Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2015 Mitsubishi Pajero VRX.
The Mitsubishi Pajero has long been esteemed in off-road motoring circles because it has frequently been a front-runner in its segment by offering features like monocoque construction, independent rear suspension and direct-injection diesel power.
Now competing with newer and much fresher rivals, the 2015 Mitsubishi Pajero is clearly a decade old. Yet the current Pajero – an update of an update – remains a handsome machine; and that’s arguably more than can be said of some of its competitors.
In 2015, everything inside the Mitsubishi Pajero is beginning to look and feel dated. Dot matrix-style graphics for the trip computer display being a case in point; the satin-finish acrylic for the gear-shift plinth being another.
Paw prints on the MMCS infotainment touch screen detract from the ambiance, as do the drab trim materials that catch and highlight dust and dirt to deliver that ‘much loved’ patina straight out of the showroom.
The old style ignition lock barrel is doubly out of place in a vehicle costing over $60,000 – when the top-selling competitor is only $200 more and comes with keyless starting. And there’s still no reach adjustment for the wheel…
Climbing inside may pose a challenge for those under 180cm tall, due to the Pajero’s ride height, but at least the VRX comes with standard side steps. There are also grab handles for each of the four doors to aid entry.
Front seats need more side bolstering, but in VRX trim there’s electric adjustment for both the driver and passenger alongside. Rear-seat accommodation provides abundant knee room for adults, but there’s little space under the front seats to poke your toes and stretch out a bit.
A third zone for the climate control system services the rear seat occupants via vents in the headlining. Parents in the front can disable the rear zone if the kiddies are playing up and turning the Pajero into a sauna.
From a driving perspective the Pajero in VRX form is virtually identical to its previous model. The monocoque platform remains generally tight and free of creaks and groans, but some potholes and bumps will evoke rattles and squeaks from the fittings inside.
Ride comfort is fine over smaller irregularities and the test vehicle proved to be impressively quiet on country roads.
Cornering ability on sealed surfaces is safe rather than exceptional, but the Pajero’s commendable turning circle allows it to thread its way through side streets and back lanes with the same or greater ease than some mid-sized passenger sedans.
While the steering was well weighted, it was also rather low geared, which means you will find yourself hauling on the wheel more than in other cars. Parking sensors and a reversing camera fitted made light work of backing and parking, given the Pajero’s generous proportions.
In the suburbs and on a daily commute the Pajero averages above 12.0L/100km, according to the on-board trip computer. It will do better spending more time on the open road of course, with the Pajero consuming as little as a claimed 8.0L/100km or less at a steady speed of 100km/h.
NVH is acceptable for a diesel SUV; there’s the normal cold-starting rattle from the engine – which does settle down once it reaches normal operating temperature. But the engine is reasonably refined and doesn’t labour at sub-1500rpm speeds.
The power and torque of the Pajero is welcome whether negotiating slopes or towing heavy payloads.
Traction is only as good, however, as the road-going tyres allow. Nevertheless, the Pajero will actually move off half-way up a steep climb with one wheel off the deck – so it’s a capable vehicle in the rough stuff. That is due in part to the rear diff lock, which is standard across the current Pajero range.
The Pajero lacks hill descent control for the road back down, and that’s a significant shortcoming up against its opposition from Toyota.
There’s reasonable engine braking from the Pajero’s diesel and Aisin five-speed auto combination, but many will feel safer with Prado’s ‘feet-off’ system on steeper descents.
Wheel articulation is hampered by the independent suspension front and rear, but the Pajero can overcome a lot of obstacles without grounding or grazing front, rear or in between.
That tight turning circle is also handy in the bush as well, although naturally the Pajero is less manoeuvrable with diffs locked and front wheels driven.
As an off-roader and tow vehicle fit also for the city the Pajero straddles that gap between the hard-core wagons and the high-riding people movers that pass for SUVs.
Perhaps its successor won’t find that same balance. The current Pajero may not be the latest and greatest offering, but the aging Pajero still has some tricks up its sleeve.
NUTS and BOLTS - 2015 Mitsubishi Pajero VRX
Engine: 3.2 litre turbo-diesel producing 147kW and 441Nm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $50,990