WHAT A LEGEND: Mitsubishi's Pajero Legend II makes for a lekker mommyvan, when you're not out off-roading. Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post
Cape Town - Saying that I love SUVs or 4x4s is an understatement. I have no idea why I get as excited about a new off-road vehicle as a little girl about to view a new episode of 'My little Pony'. What makes it even more bizarre is the fact that I seldom get a chance to even head off on a 4x4 trail.
The Mitsubishi Pajero is hailed as one of the best 4x4 vehicles around in SA. So much that it's facelift was merely aesthetic a few months ago at its local launch earlier in July. It was made to go off-roading, it's even been a Dakar winner seven consecutive times.
READ: Driven: Pajero Legend II vs. slopes, sand and boulders
These days my off-road trips are limited to gravel roads and traversing the grass on a rugby field. And, as for switching to 4x4 mode, or even 4L, climbing steep hills on said rugby fields to get decent parking. Shifting to the various modes is easy as pie thanks to the separate lever on the left of the gear lever. Simply depress the 'button' and move the stick up, or down, to the desired mode.
I didn't get to take it up Klipbokkop, or any other 4x4 trail, but I did find out what else makes it a pretty cool car.
What's it like to drive?
Under the bonnet there's a 3.2-litre 16-valve DI-DC (Direct injection diesel) engine which delivers sufficient torque at low revs, whether you're in traffic or cruising on the highway. It's good for 140kW/441Nm, mated to a five-speed auto 'box. The Pajero proved to be a likable daily drive, despite its size. And, it's a car I would consider as a family vehicle, something I wouldn't have given a second thought prior to driving it.
Image: Janine-Lee Van der Post
In fact, when I first saw it I thought 'oh heavens, this one's going to be tedious', that it would feel heavy behind the wheel and a fuel-guzzler. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Image: Janine Van der Post
Although the long-wheel base version is substantially larger than the standard variant, and despite not being able to take it on a proper bundu-bashing trail, it felt incredibly light to drive and on par with an average-sized family car.
It never felt sluggish off the mark though travelling on longer roads, you realise that the diesel engine and the outdated transmission definitely needs an upgrade. Depending on driving style and conditions, the average fuel consumption was usually at 10.9-litres/100km. The lowest I managed was 8.1-litres/100km, with the highest being 15.0-litres/100km.
Things to like
The huge windows all round is high up on the list of likes which makes for better viewing of your surroundings, especially in Spring as it's 'blommetjie tyd' (Springtime flower season). The biggest fan though, was my little one tucked in her baby seat. Even though her seating position is elevated, most times she still can't see out the window as she's still so tiny. In the Pajero she could see rumbling motorcycles pass by - one of her most favourite things - aircraft and pretty flowers.
Image: Janine Van der Post
As the vehicle is quite high off the ground, ingress can be tricky for rear passengers, especially for grandparents. Luckily there are sturdy handles inside the door frame to help passengers slide into the seat.
There are handy pouches behind the front seats. They're quite deep and since I hate walking around with a handbag, these pockets are ideal to keep valuables out of sight when it's not necessary to carry everything with you. I found it even more useful when driving with my baby as I could stick her water bottle in the pocket, or lean back and pass her toys, books or snacks.
Heatable front seats are nothing new, but with heavy rains still pouring down in Spring, the Pajero features low and high settings, though the 'toasty' level on these are most favourable.
What's not to like?
Not much really, but my biggest, if not only gripe were the side bars, or what Mitsubishi calls Rock Sliders - which by the way is part of Pajero's additional accessories. Mitsubishi has an accessory package valued at R50 000, which includes these side bars, a nudge bar, rubber mats, an an engine and gearbox protector plate to name a few. There are more optional items available at discounted rates through the automaker.
It's pretty cool though, these rock sliders, as they're actually functional, it apparently protects your vehicle from any rock-slamming when doing hardcore bundu-bashing or off-roading.
When you're just being a mom, driving the family around, they serve as useful sidesteps. The problem is, I knew there was a 'step' of sorts whenever I got out of the car, so if you don't have your footing correct and expecting a larger surface, you could have a horrible egress experience. Good thing those nifty handles were there.
Watch your step... Image: Janine Van der Post
Charlen Raymond: "The Pajero is a bit long in the tooth and compared to modern offerings and lags behind many respects (read: technology). What it lacks in modern kit, it makes up for in ride quality and off-road credentials.
"The suspension setup on the SUV is very soft and literally feels as if it’s wafting about its business. Road imperfections are dealt as if bumps and undulations were never there. It really is that smooth. Pick up too much speed, however, and its bulk will become apparent. Road-holding is affected negatively and when taking on a sweeping bend the vehicle leans too much. Under hard braking it lunges forward with some noticeable fade on the brakes.
"On an off-road trip the Pajero truly shines. It's more sure-footed; stable and capable of handling any terrain. It’s akin to Superman ditching his Clark Kent alter ego, only instead of a flying superhero the Pajero transforms into the auto equivalent of a giant mountain goat - able to clear rocks and ditches that will give both the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest a serious run for their money."Pricing for the Pajero Legend II comes in at R759 900 for the LWB and R659 900 for the SWB.