At last: after living with the lumpen lines of previous Pajeros, the latest iteration of the large wagon from Mitsubishi has taken up looks more in character with that of a true sports utility vehicle.
While Mitsubishi says the Pajero Sport is the most technically advanced off-roader it has produced, it is the all-round look of the company's new Dynamic Shield styling theme that is the most striking feature.
The Pajero Sport comes in three highly-specified versions – GLX, GLS and Exceed – starting at a competitive entry-level price of $45,000. Powered by the Triton's 2.4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel engine, coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the GLX, in true off-roader style, is fitted with the Super Select II 4WD system and Off-road Terrain Control System.
The GLS, at $48,500, takes on added comfort and convenience features such as dual-zone air-conditioning, leather interior, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps and electro-chromatic rear view mirror. Mitsubishi's five-year warranty and fixed-price servicing apply to the new wagon.
I took advantage of the range-topping Exceed ($52,750), which goes the full Monty with the latest active safety measures and luxuries including heated front seats with power adjustment, rear DVD entertainment system and eight-speaker audio.
The word 'striking' does not do the Pajero Sport exterior justice. Based on Challenger architecture, it's a big wagon (almost five metres long) with sleek lines that make it look as if it is built for speed.
In profile, Pajero Sport carries a crease running through the front guard and rear quarter panel and taillight. Integrated roof rails, side sill garnish and side step reinforce the bold SUV image and modern design 18-inch alloy wheels have premium quality written all over them.
Up front is Mitsubishi's new Dynamic Shield styling theme – bumpers that wrap around the front from the left and right guards and are bordered by a bright silver garnish.
Chrome-trimmed grille bars run from the three-diamond Mitsubishi badge into the headlight accents, giving the Pajero Sport the latest front fascia design.
Talk about 'bright lights, big city', day or night the Pajero Sports announces its arrival with a front lighting set-up consisting of LED headlights dominated by super-hero size DRLs. Scary!
On a practical note, extensive wind-tunnel testing and computer modelling have produced a best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.04 Cd, while the smart front-end design dramatically decreases water splash over the windscreen when driving through water.
The sporty feel is repeated in the passenger cabin with a Mitsubishi-first electric park brake and lofty centre console that wraps around occupants of the front seats which have been given extra padding for comfort, especially on longer journeys.
Adding to Pajero Sport's comfort and convenience is keyless entry with push button start across the range, along with upgraded Electronic Time and Control System with a number of fully customisable functions including welcome light, coming home light and headlight auto off. Dusk sensing headlamps can also be adjusted to increase or decrease the sensitivity of operation.
Smartphones can be linked to the display audio system for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; there's a digital audio broadcast radio playing through eight speakers.
Phones can be stored in the centre arm rest console located near USB and HDMI ports, passengers in the back can take advantage of a roof-mounted entertainment DVD system.
A rear view camera has well defined multi-colour guidelines and Exceed makes use of a multi-around view monitor. However, one glaring omission is satellite navigation as a standard feature.
Engines / Transmissions
The 4N15 2.4-litre four-cylinder MIVEC intercooled turbo-diesel engine with common-rail fuel injection meets Euro 5 emission standards. Power is 133kW at 3500rpm and torque 430Nm at 2500 revs.
The low compression ratio of 15.5 to1 reduces friction and emissions, MIVEC variable valve timing improves power, while offset crank reduces friction and improves fuel economy.
The variable-geometry turbocharger is compact with reduced inertia moment and smaller turbine for quicker response across the rev range. An electronic throttle has been introduced for improved response.
The Aisin electronically controlled close ratio eight-speed has increased gear ratio spread by 36 per cent, an expanded torque converter lock-up range with slip lock-up feature.
Uphill control comes into operation when driving up an incline or towing a trailer. A unique shift map selects the best gears for maximum vehicle progression; downhill control uses lower gears to support deceleration via engine braking.
Throttle release control has upshifting temporarily abandoned when the accelerator pedal is released to provide engine braking and engine response once the pedal is re-applied.
A five-star ANCAP safety rating is the result of enhanced front-end energy absorbing structures for pedestrian injury protection, seven airbags, the front with pre-tensioners and force limiters.
Active safety features include forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning, active stability and traction control, hill descent control, trailer stability assist, hill start assist and emergency stop signal.
Finally, ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation decreases the chance and severity of hitting obstacles when the driver mistakenly presses the accelerator with the vehicle at rest or at speeds of up to 10km/h. Ultrasonic sensors detect obstructions in front of or behind the vehicle and regulate engine power while emitting an audible warning.
Looking the part is only half the battle, and the Pajero Sport Exceed backs up its sporty appearance with performance to match from the four-pot turbodiesel. It's quiet too.
Engineers have redesigned suspension geometry and upgraded suspension components to give Pajero Sport sharper handling and a compliant ride. There's a hint of body roll on fast bends.
Larger two-piston caliper ventilated discs all round pull up the heavyweight without complaining.
Our test Pajero consumed 6.7L/100km of fuel at motorway speeds and up to 15L/100km trotting around town. Mitsubishi claims 8.0L/100 km on the combined city / country cycle with 212 grams of carbon dioxide emitted over the same distance.
Steering wheel paddle shifts give the driver a chance to play with the Pajero, serves up enough power and torque to get the weighty wagon off the mark quickly and have enough on hand to accelerate to overtaking speeds with ease.
However, in one sense the Exceed takes sports car characteristics a little too far. On the outside, what appears to be an expansive rear window (1200 mm) runs across nearly the full width of the vehicle, while from the inside the aperture is blocked off to a weedy (870 mm) 'letterbox', substantially limiting the driver's rear view.
Pulling power is enough to hook up a 3.1-tonne braked trailer load behind and cargo capacity varies from 673 litres with the rear seat backs up to 1624 litres with them folded.
All Pajero Sport models incorporate Super Select II four-wheel drive with dial-up 2H, 4H, 4HLc and 4LLc. Terrain off-road modes – gravel, mud / snow, sand, and rock - likewise can be selected. For horror stretches the GLS and Exceed can call on a rear differential lock.