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Mitsubishi Challenger review

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    The Mitsubishi Challenger 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. Photo Gallery

Paul Gover and Alison Ward road test and review the 2010 Mitsubishi Challenger.

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 ...

Price

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.

History

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.

Score 70/100

The Bottom Line: Looks tough, too tough to drive.

MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER

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)
Weight:
2041kg
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

RIVALS

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)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 20 comments

  • I have a 2011 Challenger and I have had it at back at the workshop 3 times now due to blowing black smoke.  I mean black smoke that you can’t see the car behind you, and people pull up beside you and tell you!!  I love this car but I am not happy about the smoke!!  They know there is something wrong and have done some “tests” on it and are awaiting news back from Mitsubishi.  Fingers crossed it its all good.  The last thing someone wants is to buy a new car, have problems with it, and go through the stress of getting it sorted.

    Patti Nahrung of Townsville Posted on 23 August 2013 2:39pm
  • I have a 2011 base model and cannot understand what all the fuss is with the “noise ” ? My father has an 05 cruiser and even he reckons its noisier than my challenger , by the way I agree . I towed a 16 foot van around NSW for a month and could not be happier with the cars performance .As far as being for a daily drive , which mine is , it performs brilliantly . I am not afraid to give it a bit of stick and as everybody has stated when its in second it goes . One safety thing I especially like is throwing it into 4WD when the roads are wet , even on the freeway at 100ks .I have taken it offroad a bit and for what I have done it has been flawless . Highly recommended , especially for the price .

    Wayne of Central Coast Posted on 14 July 2013 6:04pm
  • I have a 2010 Challenger that at around 95000 klms started to blow black smoke.It has a flat spot when accelerating and bellows black smoke when held in this position.Been back to the dealership four times now and they can’t find the problem.At my wits end with this car and will not buy another Challenger when the lease runs out on this one.

    Brian Parkinson of Newcastle Posted on 28 April 2013 12:49am
  • I have had mine for 18 months now, the engine was very hard work to start off with, that changed at about 7000kms when the engine picked up a bit of go, albeit relative. Sounded like a bucket of nails when cold but was quiet when warmed up, that changed back to noisy at all times until the first major service when the valve clearances were done. It’s very hard to drive, I feel like I’m thrashing it to get it to go anywhere and there is an unpredictable and severe throttle delay or turbo lag, not a great engine. The fuel economy was on the money at about 8.8L/100k on a run and 12L/100k around town, that has now dropped to about 14 around town and 12 on a run. It now also blows a huge black cloud of soot or smoke at the slightest hill, not bad for 45,000kms. Like the car, shape and carrying capacity but just hate the engine and drive, it’s hard work. Can’t wait for the lease to run out and dump it, in fact I might have to just pay it off to get rid of it.

    Steve Smith of Melbourne Posted on 24 February 2013 8:55am
  • Had mine for a year, sluggish as hell to start but at 7000ks the engine picked up a bit of speed, albeit relative. The engine was the noisiest too but the major service took care of that with the valve clearances adjusted. Still it’s a tank with the performance to boot, still sluggish with a throttle delay and / or turbo lag, it allways feels like your thrashing it to go anywhere. The fuel consumption was on the money at about 8.8L/100k on a run and 12 around town but recently (now done 45,000kms) has deteriorated to 10 or 11L/100k on a run and 15 around town. It has also started to blow thick black clouds at the slightest provocation. Looks like I bought the ringer. Hate the car, hard work to drive, can’t wait for the lease to run out and then dump it.

    Steve Smith of Melbourne Posted on 24 February 2013 8:41am
  • I’ve had my Challenger for just over a year. It is a brilliant car and I’d recommend it without hesitation. The ride is high and this is a real off roader although mine has had little of that. The automatic sports gearbox is great. It’s noisier than a petrol engine but I love the sound mine makes. Fuel economy is very good with 8.0 lites/100k on a motorway run and 10 litres/100k around town. Price was very competitive too.

    Paul of Wynnum 4178 Qld Posted on 20 September 2011 12:39am
  • Don’t know what car your two reviewers drove, but it certainly wasn’t my Challenger.  Rather than being difficul to drive, both my wife and I find it very easy.  She in particular loves the driving position.  We went to the Challenger for its towing capacity when upgrading our caravan.  Previously we had a Subaru Forrester (which we loved) and have had a range of other sedans and 4WDs, including a V8 Falcon, Dubaru Liberty, Toyota Avalon and Camry and a few others.  For what it is we find the Challenger among the best we have had.  We have done nearly 40k km in about 18 months and some of that (quite a bit) has been towing a caravan.  Apart from the fuel economy not being as claimed by Mitsubishi (it’s not too bad though) we have not been able to fault our Challenger.  It is going to stay with us for many years to come.

    Lennie Guilbeaux of Brisbane Posted on 07 July 2011 7:05pm
  • I bought the 2010 Challenger. I have taken this up Rainbow Beach, Tow at 1 t boat and use it every day to drive the wife and kids to work. Steering is impressive for a vehicle of size. Handling is not a problem as it is used around the city every day. The engine has had a software upgrade to reduce noise level (recall from Mitsubishi).The safety features offered as standard was the big selling point. The review neglects to mention the rear diff lock. None of the vehicles in the other classes have this function. Great for pulling a trailer up the beach in soft sand. I have no issue in recommending the vehicle to anyone.A very versatile vehicle and well priced.

