I’ve spent a bit of time in the Pajero before and enjoyed it, not because of what it was, but because of what it wasn’t.
Let me explain: Most SUVs feel pretentious, especially the AWDs who think they stand a ghost of a change in a serious off-road beat-down. They have more front than Myer but little to back it up. Sure they have delicious interiors replete with leather, woodgrain and deeply piled carpet worthy of Buck House, but off-road they’re truly catastrophically useless. They lull you into a false sense of security, but fall badly at the first barrier. Pajero is the real deal.
There are loads of proper 4-wheel-drives of course. They all traverse continents in a single bound, probably. When you’re life is on the line, you want to make sure the car you buy will take as much care of you as you take of it. You want to know that when you leave home in it, you’ll also make it home again.
I’ve written previously about how I like the butch yet elegant look of Pajero, despite my lack of comprehension at the world’s continuing love affair with SUVs. The exterior speaks for itself. There is a sense that at any moment panels will fling themselves in all directions as it transforms into a 5 metre tall world-saving robot. I should never write after I’ve been watching the tellie right?
But I digress; there are sacrifice panels which cover the lower third of the doors, and can be easily replaced should you encounter scratchy branches while out in the wilds. While minor blemishes can be buffed out, you can save a lot of money by putting new plastic bits on rather than a spot of light panelwork. It’s worth noting they still require the gentle touch of a man with a paint can as they come in grey plastic.
The interior features 7 seats, handy should you need to accommodate sundry freeloaders. The sturdy leather feels like it will outlast time. It’s the kind of upholstery that makes a rugged man less afraid to jump onto the driver’s saddle, even if he is a trifle damp from doing all those butch out-doorsy things. It doesn’t feel at all precious despite the fancy wood-look steering wheel and aluminium highlights throughout. For those frosty nights, there is seat heating to keep your meat and 3 veg warm. We’ve all jumped into steaming hot black leather seats on a summer’s day, but winter nights can be almost as bad. The cabin’s rugged ambience is quite atmospheric. I can’t understand how it feels so much better this time than it did last time. Such is the life of a fickle writer.
There are a few disappointments however; there is no smart entry/start, or lane watch, or adaptive cruise control and no blind spot warning either. We have come to expect these things which come as standard in much cheaper 4WDs. The design of the dash and doors feels a bit last decade and the centre multi-info readout is a naff orange LED affair from an antique games console.
Just when I started feeling soporific to the point of coma, I noticed the new infotainment system. Could it be? Was it? Yes, oh god yes! Can I get a “hallelujah praise the lord” up in here? Apple Car Play at last. Finally, with no faffing about like a wet chook, you can plug your phone in and without needing big hugs and kisses, it just works. Your Apple apps will pop up on the screen, no pairing needed. From then on you have Miss Siri at your beck and call to do your bidding sans fuss. She can dial a number, show you your way home, play music and much more just by responding to your dulcet tones. It is utter magic. However, yes there is a huge however “However,” because all the actual analysis is done in the cloud, you must have cell signal. Damn and drat, drat and damn. I guess that’s the price you pay for not having a phone the size of a house brick. You swipe between screens using the big LCD as you would your Iphone. The only question I have is what is the difference between this, and using your actual phone? Just another stupid law which hasn’t caught up with the 21st century.
The best part by far is the messaging interface which will read messages and allow you to answer back just by using your voice. It’s a revelation, and so simple too. It sometimes gets it wrong so it is best to keep replies simple. You’ve always been able to do this via the phone but using your phone in the car will make a police man come. The car takes over those functions of your phone with which it is able to interface. This mean it blocks them being used on the phone itself, and displays “CarPlay” if you try using them natively. You can’t type a text even if you want to. This might stop some of those stupid boobs running red lights, or mowing old ladies down on zebra crossings, because they can’t message their internet hook-ups. No, cancel that, because only Apple apps will be affected. Scruff, Grindr and whatever the straight apps are, will still cause pile-ups at about the same rate. The Rockford Acoustic Design 12 speaker system pumps out a decent sound but that’s just the icing on the cake. We’ve waited a long time for this kind of common sense love match between your phone and your car audio system so I can’t imagine where it will lead.
The auto lights and wipers worked well, but the only appointments the Exceed gets over the GLS are: a huge glass sunroof which actually opens, chrome trim, a fancy steering wheel, and the upgraded audio. It’s really only the Rockford audio with Car Play that tickled my fancy. I don’t care much for sunroofs that raise your centre of gravity. They will eventually go wrong and need a man with a spanner to put them right.
Driving the Pajero is the important bit, so here it comes:
Having forgiven the aging interior completely, I fired up the slightly rattily 3.2 diesel by turning the key. There is no pretense of sport in this cabin. There are no flappy paddles or any stupid buttons to give the engine more poke, just a button for towing and some more for off roading. You can set driving wheels to 2 or 4 wheel mode, and like all pucker 4×4’s, there is a low range as well. 2 settings will lock the centre diff, which is important so I am told. Touching any of the off-roading controls makes some secret men’s business happen under the bonnet. You can also lock up your hubs. That should keep them nice and safe!
On the road, you might expect Pajero to be the awkward boy at the first school social, and around town you do have to make allowances until you’re used to the subtle nuances. This is no sporty hatch you’re driving, and threading through the city takes some practice. However, it’s mastered in a thrice and soon you’re as keen a kid in a candy store.
The highway manners are quite magnificent. As a place to waft the hours serenely away, the driver’s seat is superb. You sit very high up. It feels at times like you’re driving a block of flats from a room on the second floor. You could cross a continent and get out at the other end feeling fresh as a daisy.
The fuel consumption is respectable for a big hunk like this at around 9L/100k on the highway, but the idea that you might get 9L/100k combined between city and highway driving seems a bit optimistic, but that’s what Mitsubishi claims.
The price on the road in NSW for the Exceed is about $69,000, which is quite a price drop from the $75,000 Pajero I drove last time. If you don’t fancy spending so much, a Pajero can be had from 55 grand on the road. The engine is a 3.2 DiD turbo diesel with intercooler. It has 147kw and an impressive 441Nm of torque. The transmissions, both auto and manual, are 5 speed which is a cog or two short of industry expectation. The auto is extremely smooth though but the fuel economy would be helped no end with a 6th speed for a bit of light barnstorming.
The Pajero almost gets there. It looks the business and has some excellent attributes, but it misses on little things like the 6 sp auto and driver assist options. The cabin feels a bit old hat too, but in the end it’s how she drives that really counts. The Parejo is not meant be bought by Paris Hilton wannabes just to double-park awkwardly outside school yards. That’s a complete waste of a beautifully capable 4 wheel drive and should be against the law. It’s more at home roaming free on the open plains, sandy beaches, and rugged mountain men, er, passes.
Would I buy one? Well, last time I said no. I said I’d rather have a Grand Cherokee for less money with a nicer interior. While it’s true the Cherokee has a better inside, it has shown to be a bit unreliable. The last thing you need is getting half way down a beach just to be stranded. Remember, you’ll have a tough time getting the NRMA to rescue you once you’re off the beaten track. So, my opinion has now changed and I would definitely buy one, unless I could afford a few extra shekels for a Land Rover of course. The answer is a firm “Yes.”
Even though I’d buy one, it still feels like an analogue car in a digital world.
Price: $55,000 to $69,000 approx (on-road in NSW)
Engine: 6 cyl injected, 147kw/441Nm, 9L/100k claimed,
Specs: Kerb weight 2347lg, fuel tank 88L