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Mitsubishi Pajero GLX

p@jero
pajero

The new, independent rear suspension handles bush tracks, pot holes and bumps (not to mention speed humps) with ease.

4wd.sofcom.com/4WD.html

NB long right picture --> pajer0

The new Mitsubishi Pajero was released in Japan in 1999 and in Australia in 2000.

The styling is significantly different from the previous Pajero with an "interesting" bonnet (hood); you would not call it beautiful, but most people seem to quite like the new look.

NB long right picture --> pajer0

This particular test car is a Pajero GLX V6 manual at $45K ($au 9/'00), one up from the base `GL'. It is lacking some of the fancy bits of the GLS ($51K) and Exceed ($56K), but the seats are comfortable (this from a notoriously bad back) with plenty of leg room front and rear.

There are no surprises in the dashboard and controls - the centre console holds a radio/ CD-player and air conditioning controls. An easy to use cruise control is operated by a third stalk on the steering wheel.

Corrugations do bring on a few rattles and squeaks from the plastic dash components and other trim items.

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The front view, over the short nose, is good (and made an 100 series driver envious) but you have to learn how far ahead the bumper is. Note that the eyebrow over the driver's side front wheel is visible but the near-side one is just masked by the bonnet unless the driver stretches (6' driver's eye view). The picture was put together from two shots and the kink in the lines near the centre is an artifact of this.

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The new car is up against the Prado (left), J'roo and Disco'.

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The second row of seats recline, and have a `split fold' function on the GLS and Exceed, but not 4wd.sofcom.com --> on the GLX and GL.

The lack of a split fold make access to the third row of seats more difficult on the cheaper models.

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The previous Pajero was the king of the "family four wheel drive wagons"; the king is dead, long live the king:

Such vehicles are theoretically bought for braving the Australian outback, but in reality the school run plays a big part in the equation. Four wheel drives have an air of toughness but often did not fare too well in crash tests; the latest 4wd.sofcom.com --> generation with monocoque construction and twin front air-bags should do as well as modern sedans - we'll see.

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Carrying capacity is another important factor, and a third row of two (small) seats is neatly stowed under the floor of the rear load area (above right); the petrol tank is between the axles and the spare wheel is hung on the rear door.

When its cover panel is removed, the third row of seats can swing up and lock into place. Releasing a catch allows the back rest to fold out (below right). The only 4wd.sofcom.com --> things lacking are head rests - the Disco' solved that one by hinging them from the roof.

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One slightly curious feature of the interior is the provision of no less than nine grab handles, as though the makers anticipate a lot of violent cornering.

Japanese buyers get the option of a diesel or a 3.5-litre direct injection petrol engine. It is said that Australian petrol is not clean enough for the latter so local buyers can choose between the diesel and the familiar, and conventional, 3.5-litre EFI V6 petrol motor (below left).

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The V6 is willing from over 1200rpm. The top three ratios in the manual gearbox suit the engine's characteristics well, an indicated 110km/h showing 3200rpm in 4th (direct) and 2600rpm in 5th (overdrive). There is good torque at 2000rpm, for example, and it is rarely necessary to change down on long hills on the highway.

The motor is a compact unit, allowing a short nose which is good in the bush (approach angle) and in the city - parking and at traffic junctions. However, there are some hard to get at hoses between the motor and the firewall that I would not relish changing in the bush.

This particular car was a "stinker", that is to say it produced a whiff of H2S at idle. A friend who is an engineer, for another car manufacturer, says that it is something of a mystery why one car will make a pong, for a while, and then stop. Perhaps it's a batch of that dirty Australian fuel? It is not a problem as such - unless there is a light breeze from the rear when standing at traffic lights; blame the dog.

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First gear is rather low, and it proved tricky to make a really smooth, clunk-free change out of 1st for some reason (for one who can do it on an old, worn Rangy 4-speed). Given the choice, I would prefer 1st gear to be a higher ratio and for low-ratio in the transfer case to be lowered.

There is a storage box between the front seats and its top is at about the height of the (6') driver's elbow. This would be just right to rest the left arm on while lazily punting an automatic along, but it is just wrong, and in the way, for quick changes between 3rd and 4th.

The transfer case is the well known Mitsubishi unit offering (i) two (rear) wheel drive, (ii) four wheel drive high-ratio with centre differential, (iii) as for (ii) with the centre differential locked, and (iv) low-ratio with the centre differential locked. The operating lever is really a switch for motors and actuators which engage the various gears.

The brakes are very light, as on many Japanese cars, so it is a blessing that the brake pedal has a fair amount of travel and that the brakes are progressive.

The hand-brake (parking brake) operates on drums inside the rear discs. There was a slight clunk - clunk on the test car if the hand brake was applied at anything other than a dead stop; probably it simply needed adjusting.

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Front suspension (right) is independent by double wishbones with coil springs (above) replacing the old torsion bars.

The lowest point, apart from the tyres, remains the front suspension cross member and associated skid plate. The exhaust system's silencer must be somewhat vulnerable when straddling a sharp ramp.

It is just possible to make out the "teeth" on the hub input shaft (right); these would allow the sensor for the ABS brakes - an option not fitted to this car - to detect the speed of the wheel.

The power assisted steering is light, but it has good self centering and feels precise; there is no vagueness.

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One of the big changes on the new model is the introduction of independent rear suspension by wishbones and coil springs (left). This puts the Pajero in comfortable company - with the M-class. In fact Mitsubishi has been rather craftier than its new "ally", or is it "big brother", Daimler Chrysler, by getting longer arms and more wheel travel into its back end.

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It is difficult to match a live axle for wheel travel however, and it is not too hard to get the new Pajero cross axled - e.g. a few inches farther forward left, and showing daylight under a wheel (below). The body is stiff and showed little sign of flex in this condition, the doors still opening and closing easily and cleanly.

What the Pajero does not have is axle diff' locks, nor traction control as featured on the M-class. Maybe one day? There is the option of ABS brakes and that provides half of the necessary hardware.

pajer0

Independent rear suspension does however bring great advantages if you are not going rock climbing, but are driving on the highway or even on rough bush tracks. The whole aim is to reduce unsprung weight, i.e. to move the heavy differential and axles off the unsprung wheels and onto the car side of the springs. Then when you hit a pothole, corrugation, or speed hump, the spring and damper only have the weight of the wheel and hub carrier to control - much easier to do precisely.

A cosmetic running change is to delete the lower centre panel of the rear bumper, as above, because it is a mud trap. In any case, "It has to be removed if a tow hitch is being fitted".

Mitsubishi's own fuel consumption figures for the V6 manual are 10.7 to 14.6L/100km. We managed 14.3L/100km in mixed driving - around town, highway, and bush tracks - just under 20mpg (imperial).

Overall: The Pajero has to be in with a good chance in the 2000 awards for best family 4WD wagon.

- © L. A11ison

The car was loaned by Mitsubishi Motors, through East-Side Mitsubishi.

Go to the Pajero and Mitsubishi pages


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