    Dale from Brisbane of Brisbane Posted on 12 June 2011 11:18am
  • I have got the top of the range xls. It’s the my11 and i think it is fantastic for the money. Off road, I have pulled out 3 Prados, a Patrol and a Cruiser. The mirrors on mine don’t shake and the engine is good once it warms up. The only thing wrong is it’s a little slow off the mark but, once it hits second, it’s off! The steering has too many turns but it is easy to park and a great turning circle. Over all I’m very happy and think it’s a great car. I would recommend it to any one.

    paul Posted on 22 May 2011 7:02pm
  • I currently have a 1998 Challenger which is still going strong. My husband and I have taken it off road many times and it has also performed as well as any of our friends Prados or Patrols. At many Avon Descent River Races in freezing temps we even comfortably slept in the car with the back seats completely folded down, front seat pushed forward, with legs outstretched. (husband 181 cm) The only complaint is even the older model had a little too much give in the steering wheel. Now with 3 kids under 4 we are after a newer vehicle with at least three rows of seats (separate the kids more) and we are looking at the new Challenger. The jeep cherokee is too small, the prado is much much more expensive and the territory just doesnt have the ground clearance. I think we could become the poster family for mitsubishi challenger with two parked in the driveway!!

    dallis of albany Posted on 07 April 2011 12:03am
  • People who review 4 wheel drives of this calibre and whinge about their suburbability should relinquish the idea that they ought to be able to serve as shopping trolleys and kid taxis - you either use it for its real intended purpose in the first instance and put everything else second or get yourself something which is designed for urban living and lifestyle.  You don’t need a real offroader to climb kerbs and park on the lawn. As for engine noise, it is a prime means by which you get feedback from what’s happening under the bonnet in front of you.  To me there is nothing sweeter than the purr of a warm diesel as you are chewing up the country miles or the messages it gives you when you are putting it through its paces on a challenging track somewhere far away from the maddening crowds and congestion of the city.

    Anthony Posted on 11 February 2011 2:14pm
  • I have heard that servicing the deisel engine is very expensive and that they have been having problems with the engine is this true as i am looking to buy one but am now not sure after talking to some mechanics
    Thanks

    Dave of Mid North Coast Posted on 10 January 2011 1:07pm
  • I bought my Challenger 5 months ago and have already clocked up 15000 ks. Yes I agree the DID 2.5 motor is a bit noisy when cold but once warm purrs along very nicely. A great wagon to drive in the rough and I love the AWD feature on the fly in greasy conditions while on the blacktop. Big side mirrors are a very welcome bonus. Awesome fuel economy compared to a petrol engine. LOVE THAT CAR!

    Brent of Brisbane Posted on 05 December 2010 4:50pm
  • This is the first diesel I have owned and I must say I am actually impressed with how quiet the whole ride is. I was expecting much worse. My wife loves it too. I drive regularly thru Sydney CBD and have to use underground car parks and have not had a issue once - very easy to drive. Ive only had it for a month and heading out in the next few weeks off road so cant wait for that as i suspect it will perform flawlessly. Great car for the price and its intended use.

    Andy of Sydney Posted on 25 May 2010 1:36pm
  • Can only concur with the above comments.
    I have done nearly 9000 k’s in the new Challenger and could not be happier with the vehicle.
    In 4WD territory you don’t want pin sharp steering or you would be winding the wheel constantly.
    The diesel is noisy on start up but so is the Prado and any of the other competitors, once warmed up it is just as quiet as the competition, based on sitting next to other vehicles at the traffic lights. My wife has commented on how quiet the vehicle is and her daily drive is a Liberty B Spec flat 6 which is a nice quiet car.
    As to how it drives, we had a 06 Prado diesel previously and can only say the Challenger is a better drive in all conditions,with more room in the rear seats and back.
    These are my comments only as I don’t have to keep certain Manufacturers happy with feel good comments on their vehicles to keep getting vehicles to “test drive”.

    Steve of Brisbane of QLD Posted on 21 April 2010 2:05pm
  • Is this the first review these guys have done, what an absolute load of crap. I have been driving the new Challenger for a couple of weeks now and it is NOT difficult to drive. Has Alison ever driven a big car before? The mirror does not wobble, and it is not even comparable to a Kluger or territory. The engine is louder than a petrol yes, but considering its a diesel its not that bad.

    Bert Posted on 20 April 2010 10:11pm
  • Ive just clocked up 1500 ks on my Challenger and i can say that at first, the steering feels a bit slow, but you get used to it. And it is a bit sluggish to drive, the again, it ways 2 tonnes and only develops 131 kws, what do you expect Porsche performance.  At the end of the day I like the beast and i cant wait to start touring this fantastic country with it.

    john roe of south coast Posted on 20 April 2010 9:08pm
  • have done 2700km in new my Challenger,  whent bush and it chewed my mates prado in the hard sections, so it is a bit rough aroung the edgesbut this is not a moms taxi, this car is smart enough at the ball and is a ball in the bush. Remembering that this is a proper 4x4 ute in a pretty dress, it eats my work hilux D4-D in every aspect.

    Murray of Mildura Posted on 17 April 2010 12:53am
  • I agree with CarlMc please help us out by suggesting a better Auto 4wd with low range and of the same compact size and price.  Are the Jeep & pathfinder really that much better?  I recall you saying the jeep was a pretty ordinary drive… and the pathfinder is much more expensive…

    Paul Filter of Sydney Posted on 30 March 2010 1:29pm
  • Hi Paul,

    Just wondering, what other SUV’s would you pick over a 4WD.
    As far as I have read, there are only 3 makes, Suzuki 4WD, Forester 4WD and Challenger 4WD, all the rest do not have a first gear-low and are either AWD or on demand 4WD.

    To me a 4WD must have a low gear anything else is just a SUV.

    CarlMc of Taree Hinterland Posted on 29 March 2010 10:04pm
Read all 20 comments

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