According to Overlander Magazine, the Mitsubishi Triton has what it takes to be a game changer in the 4WD market. Photo Gallery
The Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R has taken out first place in the Overlander 4WD of the Year Awards.
Mitsubishi's Triton took the prize because of its then newly introduced 'Super Select' 4WD system, effectively a full-time 4WD system that gives the driver the option of using high-range 2WD.
The new ML model, at least in GLX-R spec as tested here, carries over this 'category-busting' feature but what is more significant is the availability of electronic stability and traction control, and side and curtain airbags on all Triton 4WD dual cabs. This is another category buster and the GLX-R gets both as standard.
Set-piece hill climb/test track
Despite all their technical advantages, the Triton comes close to matching the two Prados on the most difficult of the set-piece climbs. Like the Prados it hangs up on its rear diff housing, but a little earlier than they do.
The GLX-R (and the lower spec GL-R, but not the GLX) has what Mitsubishi calls Sports suspension. The result is a more comfortable ride than what you except for a ute on rough and rocky trails. It's not Prado comfortable but it's good.
With the benefit of full-time 4WD and stability control, the Triton tackles loose gravel roads with far more confidence than normal for this class of vehicle. The only glitch here is that the steering is little vague and a tad on the slow side, and the front suspension feels too underdamped at higher speeds. The Triton is okay in the very soft sand of our test venue but needs low range and the stability control cancelled to give its best.
The Triton has side and curtain airbags as well as the usual driver and passenger airbags. Add in three lap/sash belts and three headrests for rear seat passengers and you have the pinnacle of dual-cab safety.
The Triton wins this contest on the grounds that anyone who wishes to purchase a dual-cab ute rather than a 4WD wagon for wide-spectrum use including recreational four-wheel driving no longer has to compromise on safety as was the case previously. This new Triton has what it takes to be a game changer in the 4WD market.
2nd place: Toyota LandCruiser Prado 150 Series D-4D
Toyota's 3.0-litre D-4D four-cylinder diesel, introduced in 2006 and good enough to win our 4WDOTY award that year in the Prado 120, is carried over largely unchanged to the new 150. Despite new injectors, and moving the intercooler to front-mount rather than top-mount, the maximum power and torque figures remain unchanged.
Set-piece hill climb/test track
As with the Prado V6, the deep wheel ruts of the hardest of our set-piece hill climbs are the D-4D's nemesis as its rear diff gets caught up. It does about as well as the Prado V6, and better than the Triton but not as well as the two LRs. Even the rear locker doesn't help…
Thanks to its supple KDSS-enhanced suspension and torquey turbo diesel, the 150 diesel is unfussed on the steep high-country trails. Yes, better vision would be welcome and the Toyota's five-speed auto isn't as smart as the ZF unit in the D4 and the RRS but these aren't really problems, more observations.
With the extra weight of the bigger and better equipped 150 to deal with, the carried-over 127kW D-4D diesel is asked to do a lot on the open road. Somewhat surprisingly it rarely feels underpowered even if it suffers on the long hills and doesn't overtake with any great authority. The D-4D steers and handles well enough at highway speeds given its supple ride.
The diesel 150 Kakadu has an identical interior to the V6. It's comfortable, roomy and versatile and seats seven. Good safety too with seven airbags but, like the Kakadu V6, the layout of the switchgear is confused and confusing.
Plenty of practical features here including room for a second battery under the bonnet but as with the 120 the 2500kg tow rating is now below class standards.
The 150 D-4D did very little wrong on our extended test and most things very well. More power for more arduous driving on the open road would be welcome but otherwise there's very little to dislike about the diesel Prado.
3rd place: Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 3.0L
The new Discovery 4 takes its place in the 4WDOTY final five thanks almost exclusively to its new 180kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel (but you could be pedantic and say it's not really a 'twin-turbo' as the two turbos aren't twins at all). Changes have also been made to the suspension via stiffer roll-bars, the steering and the brakes are now bigger on all but the budget 2.7-litre TDV6 model. The D4 also gets a new interior, a revised exterior look and revisions to the 'Terrain Response' system.
Set-piece hill climb/test track
The Discovery 4 makes a better fist of the most difficult of our set-piece hill climbs than any of the vehicles thanks to the fact that, like the RRS but unlike the two Prados and the Triton, there's no live-axle diff housing to get hung up on the tall centre ridge that exists between the deep wheel ruts.
The 3.0-litre TDV6's big brakes need big wheels for clearance, 19s being the smallest diameter that can be fitted. These carry slightly taller tyres (255/55) than the Range Rover Sport (255/50) but, like the Sport, still prove puncture and damage prone on the rocky and sometimes tree-branch strewn high-country tracks.
The full benefit of the new 3.0L TDV6 was felt on the open road where even pushing the considerable mass of the D4 it feels strong and effortless with the modest overtaking response of the 2.7 TDV6 a thing of the past.
The D4 has a large, functional and intelligent cabin. It may look like a box-on-wheels look but the interior space and the capacity to seat seven adults in a comfortable and safe environment is highly impressive.
Like the RRS, the D4 has solid front and rear recovery hooks (hidden behind clip-off plastic covers), a full-size alloy spare that's mounted below the vehicle, a generous 3500kg towing capacity and a practical, horizontally split tailgate.
The D4 is a brilliant vehicle crippled in this contest by its 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres. That combination may be fine for general touring but it's not fine for 4WD touring.
For the full review of judging and detailed opinions, see the February issue of Overlander 4WD on sale Wednesday 27th January.