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Mitsubishi Challenger review

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    The Challenger hits the market at a starting list price of $44,490 for the LS five-speed manual. Add $2000 for the five-speed auto and a further $2400 for the auto with seven seats. Photo Gallery

The Challenger has returned to the market after a three-year absence, but stands apart from most in its mid-sized SUV category as a serious off-roader.

Challenger project manager Kazuhiro Notani described the new PB Challenger as an ‘all-round SUV’ with good performance in the city and bush, versatile accommodation for families and stylish looks.  He says it was developed for the growing SUV markets in Australia, Russia, South America, the Middle East and Asia where demand for large SUVs had decreased but small and medium SUVs were growing.

"Growth is higher in the serious off-roaders rather than in soft crossovers," he says.  "In Australia you need a serious SUV but it needs to be stylish, too.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL) CEO and president Robert McEniry says the Challenger fits between their Outlander and Pajero, but is not a soft crossover.  "It's not a pretend off-road vehicle like a lot of its competitors," he says.

"It has style and is an urban living vehicle but also a real 4WD vehicle."  Challenger product manager James Toll says the main rivals were the Ford Territory, Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder.  "It's not too big and not too small," he says.  "We see this car as breaking down the stereotypes of SUVs."

Variants and pricing

The Challenger hits the market at a starting list price of $44,490 for the LS five-speed manual. Add $2000 for the five-speed auto and a further $2400 for the auto with seven seats. 

The XLS range — available only in automatic — adds leather upholstery, satellite navigation, reverse camera and parking sensors, mud flaps, privacy glass, headlight washers, Bluetooth, upgraded sound system with video input, some exterior and interior bling and five-year premium roadside assistance.  The five-seater XLS costs $56,990 and the third row of seats adds $1600.

Drivetrain

While the previous model from 1998-2006 was powered by a three-litre V6 petrol engine, this one only comes with the 2.5-litre common-rail turbo diesel powerplant from the Triton.  It delivers 131kW of power and 400Nm of torque 2000rpm in the base model manual, but 350Nm of torque at 1800rpm in the four automatic models.


Platform and ability

Although it is built on a new platform, other similarities with the Triton are that it is also built in Thailand, and has the same front suspension, front chassis, transmission, rear axle and Super Select 4WD system.  Challenger has a lift-up tailgate rather than a swing door, which Tol says made it better for towing.

It also features a 2500kg braked towing capacity compared with the Triton's 3000kg, but Tol says that could be increased to 3000kg under warranty after further testing.  Off-road capabilities are enhanced by its ladder-frame chassis, Mitsubishi's Super Select 4WD system with a central diff and a push-button locakable rear diff with a 1.9 ratio low range, high clearance, massive wheel wells and good approach, departure and ramp breakover angles. High-range 4WD can be selected from 2WD at speeds up to 100km/h.

Design and fit-out

The exterior is stylish with a high waistline, narrow windows but good visibility, high-set headlights and taillights and flared guards. It sits high on its wheels, but this is well disguised by the high silhouette. It comes in eight colours.  Inside is equally stylish with a healthy range of features in the LS and a bounty of creature features in the XLS.

Seats are comfortable, head and shoulder room is good, and legroom is plentiful even in the third row which features a 50-50 split. Behind that there is still room for a couple of large old-fashioned suitcases with the spare tyre under the rear.

Seven-seater models also get rear airconditioning and under-floor storage compartments.  Standard safety features include six airbags, and stability and traction control.  Tol says there were no options, but a wide range of accessories.

Sales outlook

McEniry says dealer response to the Challenger had been "excellent".  "I'm confident we will have success with this model," he says. "The order lines are open and we have already exceeded our wildest expectations."

Tol says the LS would represent about 75-85 per cent of sales.  He says they could attract customers from Outlander moving up, Pajero owners downsizing or owners of large cars such as Falcon, Commodore and Mitsubishi's former 380 and Magna models.

Driving

To highlight its ‘serious’ off-road potential, the vehicle was launched in Queensland with demonstrations at the 290-hectare Scenic Rim Adventure Park, near Beaudesert.  The park features steep terrain, sandy loam soil, rock climbs and dramatic drop-offs.  The Challenger met all challenges with ease.

Surprisingly the Bridgestone Dueller H/T (highway terrain) tyres had plenty of grip even on the steep downhill loam sections, yet also remained quiet on the tar highway transport stages of the launch.   While the tyres were quiet and the wind noise low, the diesel powerplant groans loudly and coarsely under load and the automatic transmission accompanied it with vibration noises.

The auto box also flared and hunted a bit through its soft change points. It is better to ‘manually’ select the ratios in sport mode.  The manual transmission was quiet, but the shift gate is huge and the clutch throw is heavy and long.  Steering is quite sharp on the road, but turning circle is wide. The wheel is adjustable for height only, not reach.

Brakes are a bit spongy and lack bite for road conditions. They are more suited to off-road conditions where you don't want sudden response.
The ABS system changes its character when the vehicle is in high-range four-wheel drive and again when low range is selected.

Similarly, the stability control changes character, while traction control remains permanently on. The driver can manually switch off the stability control for mud and sand conditions.  On the tar it pitches and rolls as you would expect of a two-tonne SUV with a high stance.

However, ride is excellent. It is smooth over the roughest of terrain, soaking up the big bumps yet the springs rarely let it hit the bump stops.  It certainly fits Mitsubishi's description of a comfortable all-rounder with a serious side.

