ROAD TEST: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Shogun

By: Jesse Adams

Johannesburg - Some people prefer things the old fashioned way. Audiophiles believe that vinyl records hold higher-fidelity sound than digital MP3s, bibliophiles would rather read books printed on actual paper and foodies often prefer the taste of meat cooked on an open fire.

Likewise, some off-road enthusiasts would rather tug on a mechanical transfer-case lever, than simply push a button to engage four-wheel drive.

If you think this road test intro is a nice way of saying that Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport is old fashioned, you’re right. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that its steering requires what seems like 25 turns lock-to-lock, or that the turbo whistles like a Peterbilt truck, or that the dash-top trip computer was designed in the dot-matrix printer era, because some folks might like it this way. But, if you drive this car back-to-back with more modern SUVs (I did with Ford’s new Everest), it comes across as quite dated. 

Even if some of its character is a bit behind the times, the Pajero Sport still qualifies as a luxury SUV, and there aren’t many in this category that I’d rather choose for an African overland trek. I’ve driven this vehicle over some seriously treacherous routes in the past, and it’s easily one of the most off-road-capable in the current market. Proper low-range gearing, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive, generous ground clearance, steep approach and departure angles, and excellent axle articulation see to that.

The version on test here, the special Shogun edition, caters even more to outdoor adventuring with a suite of bolt-on accessories designed to make travel in the outback a little easier. Heavy-duty shocks from Tough Dog, luggy off-road tyres from Yokohama, underbody bash plates from Stofpad, a water-wading snorkel, a roof rack with spotlight, and rugged rock sliders to replace normal side running boards - worth R70 000 in total - are thrown in free on top of the normal R514 900 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4x4 auto model.

LAID-BACK ATTITUDE

The Shogun kit also comes with a Garmin Nuvi-can GPS pre-loaded with popular African overland routes and maps, but this device was left out of our test unit.

The Pajero Sport is very comfortable, but requires a laid-back attitude. It reacts very slowly to all driving controls, so if it’s your style to gain places between robots by nipping in and out of traffic, don’t bother looking here. The steering’s only height adjustable, and the driver’s seat is quite high, so the seating position also requires a chilled, arms-stretched posture. There’s tons of space for all five passengers (seven at a push), and the huge, cube-shaped cargo bay will easily swallow an ice chest and enough cases of beverage for weeks away in the bush.

VERDICT

Driving the Shogun around Johannesburg, as I did for most of the week-long test, felt a bit like wearing a khaki safari suit to Sandton City. It’s an overtly butch car that seems out of place in the inner-city bustle, where sports sedans and zippy hatchbacks run rings around it. If it were human, it could make a fire with two sticks and track game by scent, but would be seriously awkward at hip urban hangouts.

Stick to the paths less travelled, and this is an awesomely capable adventure vehicle.

FACTS

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Shogun

Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: 5-speed automatic

Power: 131kW @ 4000rpm

Torque: 350Nm @ 1800 - 3500rpm

Price: R514 900

Warranty: 3-year / 100 000km

Service plan: 5-year / 90 000km