IT IS LITTLE WONDER the majority of large SUV wagon buyers lean towards diesel vehicles. Petrol models, such as the V6 Mitsubishi Pajero, don’t rate so well when their more efficient turbodiesel brethren can burn fuel at a much lower rate – all with a meaty mid-range torque to keep the car boiling along nicely.
That said, the market is not all one-way traffic. The naturally-aspirated V6 and V8 petrol SUVs have a certain appeal that frugal, but rattly, diesels lack: a more consistent, smoother torque curve (with no turbo lag).
Petrol vehicles can be revved harder to yield better power when required, and are a far less complex engine than the now-typical high pressure common rail turbodiesel.
If you inadvertently clog a petrol SUV with dirty fuel you will most likely just need to change the filter and drain the tank. Stick dirty fuel into a modern diesel, however, and there is an expensive rebuild in its immediate future.
Petrol pumps are also easier to locate than those for distillate, and don’t have the greasy oil-caked nozzles that stain the diesel experience, not to mention your hands.
The petrol-powered Pajero V6 3.8L has been in service in one form or another for several years, and is often left in its diesel sibling’s shadow. But the V6 NT Pajero deserves a revisit to see if it still cuts the mustard among fresher competition.
The Pajero GLS is a new model grade reintroduced in December 2008 with the advent of the NT series. While the GLS nameplate has been used for the Pajero since the early ’90s, Mitsubishi dropped it for the 2006 NS series.
With more than 80 per cent new panels, including a lightweight aluminium bonnet, the NS series was the first major makeover of the Pajero since the 2000 NM series. The NT was a far milder refresh, primarily a re-write of the specifications.
The GLS equipment inclusions are side and curtain airbags, rear air-conditioning and side steps, plus fog lights, exterior trim and a new full-chrome grille.
The NT Pajero’s standard safety equipment includes Active Stability and Traction Control (ASTC), driver and passenger SRS airbags, an Anti-Lock Braking System with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
But no matter how revised it is, the immdediate impression you get from the Pajero’s dated basic structure is that it is celebrating its 11th birthday this year. For example, design features such as the rear door openings have more wheel-arch intrusion than more recent SUVs, and interior utility is also more compromised.
Where current SUVs have seats that fold neatly into the floor, the Pajero’s second-row of seats remains bulky when folded down, just as it did back in 2000. And the militaristic side-swinging tailgate where the spare wheel is mounted is simply unheard of in more modern designs.
There is still the pioneering third row seat which folds neatly under the cargo floor when not in use. Yet each seat is only rated to carry 70kg and can’t be folded out individually.
While it’s not a bad effort, and in truth it’s somewhat rare that you’d want to put a 70kg-plus adult back there, you can’t help but think of more recent designs, such as the R51 Pathfinder and D4 Discovery, which both fold their seats into the floor compartment – and mount the spare wheel underneath the vehicle.
Fit and finish inside the NT Pajero is good, although it lacks the polish of competitors like the Toyota Prado. The Pajero’s front seats are very comfortable and the driver has commanding views to the front and sides.
While the side mirrors are large, rear vision is poor – large rear headrests and the tailgate-mounted spare encroach on vision. Rear parking sensors are optional.
The instruments and controls present no mystery for the driver, which is not always a given, even in these modern times. The rear seat is a little flat but spacious in head, leg and foot room. The cargo area is a well-shaped load space with solid tie-down points, and the 60-40 split second row is easy to drop down, even if it’s not the latest idea in its folding or space efficiency.
As with many other wagons, cargo space is limited when all three rows of seats are in use.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The variable valve timing multi-valve V6 engine would seem as modern as anything else, although its nominal outputs are by no means class-leading. The engine does respond well to throttle input and it provides a smooth power delivery. The five-speed automatic is easy to use with a manual mode allowing easy shifting for hill climbing. The shifts are positive and smooth.
The Pajero’s part/full-time Super Select 4WD system has been around forever but is still a great system – it allows high-range 2WD, 4WD or 4WD locked and 4WD locked low-range.
Having the latest design doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best, and the Pajero’s proven design makes for some very good handling. It is supple and composed at touring speeds on poor surfaces.
While the Pajero might not move around much at speed, it is noisy inside on a rough road. The ability to control suspension movement on fast dirt comes at a cost when driving around town, where the vehicle is terse over sharp bumps and generally feels too firm.
Handling is a relative term when referring to SUVs, and even among the large wagons the Pajero is average in its abilities.
If you baby the Pajero along the freeway when lightly loaded you can expect fuel consumption to slip into the 12L/100km range. Throw in some hills or urban driving, however, and that figure quickly climbs to 14-15L/100km and beyond. The consumption got as high as 25L/100km when towing a 2000kg caravan, although that included plenty of start-stop driving for photography.
The Pajero is a solid towing rig with an inherent stability that will allow plenty of different vans to be hooked up without a problem. The V6’s hill climbing ability is not quite as accomplished as its competitors and engine braking downhill is average. In fact, general performance while towing is lacking, and the V6 has to be stirred along quite hard to maintain speed, a fact reflected in the fuel consumption figure.
Mitsubishi has increased maximum braked towing capacity for the NT Pajero from 2500kg to 3000kg, but you’d better read the fine print. Towball download is restricted to 180kg when towing a trailer weighing more than 2500kg.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Mitsubishi Pajero remains a solid towing performer which has enough space for the big trip and is not too bulky for urban duties. However, you must really like petrol engines to favour the V6 over the turbodiesel. Even though the Pajero diesel is not especially thrifty, it is more fuel-efficient than the V6 – and a better performer.
Thanks to Camden Caravans, 66 Camden Valley Way, Camden, NSW 2570, (02) 4658 1929 for the loan of the caravan used in this test.
3.8L SOHC V6
Gross Vehicle Mass
Gross Combined Mass
|Fuel tank capacity|
180kg@2501kg to 3000kg ATM
$60,590 (before on-road costs)