There are mid-life facelifts…and then there’s what the designers and engineers have done to the Mitsubishi Pajero off-roader (formerly the Montero in the
There was little doubt among journalists on the European launch that the visual changes are for the better. Those distinctive headlamps, plus the two horizontal chrome strips around the triangular badge plinth, combine to give the car a much more modern face. At the rear the spare wheel has been moved to the center of the door and lowered to help improve visibility. And down the sides, the distance between the door sill and the occupant’s hips has been optimized to make an easier entrance and exit.
But there’s a massive amount of change that’s gone on under the skin to keep the aging Pajero as a serious challenger to the likes of the Land Cruiser. The monocoque chassis has been made stronger but also lighter, NVH has been improved by 15 percent, there’s better crash protection in every direction, and the second-row seats are stronger with reinforced mountings.
However, some things haven’t changed. Because the Japanese firm wants this to be an authentic off-roader – which is one you could actually go off-road in – there are certain styling cues which are still there. The transfer lever next to the gear selector and the grab handles on the A and B-pillars are good examples. And on the rocky surfaces of our mountainous test route, the Pajero was impressive. The Super Select II transfer case with central diff lock never missed a beat.
But there are also some missed opportunities, with the things that irritate the driver of a car of this size, class, and price. Why does the steering wheel still only adjust for rake and not reach, and why is the ‘backside low, knees high’ seating position in the middle row of chairs so uncomfortable?
Further back, the Hide & Seat fold-flat rear bench is a bit fiddly, with several different handles and levers to pull in the correct order to get it up or down. An owner would probably get used to it… but then as it’s only for occasional use, maybe he wouldn’t. It’s an okay space for average-sized adults but you wouldn’t want to spend long there.
Driving the 3.2-liter, 160-hp diesel in 4H, the standard full-time four-wheel drive mode, the car was happy enough at highway cruising speeds. That said, we were only getting 18 mpg compared with the official combined figure of 30 mpg. The five-speed auto box is acceptable, but had a tendency to change up and down at inappropriate moments. It’s best to swap it into manual override so it holds the gears you want.
Overall, this is a marked improvement over the outgoing model – it’s smoother, quieter, and better to drive.