Long-term intro: Vivek’s 2010 Mitsubishi Pajero
Owning a four-wheel-drive is a dream for the majority of the population in the Middle East, particularly due to the excessive feeling of safety, the commanding view and availability of cheap gasoline. Sadly enough, barely a few realise the true potential of these vehicles, the result being these unfortunate four-wheel-drives living the life of a budget sedan. One such commonly-seen family SUV is the Mitsubishi Pajero, which also happens to be our new long-term hauler.
The 2010-model-year vehicle we bought for around Dhs 93,000 is a 3.5-litre medium-line variant, which positions itself right below the top-spec model. Mated to an ancient-yet-smooth 4-speed tiptronic transmission, the engine is a pre-historic non-MIVEC unit churning out a measly 189 hp at 4,750 rpm and a reasonable 306 Nm of torque at 3,750 rpm. Although it takes a leisurely 12.2 seconds for the Pajero to cross 100 kph, a vast chunk of torque available in the lower power band helps the truck to leap from standstill and hit 40 kph in a mere 2.9 seconds, making it a great off-roader too. The unrefined and gruff-sounding engine has been hushed up well through good use of sound-deadening materials, and only a non-intrusive wheeze is audible under hard throttle. Fuel efficiency is average as expected from the antique motor, with readings varying between an appalling 26.2 litres/100 km in slow-moving city traffic, a surprising 13.7 litres/100 km on highways and an average 15.3 l/100 km in combined conditions.
Standard features in the Pajero include power windows, electric-folding power mirrors, automatic a/c, separately-controlled rear a/c for second and third-row passengers, footwell lighting, 6-CD in-dash MP3 player, front driver and passenger airbags, and front fog lamps. Features including puddle lamps, roof-rails, rear spoiler, cruise control, steering wheel controls, cooler box, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a couple of extra speakers, differentiates it from the lower-mid and basic models. Finding a good driving position may be a hassle for some tall folks as the 8-way manually-adjustable driver’s seat does not offer much flexibility and there is no lumbar support, add to it a steering that is non-telescopic. Things are better in the top-spec model with a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and lumbar support. Sporting seats for seven, the Pajero has fully reclining and folding second-row seats, while the third row bench-type seats, which are adequate for a couple of frail not-very-tall pre-teens, are foldable and removable too.
Interior quality and fit-and-finish seems good even though hard plastics have been used everywhere except the top dash and upper door panels, which receives soft-touch materials. There is faux wood lining on the centre dash, extending all the way to the doors. Seats are fabric while the steering wheel, gearshift lever, transfer-case lever and the hand-brake lever are all leather-stitched.
The air-conditioner is a typical Japanese unit which freezes down the interior in no time, but suffers from frequent compressor cut-offs while idling in uncompromising outside heat. There are two 12-volt power outlets, one in the lower center-dash and the other in the boot. Cup-holders are present in the centre console, rear-seat centre armrests and even for third-row seat occupants. The cabin is generally silent with only wind noise creeping in after 110 kph. There is no hint of road noise until 140 kph.
The Pajero, sporting a monocoque design and independent suspension setup, behaves well on the tarmac with good road grip and mild-to-moderate body roll. Pulling off some quick moves, such as sharp lane changing and taking bends faster, does not unsettle the vehicle. However, it does tend to oversteer when taken beyond limits, and those limits are fairly high for an SUV anyway. The top-spec model features Active Stability Control to keep an eye on bad luck, though sensible drivers would not miss it. The power-assisted steering has mild feedback and the ride quality is slightly on the firmer side though road imperfections are soaked up well without affecting comfort. The automatic gearshifts are seamless and manual shifts are spot-on with no noticeable delay.
The sophisticated part-time four-wheel-drive transfer case in the Pajero come with four drive modes, namely two-wheel-drive, full-time all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive with centre differential locked, and finally, four-wheel-drive with centre differential locked and low-range gearing. A rear differential lock is reserved only for the top-spec variant. While barely managing to keep up with economy sub-compacts on the streets, the Pajero keeps up with most big players when it comes to off-tarmac entertainment, largely helped by vast amounts of low-end power. During our preliminary off-road tests in the desert, the Pajero surprised us by performing significantly better than the previous-generation Ford Explorer, while fiercely keeping up with the likes of the Toyota Fortuner V6. We’ll talk more on its off-road capabilities in the coming months.
The Mitsubishi Pajero has always been a favourite alternative to the ruling Japanese four-wheel-drives in the region. In UAE, awful dealer service-centre experiences and ridiculously-expensive spare parts afflicts its image; yet, the Pajero is very common on the streets solely due to lower buying costs and the trust the brand receives from the consumers for their rock-solid reliability. Coincidentally, this happens to be our second Mitsubishi as a long-term vehicle, alongside the Mitsubishi Galant. Our journey with the Pajero is going to be a roller-coaster one as it is destined to bash the dunes and wadis in the region besides wading through the morning traffic every weekday. To keep track of the excitement, watch out for our long-term updates on this one.