Mitsubishi PB Challenger

PRICES: $44,490-$$58,590
ENGINE: 2477cc, 4-cylinder, common-rail turbo diesel
POWER: 131kW @ 4000rpm
TORQUE: 350Nm @ 1800rpm (auto), 400Nm @ 2000rpm (LS manual)
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed auto, 5-speed manual (LS), Super Select 4WD, 1.9 low ratio
ECONOMY: 9.8L/100km (auto), 8.3L/100km (LS manual)
CO2 EMISSIONS: 259g/km (auto), 219g/km (LS manual)


RIVALS:

Ford Territory ($39,490-$66,420)
Toyota Kluger ($41,490-$66,490)
Nissan Pathfinder ($56,490-$63,240)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 15 comments

  • Looks like you are an expert in this field, you really got some great points there, thanks.

    - Robson

    rachat de credit of France Posted on 16 December 2010 9:09pm
  • Choice was between Kia Sorento and Challenger. Challenger won based on 4x4 ability, it’s not far behind the Prado in this sense and at $30k cheaper it’s a no brainer. These days you pay hugely for the Toyota name but people are catching on quickly. Have never looked back, I have the 7 seat XLS and it has been FANTASTIC.

    Dr PHIR of Melbourne Posted on 30 October 2010 12:45pm
  • I have often wonder why auto’s command an extra $2000 on every vehicle, and I mean ALL vehicles from Aston to Volvo but they are different manufacturers all generating/building their own transmissions to suit their own vehicles and sometimes others but there is no variation on the specs when building, like different metals, alloys, whatever

    but, they ALL cost just $2000 more, where is the competition, is there any vehicle with a price of $1800 or $2500, every SUV has an auto price of $2000, beats me.

    CarlMc of Taree Hinterland Posted on 19 March 2010 9:20pm
  • This fits the bill perfectly for us: Large enough for long haul driving on highways yet great off road as well and enough room to be comfortable for hours of driving and large cargo room. Fuel is good too compared to our other option, the Kluger. I can’t understand them not having a diesel option otherwise we’d have bought it - bad move Toyota! I can’t be the only person who wants to save money. And you can’t beat the 5/10 year warranty. No brainer for me.

    BM of Victoria Posted on 05 March 2010 12:55am
  • moms taxi (Murray of Mildura). When did we become the 51st state and adopt americanese? You have been watching too much American TV son.

    As for killing Ford and Toyota, I sprayed my gluten free muesli all over the keyboard when I read that one.

    Howard Posted on 17 February 2010 8:29pm
  • Just bought a LS manual.  7 seats? pffft. not a moms taxi.  In South Africa the challenger is know as the Pajero Sport and is spec’ed with the 3.2 diesel, why not here?  territory and Kluger are no match for this, the Toyota Fortuna in South Africa is it closest competition, this is going to kill the Ford and Toyota here in this cat.

    Murray of Mildura Posted on 15 February 2010 4:36pm
  • On one newspaper column… someone raised an inquiry how good the Mitsubishi Challenger would be. the writer replies ‘we CHALLENGE you to buy it!’ now buyer of the challenger should know at least what the writer mean.

    Doug of sydney Posted on 09 February 2010 12:10pm
  • how can they get away with calling it the challenger, since there was a dodge challenger from 1970 onwards? I realise there are other cars sharing same names, but this one bothers me a lot more since the dodge challenger was/is a legend of a car, now mitsubishi is putting the same name to a soccer mum’s suv.

    kaygas of melbourne Posted on 02 February 2010 5:06pm
  • I had a ‘99 Challenger and it was a capable and tough 4x4. This looks every bit as good, but maybe a 3.5 petrol option would benefit.
    Jampajimba, If you look at the options, a manual transmission is available. Want 7 seats? Buy a Pajero.

    Toruhiwi of Hawkesbury NSW Posted on 28 January 2010 7:27am
  • Yep I wondered why they didn’t drop a 3.2lt donk into it. Maybe the 2.5 is the best match?

    Blinky Bill of Bellingen Northern NSW Posted on 16 January 2010 8:36pm
  • More of a Prado & Patrol competitor.. not Kluger/Pathfinder.
    Territory doesn’t stand a chance.

    Boleh of VIC Posted on 02 January 2010 10:26am
  • LANKYLEE,Please look at the torque and Kilowatt outputs vs the 3.2l,its a modern engine and being a 4D56T with 16 valves will last forever like my 405000km 1990 Pajero which this is the latest version of,not a largely over complicated vehicle as the new Pajero is.raylynch

    raylynch of Longwood,VIC Posted on 28 December 2009 12:25pm
  • This is the wrong engine for Australia.  It is heavierthan the Triton and needs the 3.2 .

    Lankylee3 Posted on 27 December 2009 6:03am
  • Same here. Challenger appears to tick my key boxes except this one. Must be manual and must have 7 seats.

    Teck of NSW Posted on 17 December 2009 1:57pm
  • Unfortunately Mitsubishi fail with the manual LS, no 3rd row seat option.  This is standard on the Nissan Pathfinder base model ST manual.  I like the challenger but as someone who lives in regional SA i much prefer a manual vehicle to an auto.  It looks like Nissan are going to get my money again when I replace my Patrol next year.  Silly oversite by Mitsubishi,

    Jampajimba Posted on 12 December 2009 1:12pm
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