Two-thousand-and-twenty has been the year that has given me the keys to a long-term car, and then we went into lockdown and weren’t allowed to move for ages. Then I got a wild Porsche and this only brought the rain, and now I get given Mitsubishi’s new, go anywhere 4×4, Pajero Sport Exceed, and the only off-road driving I could tackle with it were a bunch of dirt roads.
However, at least Mitsubishi Motors South Africa have had somewhat of a better run of it, with the likes of the Eclipse Cross and Triton contributing to September’s sales numbers showing an increase for the third month in a row compared to pre-Covid numbers. A feat that was helped by this new range topping Exceed, joining the existing 4×2 and 4×4 Pajero Sport derivatives.
The first thing you cannot help but notice is the very distinctive frontend styling of the Pajero Sport. Mitsubishi call it their new Dynamic Shield front grille. Call it what you want though, you certainly won’t mistake it for any rival SUV on the road. I liked it. If you going to go big, you might as well go bold too!
Climbing inside you will immediately notice the illusion of lots of space, soft padded door, and knee trim, and lots of leather from the steering wheel to the seven-seats. And then when you punch the start button you will notice the new, highly configurable eight-inch instrument cluster in front of you. I only use the word illusion, because although the Pajero Sport offers what is lots of space, it is by no means class leading with the rear five seats up or down. I had to still remove the front wheel from my mountain bike to load it.
I then sort of misjudged the travel distance and time versus the start time of a mountain bike race I was attending on the weekend I had the Pajero Sport. In my mind it was an event just off the highway this side of Vanderbijlpark. Wrong. When I actually paid attention to the directions, I realised that the venue was properly on the Southern side of Parys, which is on the Southern side of Vanderbijlpark, which is far from my house on the East. Parys is a beautiful little town I might add.
All of this leads to the tried and tested, 133 kW/430 Nm 2.4-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel running through a smooth easy shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, of the Pajero Sport, being more than up for the task of covering long distances quickly. As a side note, driven briskly on the open road and more sedately in urban areas, I achieved a very decent 9.0L/100km fuel consumption.
That part of the world also has some stunning dirt roads running up and down the hills to the Vaal River and back up again. And as I mentioned at the beginning, my only off-road excursions were travelling on these dirt roads. It was a massive waste of the Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD-II system which I have no doubt will go anywhere Dakar-style thanks to the selectable Off-Road Modes (Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand or Rock) that maximises traction on and across these various surfaces by optimising engine output, transmission settings and braking.
Of course, those beautiful dirt roads that went up and down just happened to form a big part of my race route. I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much the second time around compared to when I drove them inside an airconditioned luxury SUV that I didn’t have to pedal to make it move. But at least the task of loading my bike in the back, with all the rear seats down, was made a little bit easier by the new electric tailgate with hands free access and ”kick points” under the bumper to open the rear door.
Just as I would expect a Mitsubishi family to appreciate the off-road capability of a Pajero, I would expect them and anybody else to appreciate the standard design features that include Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body construction, seven-airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors, active stability and traction control, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution and an emergency brake assist system.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed, slots in between Ford’s Everest and Toyota’s Fortuner, and should really be on your final shopping list, if not right at the top of it The Exceed retails for R689 995 and comes with a three year/100 000 km warranty and a five year/90 000 km service plan.
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