The arrival of an all-new SUV should be a free kick for Mitsubishi in Australia. It has always done well with four-wheel drives and the latest Challenger, just off the boat, should be a serious threat to anything in the running with serious off-road credentials. But that is two 'shoulds' with no certainty. The new Challenger looks tough, and it is well equipped with plenty of gear and five or seven seats, and yet ...
After driving the latest Toyota Prado, even though it sits a long way up from the Mitsubishi on price, the Challenger does not rate as highly as I expect. And there is something about the lack of refinement in the on-road package, and the lack of go from the turbodiesel engine. . .
Still, Mitsubishi Australia is selling the new Challenger against the Nissan Navara, the Holden Captiva, and even the Ford Territory, and so its off-road and towing power will be a significant drawcard. It is priced from $44,990 with five seats, or $48,890 with a third-row bench, and Mitsubishi has decided to go all-diesel on the engine front with automatics on everything beyond the basic LS model. Moving up through the line-up brings everything from leather seats and giant alloys to a reversing camera.
The Challenger is actually a comeback car in Australia, as an earlier model was sold from 1998 and 2006. It now drops back in below the Pajero and above the Outlander wagon. The previous model was all about off-road work but Mitsubishi says things have changed with the new one.
“Owners of the previous model Challenger prized the vehicle for its real-world four-wheel drive ability, rather than its on-road comfort. When it came to designing the new model, the clear intent was for the design to offer the best of both worlds – and we think we’ve nailed it,” says Rob McEniry boss of Mitsubishi in Australia. “This vehicle is completely new in every aspect and drives like a dream, both on- and off-road.”
Engine and equipment
The Challenger takes a traditional approach to four-wheel drive work, with a body sitting on a ladder frame. It's suspension has wishbones at the front with coil springs in the rear and stabiliser bars to control roll. There is, of course, a set of low-range crawler gears.
The 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine makes 131 kiloWatts with 400 Newton-metres of torque, with a claimed fuel economy as good as 8.3L/100km and a tow rating of 2500 kilograms. The Challenger has a basic LS specification that still includes six airbags and ESP stability control.
Driving -- Paul Gover
It's no surprise when Mitsubishi drops a fully-loaded Challenger XLS seven-seater into the Carsguide garage, still wearing battle scratches from a serious off-road drive at the Australian press preview. It looks tough in basic black with side steps and big allows, and a lot nicer than the latest Prado.
But then I turn the key. And the diesel engine is much noisier than I expect, both from Mitsubishi and from 2010. It is also lacklustre on the long climb away from home and the steering is vague, with far too many turns of the sporty little wheel. I'm hoping for better as I spend more time with the Challenger.
Things definitely get better when we load the seven seats, and explore the luggage space - with the third row up and down - and the Challenger feels it can easily handle the worst of Australian roads and bush tracks. It's a serious off-roader and you can feel it, even around the 'burbs.
But I do not like the shapeless seats, or the too-high driving position, and I can never feel comfortable with the effort needed to get the engine to go. It is a disappointment for day-to-day commuter use, even with the automatic gearbox. I do like the final finishing, and the design of the dash and cabin, and to know that I could easily go towing or head out into the bush. But I spend almost all my time in day-to-day family work and I can think of plenty of other SUVs I would pick ahead of the Challenger for my needs.
I know it will be great for off-road work, and is a great saving on a Pajero or Prado, but the Ford Territory is just as big and nicer for commuting and, provided you don't need to tow and only drive on gravel roads, something like the Toyota Kluger would be more relaxing and easier living.
She says - with Alison Ward
The Mitsubishi Challenger is just that - a challenge to drive. I find the steering, handling and overall performance a bit sluggish and heavy.
In fact, the steering is like driving a barge, except barges I have handled on the water are better. And the engine is as noisy and rattly as the Toyota HiLux I remember from long family trips in the 1980s.
Even the rear-vision mirror wobbles in time with the engine, which is something new for me on a test car in 2010. On a positive note, the Challenger is great in the back seats with plenty of storage compartments for extras like shopping. The boot is a great size and could fit plenty even with the rear row seats being used, the reversing camera is big and clear, and the leather trim in the test car is well finished.
The Challenger looks good, too. Nice and grunty, without being too futuristic.
I like seven seats, with the last row being reasonably comfortable with own air-con vents and cupholders, as well as six airbags, so its a good attempt by Mitsubishi but one that I don't think challenges its rivals enough.
The Bottom Line: Looks tough, too tough to drive.
Price: From $44,490
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel
Power: 131kW at 4000 revs
Torque: 400Nm at 2000 revs
Transmission: Five-speed manual (five-speed automatic)
Body: Five-door wagon
Seats: Five or Seven
Dimensions: Length 4695mm, Width 1815mm, Height 1840mm, Wheelbase 2800mm, tracks front/rear 1520mm/1515mm
Steering: Power assisted rack and pinion power steering
Suspension: Independent double wishbone coil spring and stabiliser bar front; Independant three-link coil spring and stabiliser bar, rear
Fuel Tank: 70 litres
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Consumption: 8.3/100km combined (9.8 litres/100km combined auto)
Spare Tyre: Full-size alloy spare
Brakes: Anti-skid all-round discs
Wheels: 17-inch alloys
Tyres: 265/65 R17
Safety Gear: Super Select AWD, dual front, side, curtain airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-skid brakes, brake assist, front seatbelt pretensioners
CO2 Emission: N/A
Toyota Kluger 3.5 KX-R: 80/100 (from $45,990)
Nissan Pathfinder 2.5 ST TD: 76/100 (from $48,490)
Ford Territory AWD: 74/100 (from $44,490)
Jeep Cherokee 2.8 Sport TD: 72/100 (from $44,490)