is as capable in the bundus as a champion mountaineer scaling Table Mountain. This SUV is as rugged as they come and when the overall persona of the Legend II is taken into consideration, then it starts making sense why Mitsubishi opted not to make it too modern.
The Pajero needs to be robust, because it is just about the only true 4x4 left in SA. Mitsubishi is persevering with an offering that it knows is literally the last of a dying breed. But off-road enthusiasts will know that this vehicle is what's needed when you trade the city-life for bashing through wildernesses. It's the type of SUV you need when going away on a weekend to where it is near inhospitable for ordinary vehicles to travel.
If a fun, weekend-vehicle is what you're after or if adventure is at the forefront of your existence, this SUV should be near the very top of your wishlist.
I just hope Mitsubishi does not go soft with the next Pajero, because this SUV is huge fun!