The actual model of vehicle I am reviewing is a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS. It was an Irish imported version of the Shogun Sport (previously called the Challenger). It's basically a Mitsubishi 4-Life pickup with the rear end re-modelled as an estate car.
I was completely sold on it's looks - all metallic maroon paint and chrome. Everything about it suggested power. I remember looking at the ludicrous air intake on the bonnet and thinking it looked like the snorting nostril of an angry bull.
Sadly though, it was all looks and not much power. The 2.5L TD engine belonged to a bygone era. It only produced 99bhp and the torque figures were equally unremarkable (177lb/ft at 2000rpm). It's modern rivals (Toyota Landcruiser Colorado, Isuzu Trooper, Nissan Terrano) all offered significantly superior engines in terms of performance and economy. I note that the very latest version of the Sport has a revised 2.5TD engine that produces about 115bhp - so it must have been a common criticism.
On the road, the Sport was s-l-o-w. 60mph arrived in about 18.5 seconds - although the low gearing gave the impression that it was quicker. It was also a very noisy and unrefined beast - which I kinda liked in a "macho" sort of way... Motorway cruising at "normal" speeds however was, at best, a tense experience with the rev counter round at 4000rpm (high for a diesel).
The Sport's handling was rather entertaining. Being rear-wheel drive, the rear end used flip out with only the slightest encouragement. Often this would happen when changing up into second gear whilst making a turn. The fact that it was very easy to catch and control made for some unexpected fun. Suspension was quite firm and body roll minimal which meant, overall, I felt confident chucking the vehicle around at relatively high speeds.
Off-road, it was difficult to gauge the Sport's performance because of it's hybrid tyres. On the odd occasion I did some mud-plugging it coped very well (much to the Defender-driving guide's surprise). It also made very light work of towing a friend's broken down Jeep Grand Cherokee to safety.
One thing that really disappointed me about the Sport was driver's comfort. My foot-well was cramped (no footrest next to the clutch pedal) and the pedals were small and squashed together by the bulging transmission tunnel. If on long journeys I wanted to rest my clutch foot, I'd have to squeeze it under the clutch pedal. Everyone else though could relax in near-palatial comfort. The boot-space was vast, though the actual floor was about waist-height which could make loading/unloading of heavy items a little awkward. Cabin storage was disappointing with not enough cubby-holes.
The tan leather interior was very tasteful (my import was spared nasty imitation walnut as seen in UK spec models) and the carpet was so thick you could loose small children in it. The equipment level however, was disappointing for top GLS spec. Basic air conditioning and heated front seats was about as flash as it got. I even had to get my own CD multi-changer fitted! Security was a joke with only a basic immobiliser and no deadlocks.
Running costs was not one of the Sport's strong points. I'd be lucky to get 350 miles out of £50 worth of diesel. I reckon it must have returned about 25mpg on average. Servicing was every 6500 miles and insurance (due to "import" status), was about £1000 a year which, for a 30 year old with clean driving license and a "safe" area address, is scandalous.
Despite it's shortcomings, I loved this vehicle. I had always wanted to own a big 4x4. Ideally I would have coupled it with a small town car for running short errands with, but ultimately the running cost proved too much and it had to go. It broke my heart!
If I ever buy a big 4x4 again, I'll buy a petrol V6 or V8 that's been converted to LPG. And no more imports!