I haven’t driven a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport in around two years, but I remember thinking that, even back then, it already felt dated.
Two years later, the situation is even worse. The Chevrolet Trailblazer is a much better car whichever way you look at it, not to mention the legendary and soon-to-be-replaced Fortuner. Throw in an all-new Ford Everest, which has elevated this segment to new heights, and Mitsubishi has a big problem.
Driving it as any normal person would on an average day certainly doesn’t do the Pajero any favours. Its 2,5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine feels mediocre compared to what Ford offers these days, not to mention what Toyota will be selling next year.
It’s very much the same story in every other department. The Pajero’s rivals are more comfortable, luxurious and, overall, easier to recommend these days. For everyday use, I’d recommend any one of its three main rivals in the SUV market, with the Pajero Sport being last on my endorsement list.
I’m not saying it’s a terrible car, as it still does an admirable job, but the game has moved on.
Colleague Danie Botha, who drove the Everest extensively recently, tells me there’s nothing to touch it at the moment.
Now, before I provoke the fury of fiercely loyal Mitsubishi owners, let me add one important piece of buying advice. It concerns the limited edition Pajero Sport Shogun.
There are two kinds of 4×4 owners. First, there’s the group that buys a 4×4 simply because it’s the top-of-the-range model and comes with low-range and a locking differential as standard. These cars seldom see anything more severe than a gravel road between Harties and Pretoria. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of ownership, as shown by the sales figures posted by Toyota and Ford every month.
Then you get the serious off-roaders and overlanders. They use their vehicles the way they were intended to be used. You can spot them by the thick veneer of mud caked around the wheel arches.
It’s also highly unlikely that this kind of car will remain the way it was when the owner drove it off the showroom floor. More often than not, it will go straight to an aftermarket fitment centre, where it will be blessed with new suspension, replacement bumpers, a roof rack and a set of chunky tyres. We have extensive experience of this sort of thing, and can assure you that if you are not careful you could easily run up a bill of around R150 000, over and above the price of the car.
With the Shogun, Mitsubishi has removed the middleman. It comes equipped with everything the 4×4 and overland enthusiast would have fitted as extras, but since Mitsubishi gets the parts at factory prices, the Shogun is a steal.
Apart from the comfort, convenience and safety features that come as standard in most high-quality vehicles, the Shogun is equipped with a snorkel, Front Runner roof rack, protection plates, Yokohama Geolander rubber, a set of replacement shocks from Opposite Lock, rock sliders, daytime running lights, tow bar and Shogun decals. The total value of these extras is around R80 000, but Mitsubishi throws in everything free of charge.
This is exceptional value for money, considering the fact that you could drive this car from the dealer floor and straight on to Zambia. In fact, the only thing we’d add to this impressive package is a set of spotlights for night driving in remote locations. But then again, the car’s HID headlamps do a stellar job all by themselves.
Driving the Shogun down to the battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, where the local introduction to the media took place, I struggled to think of a reason why anyone would buy it but, luckily, Mitsubishi went out of their way to ensure that we tested the vehicle properly. When the road stops, the Shogun starts making sense. The standard car was already exceptional off-road, and the additional features have made it a lot better.
I drove on terrain that would have left any owner of a standard 4×4 feeling as nervous as a pigeon at an airport. The engine, which had been slightly sluggish on the highway, suddenly felt perfect for its application. The dated mechanicals were welcome, because I knew they would work and, more importantly, that they would survive.
I drove the Shogun over rocks, tricky axle twisters and steep inclines, and was then greeted by the main event of our off-road journey – a ridiculously steep and soft incline with a few deep holes thrown in for good measure.
On the left, there was a steep rock face that would give you a one-way ticket to the battlefields, around 500m below. My wife, who had accompanied me and had never done this kind of thing before, was sweating bullets, but the Shogun powered up there at the first attempt. It’s tough as nails.
This, then, is a car for enthusiasts. Only people with mud running through their veins need apply. It comes equipped with everything you need for an epic adventure, at a retail price that’s a lot less than those of its competitors.
At R515 000, the Shogun is a massive bargain and I’d suggest that anyone who loves the great outdoors should have a close look at it. – Gerhard Horn