A tough car to classify, this refreshed Pajero. With PPVs (pick-up platform vehicles) becoming more refined and comfortable, the future of the Pajero is cast in doubt. Its smaller sibling, the Montero Sport, has garnered high praises from us, which makes the Pajero redundant for some customers. Despite that, the Pajero still sells relatively well, with the amount of new ones still plying the roads.
Late last year, Mitsubishi updated the venerable SUV but you won't know it until you look under the hood. Mitsubishi breathed life into the Pajero by giving it more boost. With a heart operation, what is the unique proposition the Pajero has over large crossovers and PPVs? A quick drive is in order.
Starting with the looks, it's classic Pajero cues from bumper to bumper. With its upswept headlights, upright styling and tailgate-mounted spare tire, you can tell it's a Pajero from a mile away. The flared wheel arches are another design signature that has been passed on for generations. That's not to say it looks old. I actually find it handsomely purposeful. It harks back to the days of SUVs that were meant to go off-road.
With short approach angles and high ground clearance, the Pajero looks the part in going off-road. It also bucks the low-profile tire trend with a beefy set of tires with 18-inch alloy wheels. It's hard to knock on the Pajero's styling given than it has pretty much become an icon in automotive landscape. Mitsubishi was wise to keep its styling evolutionary rather than revolutionary because of its strong following. In my opinion, it has more presence than a PPV.
If I were to make a complaint about new cars, it would be the thick pillars that obscure visibility. With its thin pillars, the first thing I noticed was the amount of visibility I had in the Pajero. You sit up high, giving you a commanding view of the road. I also have to commend the front seats which were soft and supportive.
As for its design, it belongs to the last decade with an upright, almost spartan layout. Only the touchscreen lets you know that you are in a new Pajero. It doesn't even come with telescopic steering wheel adjustment nor does it have automatic-up for the power windows. I do miss the classic altimiter, inclinometer and compass that were seen in past Pajeros. It does have a digital readout for fuel economy, altitude, the compass and average speed. Still, not a lot of complaints when you're seated in front.
At the rear, you also get to enjoy the view from the tall windows. Legroom is good and headroom was simply generous. If you want more light in the cabin, simply open the sunroof which extends all the way to the back. I do wish the rear seats had more lumbar support and had more contour to make it even more comfortable.
The Pajero also shows its age when it comes to interior packaging. Second row seats do not slide forward and putting up the third row is a tedious process. One must remove a panel, lift the seats from the floor and pull out the single piece backrest. Once in place, the third row accommodation is best left to children.
As mentioned, the 2017 Pajero gets an updated engine. It's still the same 3.2 liter DOHC Di-D turbodiesel but it now packs a Variable Geometry Turbo. From 165 PS, the Pajero now puts out a healthy 192 PS with an impressive torque figure of 441 Nm. As for its transmission, it shifts via a five-speed automatic transmission with INVECS-II.
Cranking up the Pajero to life is a reminder of just how far turbodiesels have come. It's clattery from the outside and a quick prod on the throttle emits a sound that's a little more muffled compared to the good old Fieldmaster. Kudos then to the engineers who handled the sound insulation. Noise and vibration does not intrude the cabin as one might expect from a vocal diesel engine. Despite the upright looks, wind noise is well suppressed with just a little whistle coming from the large side mirrors.
Speaking of performance, the VGT turbodiesel mill brings the Pajero into the modern age. Passing acceleration is good and it sustains highway speeds with ease. It's no longer breathless when fully loaded either, pulling strong at the mid-range. Unfortunately, there are limits to its decade old engine. Turbo lag is pronounced from a standstill but overall, performance is good as it has to lug around over 2.5 tons of steel around.
Thanks to the boost in power, the engine is less strained. Gains in fuel economy were also seen as I managed 8.2 kilometers per liter at an average of 17 km/h in the city. Highway economy meanwhile was rated at 13.1 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 94 km/h.
Driving the Pajero around the city is a relaxing experience. The ride is soft, if a little floaty, and does a good job of isolating expansion joints and broken concrete. With that much weight, the Pajero feels planted on the highway even with strong crosswinds. Couple that with the soft seats and one comes to the conclusion that the Pajero is made for serene cruising.
This also means that the Pajero isn't the dynamic masterclass in its segment. Steering inputs are slow and body pitch is noticeable even at low speeds. Handling isn't this big SUV's forte but then again, who uses a Pajero for spirited driving?
It's off-road is where the Pajero shines. The soft set up of the suspension means you aren't thrown around the interior, absorbing ruts and bumps with ease. While off-road enthusiasts bemoan the loss of rigid axles, the all-independent set up is still more than capable going over the rough stuff. This then is a true SUV that is not afraid to get its wheelarches dirty. It also comes with the bonus of a center locking differential should the going get tougher.
Now comes the difficult part: The value proposition. This tester's price is at the far end of two million pesos: Php 2,755,000 to be exact. I mentioned the power windows and lack of steering wheel adjustability but it does far beyond that. The safety equipment list isn't as comprehensive as some PPVs but at least it comes with traction and stability control. Add in the interior that isn't as flexible as it should be and it's difficult to justify buying a Pajero.
And yet it's still an SUV I would recommend. Granted, it doesn't handle great but I saw the appeal of the Pajero during its time with me. It felt robust, like it can take on bad roads without second thoughts. If the weather turned for the worse, I'd grab the keys to one of these in a heartbeat. It's solid, comfortable and capable and on top of that, it has something a lot new cars don't: Soul and personality. I appreciate the Pajero's simple charm and honesty, making it a great example of 'they don't make 'em like they used to'.