With its distinctive styling and easygoing manners, on and off road, the 2014 Challenger offers some fairly wide departures from the 2013 marque.
Although perhaps going back to yesteryear, today’s Challenger has seen the third row of seats dispensed with and is now available only in 4WD on demand configuration. This means 2WD (rear) drive is in use most times with the second lever on the console being put to good use when things get messy. So, you have 4WD, 4WD with diff lock, or low range 4WD all at your finger tips.
The good news is that the new model also sees some new styling and finish, along with a decent list of features to increase comfort, and general drivability. Safety features have also been enhanced.
There are two variants available: Challenger and Challenger LS.
The entry level model is available in either manual or auto; both having five speed boxes, with auto offering steering wheel paddles to allow driver input. The LS comes in auto-only mode and sports 17” wheels, in lieu of 16” boots as on the standard model.
There have been external styling changes to the headlights, grille, front bumper and tail lights.
Within the passenger compartment there’s an enlarged (18cm) touch screen for the audio system and reversing camera linked to the car’s parking sensors. The audio system fruit bowl is fairly full too, with Bluetooth 2 voice control phone connectivity for hands-off phone use. There’s also auxiliary and USB inputs with full iPod control, and steering wheel audio controls for the driver. Cruise control is also standard.
I was impressed with the standard Challenger. It was very comfortable to drive, had ample power and performance from the direct injection 2.5L common rail turbo diesel engine, and was in many respects a solid feeling yet gentle riding vehicle. Like every other Mitsubishi I have driven, it had exceptionally good head lights and audio systems. Other car-makers could take note!
The Challenger’s four-cylinder turbo diesel is a time proven unit. Its variable turbo vane technology churns out 131kW of power, 350Nm of torque in the auto. Mitsubishi have matched the turbo diesel’s torque extremely well with their gear ratios with the result that the Challenger is quick off the mark, accelerates rapidly, and easily handles highway overtaking.
The 2014 model offers some subtle interior changes with the wide dash featuring dark tonings and some discreet high lights across its unbroken width.
The standard Challenger had dials for the climate control air set under the one touch sound set up. Also featured were remote central locking, rear seat ducts for the air conditioning, a leather wrapped steering wheel and power windows. Rear seats featured both 60/40 split fold capability, tumble forward for enhanced room in the rear and also recline if required. Storage is ample, even rear seat travellers have drink holders.
As Nundah Mitsubishi had thoughtfully equipped the test car with a tow bar, I took the opportunity to try out the towing capability of the dark blue wagon by hitching up the 5.5 Galeforce centre console with its 90 E-Tec and headed down to Jumpinpin for a morning’s fishing.
With a towing capacity of 3000kg for a braked trailer, 750kg for unbraked, the Challenger towed the solid Galey with ease. The vehicle felt steady at all times, and moved freely along the highway. And punting through the cane fields and working around the Cabbage Tree Point ramp presented not the slightest problem.
I particularly relished the fact that there were no annoying head restraints blocking my rear vision underway. This issue rears it’s ugly head in quite a few modern SUVs and 4WDs with the upshot that people often remove the head restraints for the duration of ownership, putting them back for re sale.
Comfort within the Challenger was a high point. Gentle suspension settings via double wishbone and coils up front with a three link and coils set up at the rear do a very good job of insulating occupants from any jarring or bumping on – or off – road.
Steering was quite direct with some limited body roll noticeable only during hard cornering.
Off road the Challenger 4x4 has always been, and remains, very capable. With ample ground clearance, good wheel reticulation and 4WD via the Super Select 4WD system linked to low range gearing and diff lock, the Challenger’s easy unfussed performance will impress owners willing to put their vehicle to the test. Beach or bush work would be a pleasure, not a source of stress.
Load carrying within the Challenger’s cargo area is a strong point. With a 1m span between wheel arches there is a 1700mm long storage area with rear seats down, 1200 with them in place.
Other strong points come from the frugal diesel engine’s claimed fuel economy of 9.8L/100km, which I almost achieved at 10.3L/100km on combined suburban and highway driving (tank capacity is 70L) plus safety features such as six air bags, ABS, Active Stability Control, Active Traction Control.
In summing up the 2014 Mitsubishi Challenger I consider that the move back to 4WD and two well put together variants will simplify sales for the car maker. The 2014 Challenger wagon is comfortable, capable, and looks good as well.
New Vehicle Warranty is 5 years or 130,000 – impressive. From Numdah Mitsubishi the base model comes home for around $38,500.Reads: 3395