Pick-up built with the spirit of competition to take on the world
If there is one automaker that has needed a confidence boost, it’s Mitsubishi Motors.
This proud Japanese automaker has had a challenging time on the competitive global stage for many reasons. The result was a drop in market share and the discontinuation of several models once considered essential like Galant, Pajero, and Lancer. The Philippines is a different story, however, as Mitsubishi enjoys a strong presence here vis-à-vis their rivals. The miracle market, is what they call us.
Still, they need something strong to compete, and one segment where they haven’t been so confident in is the pick-up truck class. Soon, that will change. They’re quite confident now, and the reason is the new Triton. No, it’s not Strada anymore; they’re unifying the naming strategy worldwide.
Whatever the case, we’re excited to drive it.
Back in Japan
The Japan Mobility Show (formerly Tokyo Motor Show) is the major launch pad for Japanese automakers. Everyone is here, and everyone wants to go big.
Mitsubishi did go big. They debuted the D:X Concept which will certainly evolve and be developed to become the next generation Delica. That will be a few years down the line, but the exciting part is that it’ll have versions that have the steering on the left side. Wink wink. Hint hint.
For the immediate future, what we were excited to see was the Triton. We did see the Triton as the XRT Concept at the 2023 Bangkok International Motor Show, and it was probably the first time we saw a concept vehicle that we can be 99% sure was the production form, albeit lightly wrapped in camouflage skin.
We knew it was something to look forward to, and this time so can the Japanese customer. You see, while we in Southeast Asia can easily get a Strada or Triton from a showroom, Japan actually hasn’t had the Triton for 12 years. Now it’s coming back as Mitsubishi Motors will offer the mid-size pickup truck Japanese Domestic Market (JDM). Please, hold on to your wakaba badges.
New from the ground up
Triton designers seem to have been given a lot of freedom in terms of budget and creativity as the exterior gets a more prominent design with plenty of premium materials. The interior receives a significant dose of styling and ergonomic improvement. The layout is very well thought out and the materials feel and look premium.
The automaker says their pickup challenger is all-new, built from the ground up to be all it can be. The Strada... errr Triton comes with an all-new ladder frame chassis that’s more rigid. That’s key for any truck.
What’s under the hood is new too: a 2.4-liter 4N16 four-cylinder turbodiesel. Actually, there are two versions: single turbo and twin turbo. That extra performance potential will be key, as the Triton has now moved up from being the smallest in class to one of the largest. The all-new Triton measures 5360 mm long, 1930 mm wide, 1815 mm tall, and has a 3130 mm wheelbase.
Mitsubishi wants to flex their tech, so the new model gets a new 9-inch infotainment screen along with a 7-inch digital cluster; country-specific features will vary, so keep that in mind. Climate control settings are independent of the infotainment screen. As expected, the Triton gets a veritable alphabet soup of modern ADAS suite such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) with pedestrian detection, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Lane Change Assist (LCA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), and Active Stability Control (ASC).
As before, Mitsubishi has designated Thailand to be its production hub. That means all markets including Japan, will get their vehicle from their mega facility in Laem Chabang, Chon Buri province. We can only hope they produce it at their factory in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
After our stint at the JMS, Mitsubishi Motors took us to their test track at their R&D center in Okazaki, Aichi to have a taste of their latest pickup market challenger.
They had several flavors for us to try out: a high-spec 4WD version with the 204 PS twin-turbo 4N16 under the hood, along with the 4WD version powered by the 184 PS single variable vane turbo 4N16. Both powertrain options are mated to a pair of reliable gearboxes: a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual.
As if it were an omakase or perhaps a kaiseki, we were taken through different courses that seem to display how harmoniously the Triton can deliver. We were initially taken on shotgun rides with Mitsubishi’s Japanese test drivers through an off-road course that displayed the various capabilities testing out some of the new 4WD modes. It was like a chef performing right in front of us.
The power delivery of the high-spec engine is very linear and lively with minimal to no turbo lag due to the twin-turbo setup giving a full 470 Nm of torque. With a 20-horse “detune”, the “standard spec” engine had a bit of turbo lag but still delivered good performance with 430 Nm maximum torque as you mash the throttle.
The Super Select 4WD-II system now gets 7 modes. That’s not exactly a segment first, but Mitsubishi does have more dune and rally experience. Mitsubishi has gone back to its enthusiast roots, as they are back in competition with the revival of Ralliart which was so successful in WRC and Dakar.
Fresh from a win at the Asia Cross-Country Rally (AXCR) in its maiden season in 2022, their return to motorsports has significantly contributed to the development of the all-new sixth-generation model. They are doubling down to retake their title with the all-new version which gets the improved Super Select-II 4WD and AYC (Active Yaw Control) systems.
On gravel, it gives somewhat a sense of kick on the tail for a bit of excitement but the AYC in conjunction with the active center differential keeps everything in order. One thing of note as well was that the hill descent control also worked in reverse; this piqued our interest with a polite Japanese remark that meant “because we can”.
A leap forward
What is significant is the sensible choices that Mitsubishi made with the Triton. They styled it to be striking. They made the frame stronger and the truck bigger. They improved on the suspension to work on all kinds of surfaces. They enhanced the power without downsizing the engine. They selected reliable 6-speed gearboxes that won’t be overworked shifting. There are probably more, but we’ll save our evaluation after a proper drive on local roads.
Every decision made resulted in a step forward. Together, it’s all a leap forward. And it’s no surprise that the entire development team is very proud of their new vehicle. They need this boost, and we can see that they’re hungry to show the result of their work to us and to the world.
Is it a revolution? Probably not. But the Triton is definitely a major evolution in every way.