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YES YES YES: sexy exterior, roomy interior, feels solid

Oh Dear Me No: interior from another era, gadgets falls short of market expectations

When I say cheap, I mean the fuel goes a long way but at $73,990 plus on-roads it will cost a bit to own one. The Pajero is a proper 4WD not just a mere soft roader so you could happily drive cross country if you wanted, but why on earth would you want to?

Pajero has a venerable reputation for being a bit of rough. If you like a bit of rough then there is nothing you couldn’t do in relative comfort.

OUTSIDE:

The exterior is sexy and butch, if you like the looks of SUV’s. The huge tyres on big fat 17” wheels sit inside even bigger arches and provide enough ground clearance to mount all but the biggest footpaths (about the worst of what it will be asked to do).

There is a look of Tonka-Toy about it that appeals to the boy who has everything. The big rear door offers easy entry, to the luggage area that is. It’s quite a way to jump up into the cabin but the Exceed comes with side steps for that eventuality.

It does take from some of the ground clearance but the most your SUV will probably see is a gravel drive. The pearl paint sparkles in the sunlight but scratching it by bushing-bashing would be a nightmare to repair.

As we say about most SUV style transport, would you really want to take it off-road and bring it back looking like it’s been polished by a 5 year old with a Scotch-Brite pad?

Urban tractors such as this account for about a third of all vehicle sales in Australia and gay boy and girls are not immune from the trend. If you see a Subaru Forester for example, you can place money on who is going to be at the wheel.

Inside:

The top draw Exceed comes with the full enchilada, and while it feels comfy, the interior is slightly old-hat. It’s the automotive equivalent of 1980’s brick mobile phone being sold new in 2014.

Don’t get me wrong there is lots of kit. There are plenty of knobs and buttons and the Satnav is easy to use. Importantly the Bluetooth doesn’t take a degree to operate.

In fact the whole system is simple and matter of fact and appeals to hard core campers, if there is such a thing. My question is: How will it appeal to and urban explorer. Let’s face it, that’s going to be the biggest group of punters.

The Pajero is up against the luxury soft roaders like Audi Q7, BMW X5, Merc ML. There are also the budget conscious Mazda CX5 and Toyota’s giant-killing LandCruiser and LandCruiser Prado to consider.

The competition in this segment is no longer confined to a couple of obscure rarely-seen examples. You only have to look at any school pickup zone to see bespectacled mums parked 2 and 3 abreast. They clog up roads, park at all sorts of jaunty angles, and use at least 2 parking spots at Coles but it is not the fault of the vehicle.

I’ve somewhat wandered from my point, which is, the interior is competing against cheaper models as well as the premium soccer-mum set. The cabin needs feel as luxurious as possible. Jeep’s Grand Cherokee for example has a delightful cabin whose top model is about the same price as the Exceed. The Jeep has a nicer feel to the leather and gadgets that put the Mitsubishi to shame.

Although the Pajero’s leather is OK, the acres of plastic are not. It feels distinctly last century, and there is a chunkiness to the design which doesn’t quite fit with 2014.

The vehicle info is limited to the centre LCD above the impressive Rockford Design audio system. You get 12 speakers with a subwoofer and a couple of pairs of headphones for the entertainment system for the fellas in the rear. It’s an add-on audio unit which functions well and could be easily upgraded as time goes by. Most new vehicles have a system fully integrated into the it’s workings and can’t be changed so you’re stuck with it, for better or for worse.

The 3rd row of seats is best kept for the occasional run because as with all 7 seaters, the seats take up most of the cargo area and provide little or no legroom. Because you actually sit in the cargo hold, there is no room for bags so taking your chums to the boxing day sales means carrying the bootie on your laps.

Still, it’s handy for a picnic with 6 chaps should the need arise. The rear door opens Barn-Style to a flat floor that is perfect to perch on to sip a champers and munch on chicken sandwiches. The seating is comfy though a tad flat. The big cushions would be great on a long trip. There is nothing more reassuring than stretching out while chugging leisurely through the countryside.

The instruments and controls fall easily to hand but I can’t help but feel some of the important stuff was missing. Buyers will look at all SUV’s in the price range and they will very likely choose that which is perceived as value for money. For most people that is how things look and feel that are the deciding factor in such an expensive and important purchase.

The Drive:

There is a very good reputation earned over lots of years off-road to consider. The is almost no-where beyond your reach in a Pajero.

The 3.2 4cylinder diesel puts out a respectable 146KW and is more powerful than Toyotas Land Cruiser Prado diesel, which has models in the price range. The 441Nm of torque is what would drag all 2347kg up the side of a mountain without breaking a sweat. We got 9.2 L/100 which is OK and the 88litre tank will certainly take you a long way but its rivals do a little better. The steering feels a little woolly but I suspect it’s the massive tyres which I’m assured will happily take on most terrains just as they are. There are also a lot of turns lock to lock so parking feels like quite the performance. Driving lots of 4WDs back to back would highlight the lack of sharpness.

On dusty tracks the Pajero was comfy and fairly quiet. Although we didn’t take her too far from the beaten track only the most rutted sections caused her to lose composure.

There is a reversing camera, Bluetooth and voice control to as standard.

Conclusion:

I could imagine a long trip being very nice, very nice indeed. The exterior feels modern and up to date but the interior lets it down especially against the rivals. There is plenty of kit as standard but there is plenty of competition which is come cases is far ahead for the same money. It’s time the Pajero was given a dose of pixie dust. It’s been on sale for 5 years and feels it.

GLX diesel five-seat $50,990
GLX diesel five-seat (auto) $53,990
GLX-R diesel seven-seat $55,990
GLX-R diesel seven-seat (auto) $58,990
VRX diesel seven-seat (auto) $63,990
Exceed diesel seven-seat (auto) $73,990

Standard Mitsubishi warranty is five years or 130,000km in addition to capped price servicing for the first four years or 60,000km.

Would I buy one? No. Toyota’s FJ Cruiser is cheaper and more fun, and Jeep Grand Cherokee is more luxurious, better value, and has more stuff.  It just doesn’t have the X factor.

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