Living Legend

The Mitsubishi Pajero is a bit of an off-road legend. It’s been around for decades and still has loads of ardent fans. The fact that it dominated the Dakar for a while certainly doesn’t hurt, either. But how do you find a good example on the second-hand market?

It’s probably time for Mitsubishi to replace the current Pajero. The fourth-generation SUV has been around for a decade now, and some would argue that it was really nothing more than a facelift of the third generation (1999 – 2006). The Pajero has had the same basic shape, and a lot of the same engines, for a very long time. That said, the Mitsubishi remains an excellent SUV. It has aged incredibly well and offers excellent value for money if you’re buying one on the second-hand market. It is tough, reliable and easy to live with on a daily basis. It’s a vehicle that you can drive around town, take on an overland trip, and even use on a 4×4 trail.

As mentioned, the fourth-generation Pajero has been around for a decade, so we’ll focus on that version specifically, since there are plenty available on the used market. Prices also vary wildly. Opt for a 2007 model with a lot of kilometres on the clock, and you’ll pay as little as R150 000. Go for a 2016 model with 30 000km on the clock, though, and the price rockets to R629 900.

Long or short?
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a short-wheelbase (SWB) Pajero or a long one. Generally speaking, the SWB version is a bit cheaper, but not by much. However, what makes the SWB Pajero very attractive is that it sits alone in its class. There really are no comparable SWB vehicles out there. Why opt for the SWB? Well, a shorty is easier to live with in town and is also more agile and capable on a 4×4 trail. But space is an issue, especially if you plan on doing some overlanding. If you want to turn your Pajero into a long-distance traveller, then a LWB model is definitely a better choice.

Petrol or Diesel?
Local Pajeros are available with two engine choices: a 3.8-litre V6 petrol, and a 3.2-litre diesel. With close to 200kW and 350Nm of torque, the petrol model offers loads of oomph. It’s thirsty, sure, but fans are more than willing to deal with a hefty fuel bill. As with a petrol Cruiser or Patrol, the 3.8 Pajero is a great overlander. It’s got the power needed to deal with heavy loads and deep sand, and the engine is tough enough to deal with difficult conditions and dodgy fuel. Finding one, though, will take a bit of work. The 3.8 was never imported in massive numbers and fans are always eager to get their hands on them, so they tend to disappear as soon as they go up for sale. At the time of writing, I struggled to find a single one online.

Far easier to find online is the 3.2-litre Di-D diesel. This engine has been around for a long time, and like the 3.8 petrol, it is tough and dependable. There really are no major issues that are common to this engine. That said, this is still a turbodiesel, which means it is worth making sure that all is in order before you buy. Find out if the vehicle was serviced regularly, and check if (and when) the injectors were replaced. It’s a good idea to have the injectors replaced every 100 000km, and to have the diesel pump recalibrated. Obviously, the lower the mile-age on the engine, the better.

The Pajero is available in two specification levels: the GLS and the GLX. The GLS is more luxurious and has a higher spec than the GLX. This means that the GLS has things like leather seats and cruise control, while the GLX doesn’t. Over the years, things have varied a bit, so it’s important to check what exactly the GLS or GLX you’re interested in actually sports. Importantly, there was a period when the GLS did not have a diff lock, with only the more utilitarian GLX sporting a rear locker. If you’re looking for an SUV that can do duty as an overlander or trail vehicle, you want to make sure that you buy a Pajero with a diff lock.