Beauty is supposedly only skin deep but it’s hard not to concede that the new NS Pajero is much better looking than its predecessor, the NP model. Gone are the radical front and rear mudguard bulges, and also gone is much of the lower body’s plastic panelling, renowned for its lack of permanent adhesion.
The new NS 7 seater wagon is a very handsome vehicle, complete with a new front end design incorporating new look headlamps, grille and bumper. Behind the rear passenger’s seat the spare tyre has been moved down somewhat to improve rear visibility. The Pajero’s large exterior mirrors are real winners too, ensuring that a small sedan or motorcycle does not sneak up unannounced into a blind spot. There are highly visible turn indicators on the mirrors as well.
The interior has been given a makeover, with a contemporary instrument panel combining sports and SUV ambience. At night the gentle blue dash is easy on the eyes, and simple to monitor.
When it comes to features, it’s hard to find anything missing. Power for all normal functions is standard, while cruise control and remote keyless entry are available on all models, as is the renowned multi-function display with trip computer, weather information and compass.
The sound system was a little beauty too. While not quite up to the Rockford Fosgate job in the Exceed, it was still above average. On a country run we were able to listen to Brisbane’s FM radio stations out past Warwick (a rare feat indeed) before loading up the 6CD stacker.
Mobile phone addicts will note that the vehicle is equipped with Blue Tooth connectivity as well.
The test car was a Pajero VRX DiD, a manual shift, 7-seater with a new direct injection common rail 3.2L intercooled turbo diesel engine. The 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine was first seen in the ML Triton (released last year) but seems far more refined in the Pajero, with a lot less vibration and harshness than in the Triton.
That engine incidentally, is Euro 4 compliant and pumps out 125kW of power at 3800rpm and 358Nm of torque at a low 2000rpm. Bucket loads of torque is the key to all diesel success and the Pajero has real pulling power for towing big boats, horse floats and the like. Simply put your foot down and the diesel engine responds instantly with no noticeable turbo lag.
The vehicle was a very smart long distance cruiser with the engine sitting on 2000rpm at 100km/h. Driving was a real pleasure thanks to the steering wheel-mounted cruise and sound system controls, while electric seat adjustment allows any driver to find a comfortable driving position. Metal pedals give the interior a sporty touch too.
One of my only problems with the Pajero is the amount of noise generated by its big 18-inch Dunlop AT 20 boots. The tread was not overly aggressive, just noisy on bitumen surfaces. Engine and wind noise was non-existent at cruising speeds yet the tyres tended to hum.
On rough gravel roads the Pajero’s all coil spring suspension simply allowed the vehicle to float along with little feedback in steering and minimal road noise or bumps and thumps. Off the road and into 4WD mode (which can be selected on the fly at speeds up to 100km/h) the big wagon just picked its way through the bush.
One thing in the Pajero’s favour is the fact that it’s very easy to negotiate along rough tracks thanks to a high driving position and the ability to look directly down over the bonnet to plant the wheels with some certainty. The other big off-roaders in the Pajero’s class don’t have this sort of forward visibility and you are forced to guess where the wheels are in relation to obstacles because of their long bonnets.
The Pajero’s off-road manners were excellent; thanks to 18-inch wheels and decent bash plates under both the front and rear bumpers, the short steep gullies that caused a bit of lurching were of little consequence as far as underbody impact was concerned. With an approach angle of 36.6 degrees and departure angle of 25 degrees, the Pajero can take rough stuff with ease. Large side steps also help minimize incidents from sticks thrown up from the wheels, always a possibility when in the bush.
The current Pajero has a centre diff lock and Active Traction Control that senses and controls engine output to driving wheels rather than those that might be losing traction for any reason. In low range with the centre diff locked, the Engine Brake Assist Control carefully guards against loss of traction. Plus there is ABS with EBD, an Active Stability Control system and 6 air bags, even on the base model.
On top of all this is Mitsubishi’s monocoque body system that has an integrated chassis with special reinforced body construction at strategic points such as joints and A pillars. There is also an optional reversing sensor for the VRX model.
In my opinion, the Pajero has the best standard headlights in the business, making night driving no chore at all. Lastly, the vehicle is economical: for a mix of city and country driving the manual Pajero used around 9.5L of fuel every 100km.
The Pajero VRX manual diesel starts at around $57,000.Reads: 1580