Versatile Mitsubishi Challenger — value for money
  |  First Published: May 2015

Refined over several models, the current Mitsubishi Challenger wagon sits somewhere between the Japanese manufacturer’s Triton and Pajero, with the Outlander also nudging into the picture as well. Yet the Challenger is different from all of these offerings. While built on the Triton’s 4x4 chassis, there’s refinement and touches of luxury — plus a much enhanced ride — that should theoretically see the Challenger having great family appeal.

Easy engine choice

In many ways an interesting vehicle, the Australian version of the Challenger comes with 5 seats, albeit large, very comfortable ones and ample head room all round. Choice of engine could not be easier; it’s either the 2.5l common rail turbo diesel or the 2.5l common rail turbo diesel! Developing 131kW of power, the 4 cylinder power plant offers 400Nm of torque in the manual version, with some 350Nm in the auto.

Mitsubishi have wisely offered their Challenger wagon in 2 versions; the ‘standard’ 4WD (which is a long way from a so-called standard vehicle ) and the more upmarket LS 4WD with all the fruit. The first offers the choice of either 5 speed manual or a 5 speed auto shifter, while the LS comes in auto guise only, which, to my mind is no issue at all. Auto 4x4s have been many car manufacturers’ flavour of the month for quite a while now.

A well appointed range

The standard Challenger offers — to name just some of the many features — 16” alloy wheels, side steps, halogen headlamps, virtually power assisted functions all round including mirrors), a colour display audio system with touch screen that doubles as a multi information display and reversing camera, climate control air with pollen filter, cruise control, keyless door entry, steering wheel audio and phone controls, USB input and iPod control, Bluetooth 2.0 phone and audio streaming, and 60/40 split fold rear seating for extra cargo area when needed. Auto models have paddle shifters the same as the LS autos.

Note that both models feature aux ports as well, for us with a chosen sound system.

Moving across to the LS model as reviewed, additional items include even more chrome on the exterior, rain sensing wipers and auto headlights, fog lamps, privacy glass, and 17” alloy wheels. There’s also a fair amount of leather trim on the interior, power operated seats for driver and passenger, cargo blind, and 6 speakers for the sound system. The LS model also has an extra SD card slot for both music and videos to be played through the vehicle’s media interface system. As can be seen, the LS has more goodies, but the standard model is certainly not short of features.

An enjoyable drive

Challenger owners will find their wagons are very pleasant vehicles to drive, thanks to a high seating position all round, which along with large side mirrors sees no necessity for side or blind spot warning systems, plus overall dynamics that deliver a smooth and very controlled ride rather than one that is okay on bitumen and not so great off the hard black stuff.

The 2.5l common rail turbo diesel (with variable geometry turbo for optimum turbo boost) has ample power to easily move the solid 2t wagon off the mark and keep it moving smoothly in traffic, around the suburbs or on country roads. On a long country run (10l/100km fuel consumption) I found the Challenger auto to be a very practical and easy vehicle to enjoy, whether on or off-road. Comfort levels were very high, road handling was spot on thanks to coil suspension up front, plus a live axle 3 link coil spring setup at the rear. As such, the ride is a long way removed from the Challenger’s Triton roots, although like the Triton, the Challenger is a fairly narrow beast. As an aside, I towed our Tabs Bullshark with the wagon and it really did it easy. Owners with boats will appreciate the wagon’s 3000kg braked trailer, 750kg unbraked capability.

One really good feature of driving the Triton in all situations is the Super Select 4x4 system that offers the driver a choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, both on and off-road. Coupled to high and low range, plus a diff lock, the Challenger is a 4WD with go-anywhere attitude. Ground clearance at 220mm fortunately matches the mechanics, so owners can be confident when push turns to shove.

A noted strong point is the Challenger’s deep cargo area, which is significantly larger and taller than some rivals and sure to be appreciated by folk needing room for their camping equipment and fishing gear. And with loading made easy by a high lifting rear tail gate and rear seats down, there’s a massive 1813l of cargo area on hand for holidays or weekends away from home.

In a nutshell

In summing up the Challenger, there’s no denying the car’s substantial off-road cred; nor the fact that the vehicle is pleasant to drive, will transport 5 folk with ease, and swallow up a lot of cargo. On the debit side of the ledger is a fairly small fuel tank at just 70l, plus the Challenger — around for so long these days — is lacking in some of the refinement we expect to find in the latest generation of 4WDs. Yet it’s a tough machine, with great engine and gear box flexibility and capability. It has a 4 star ANCAP rating, 6 airbags and a whole slew of electronics to keep it steady and safe both on and off the road.

List price of the LS is around the 50 kay mark, but I’m sure that potential owners can do a lot better than that.

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