From workhorse to thoroughbred

WHILE this review is primarily about the new fourth-generation Mitsubishi Pajero that was launched last week, the brief history of this vehicle is also of interest.

WHILE this review is primarily about the new fourth-generation Mitsubishi Pajero that was launched last week, the brief history of this vehicle is also of interest.

First launched in 1982 as a 4x4 go-anywhere type vehicle, it initially gained accolades and respect for its achievements in the legendary Paris-Dakar off-road race.

This event is what legends are made of - 9000km in 16 days over terrain that even the nomadic tribes and camels of Sudan battle with.

Over a period of six years Pajero managed to pick up 12 awards in various categories of the race and stamped its authority as an off-roader not to be messed with.

Problem is, the comfort levels of those early Pajero's made a cell at C-Max Prison look rather comfortable.

So over the years, and as they brought out new generations, Mitsubishi have upped their game in the design stakes and comfort features to produce a vehicle today that lacks for nothing.

"From workhorse to a thoroughbred," a Mitsubishi representative describes the evolution. I tend to agree with her.

Yes, the SWB (short wheel base) keeps that box-like shape from the early 1980s - after all that's what makes it so distinctive - but they've rounded the edges and upped their game interior-wise.

The Pajero family will now consist of five models - three LWB's (long-wheel bases) and two SWB's and two engine derivatives will be available ... a brand-new 3,2-litre engine and a larger 3,8-litre.

And though we got a chance to drive both derivatives at the launch, for review purposes I will stick to the SWB as that is the one we spent most of the day driving.

The new engine delivers a significantly more power than its predecessor (140kW compared to 121kW) and the torque also gets a boost (441Nm against 373Nm).

This means there is more power going through that five-speed automatic gearbox and the pulling power in the low gear range is increased.

Other modifications made to the engine mean noise from the diesel engine is reduced and CO2 emissions are cut to 245gm/km.

The above is worth keeping in mind as the government is shortly to introduce an emissions tax on ALL vehicles.

The interior is very comfortable and seats five people easily - the larger LWB vehicles have two folding seats to accommodate seven people - and there is a wide range of goodies the vehicle comes standard with.

A sophisticated alarm system means a vehicle can't even be towed away without a warning alarm sounding, a rear view camera that is automatically engaged when selecting reverse gear and a host of functions for techno geeks, like iPod, USB and, best of all, a navigation system that Pajero claims is virtually fullproof.

I say virtually as I still managed to get lost on the Barberton road and ended up in some disused mining town that houses the most tranquil-looking homesteads overlooking scenery straight out of a fairytale book.

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