Pajero lives up to its proud Dakar heritage
If the payoff line to your advertising campaign for a new vehicle is going to be: "Engineered for Dakar. Built for you" well, you better have something special up your sleeve to back it up.
Mitsubishi most definitely have, in the five-speed manual version of their Pajero Sport. launched this past weekend.
What is it?
The Pajero Sport is not some soft SUV that promises a lot and delivers very little.
No, this is a hardened 4x4 campaigner with low-range, centre differential and rear diff lock.
Since its introduction in 2009, the vehicle has only been available with a tip-tronic automatic transmission, but since they are searching for a larger slice of the segment, the new manual gearbox is most welcome.
It is aimed at the serious off-roader who gets his kicks out of weekends away in the Maluti Mountains in Lesotho, or out of shimmering down sand dunes on his way to explore the unchartered waters off the Mozambique coastline.
At the same time, this modern day adventurer demands a certain level of comfort and features in the vehicle, while going about that 9-5, weekday slog.
How does it look?
It has a no-nonsense exterior that gives the impression that it will get the job done.
Expect to find rain sensing wipers, side steps (which can be removed if need be), roof rails, fog lamps, park distance control and pretty cool looking 17-inch alloy wheels.
The interior is quite upmarket, with comfy leather seats, multifunction steering wheel, multifunction display, electric windows front and back, cruise control, leather-bound steering wheel and folding side mirrors.
What you don't see, but are more important than all the above, are the six airbags, ABS brakes, EBD and collapsible steering column that all Pajeros come standard with.
How does it drive?
The 3.2-litre direct injection turbodiesel engine provides the grunt which is measured at 120kW and 343Nm of torque.
It might not be the quickest out of the starting blocks but once it works up a head of steam it is quite an impressive ride on the open road.
While the drive via Hartebeespoort Dam was pretty uneventful, there was fun to be had once we got to the 4x4 trail at Thaba Nkwe in the Magaliesburg.
One particular section of the trail was a near-400-metre vertical climb that had me wishing I was back in the comfort of my hotel room with a gin in one hand and a cigar in the other.
Even walking this particular section, to get a feel of what lay ahead, was difficult. The moisture laden clouds had brought overnight rainfall, which made conditions particularly slippery and the largely shale surface very brittle.
It was white-knuckle stuff as I slipped the vehicle into 4WD low range, engaged the rear diff lock and said a quick prayer that I'd get to the top of the ridge without making a mess of it.
The secret to navi-gating a particularly rugged piece of landscape is to maintain momentum and leave it in first gear all the way.
The Pajero made short work of a climb I initially doubted I'd conquer, considering the angle of the slope and the large step-like boulders that needed to be negotiated.
As one of the suits at Mitsubishi said to me as I prepared my run-up: "We have full confidence in our vehicles ... "
His long pause at the end of the sentence, and slight grin, told me it is mainly drivers who usually create the problems!
Not really, but the features it does have are exceptionally good. I'm talking about the 4x4 low range capability that will definitely get you out of even the most hazardous situation. That, coupled with good approach angle (36°) and departure angle (29°), means obstacles are there to be conquered.
The fold-away second and third row of seats also opens up possibilities of moving goods or pulling out the sleeping bag and making the rear your accommodation for the night, while en route to your destination.
The rear passengers will be impressed that they have their own ventilation outlets and can control the fan speed separately from that of the front-row passenger and driver.
Should you buy one?
As I've already said,, this is quite the dual-purpose vehicle and all that extra passenger space - it is a seven-seater - will be more than welcomed by the larger family.
It would make an ideal towing vehicle with the heavy amount of torque on tap and, surprisingly enough, it appears to be pretty thrifty in fuel consumption as well.
Keep in mind also that, if you take your 4x4 weekends away seriously, then the Pajero is up for the job.
So when Mitsubishi makes reference to Dakar in its advertising campaign, it is not doing so lightly.
They have won the event a record 12 times, six of those consecutively.
But, when the meltdown of 2008 severely affected the motor industry, the company was forced to pull out of the legendary race because of the enormous financial implications involved.
With a Pajero as capable as this, that really is a pity.
Engine: 3200cc Common-Rail Turbo
Power: 120kW at 3500rpm
Torque: 343Nm at 2000rpm
Top speed: 178km/h (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 10/100km (claimed/combined)
Awesome off-road capabilities
Suitable weekday drive
We don't like:
Design a bit bland