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NP Pajero 3.8-litre Petrol 4x4 Wagon
  |  First Published: December 2003



I HAVE the opportunity to test drive a new Pajero around once per year. Each time I come away with the impression that really, Mitsubishi can’t improve on the latest offering. But they always do!

A typical example is the NP seven-seat wagon I tested recently. While the ‘old’ model was certainly not lacking in power the new 3.8-litre petrol engine is just that much more smooth and more powerful than its predecessor. The NP Pajero has 150kW of power and 314Nm of torque from the 24-valve multi-point fuel injected engine, which simply means less effort for the driver whether driving in traffic, cruising on the highway or towing a boat.

EXTERIOR

While the Pajero's ‘take it or leave it’ style has changed very little, one of the more important cosmetic changes involves the side panels on doors and lower body. Gone are the old panels that looked for any excuse to flap in the breeze or come off – now the integrated panels look the part, do their job of protecting the body from displaced objects when travelling off road, and best of all they really stay put.

The model I reviewed was the prestigious Exceed, which has no shortage of creature comforts. Exterior features include an upper windscreen shade band, chrome power door mirrors, headlamp washers, fog lamps, roof rails, rear roof spoiler (which keeps dust off admirably) the rear step integrated into the bumper and – last but not least – illuminated side steps which are very useful for entering the car at night.

INTERIOR

The Exceed’s finish is plush without being overdone, yet there is plenty of leather, as well as wood grain and tidy metal (titanium style) trim. Instruments have a darkened face for all-round easy monitoring while driving, and are complimented by a wood steering wheel with leather bound panels and a leather gear shifter. A top-centre dash mounted RV meter usefully monitors the external temperature, altitude, and also features a barometer, digital clock, and a calendar. An in-dash FM radio/stereo with six-stack CD player provides plenty of mood music. Dual front and side air bags are also part of the Exceed package.

The Exceed's air-conditioning system features climate control with ducting and controls for rear seat passengers as well. The Pajero boasts decent sized seats with infinite electronic control adjustment for height, reach, rake and lumbar support. Cruise control and power windows come as standard.

The NP Pajero is magnificently roomy. On the test drive there were five adults aboard and everyone seemed to be commenting about the ample head room and the huge amount of leg room for rear seat passengers, even with the front seats back somewhat.

And the level of quietness aboard the Pajero at highway speed has to be experienced to be believed. The designers at Mitsubishi have certainly done their homework in this department.

EASY DRIVING

The test car was a five-speed auto with changes so imperceptibly smooth that it was nearly impossible to count them as they occurred. A steering wheel (stalk) mounted cruise control took care of the highway cruising with ease and it was just a matter of sitting back and enjoying the brilliant ride that the Pajero marque is renowned for.

The automatic unit also has a ‘Sports Mode’ sequential shift if drivers want to really enjoy their driving to the utmost. Basically, it allows clutch-less gear shifts with the transmission computer monitoring shifts to keep things within sensible bounds. Otherwise, the five-speed shifter has a 'Smart Logic' computer that learns the driver's style and shifts gears accordingly.

On the fire trails, bush trails and kangaroo trails the Pajero is a superbly capable off-road vehicle. Independent multi-link suspension with coil springs takes the bite out of the bush tracks, while ample ground clearance (225mm) plus front and rear approach and departure angles of 24 degrees will see the Pajero sneaking anglers down to streamside camping areas and fishing hot spots that are well and truly off limits to the ‘part time’ four-wheel-drive brigade. There’s no substitute for huge amounts of wheel travel, plenty of ground clearance, plus a genuine low range reduction gear box to sneak over the really rough spots.

Trips away from home in pursuit of fish would be easy due to the large amount of load space in the rear compartment. True, things are a bit restricted with the rear (third row) of seats upright, but when these seats are folded down and stowed under the floor there’s plenty of room. With four adults aboard plus enough camping and fishing gear for a long weekend there was still plenty of room all round. The only bit of argy bargy during a three-hour trip was debate over who’d take the wheel next!

The NP 3.8 Pajero GLX auto is priced at around $49,390 and the Exceed at $62,990 (prices exclude dealer delivery and on-road costs). For a quote on a manual Pajero see your nearest Mitsubishi dealer or visit www.mitsubishi.com.au.

1) The NP Pajero on cod water. A low range capability allows the Pajero to go places where the soft roaders can’t.

2) This shot gives an idea of the Pajero's great all-round ground clearance.

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