Rather than being a new variant of the popular Mitsubishi Pajero as the name suggests the Pajero Sport is actually the replacement for the outgoing Challenger. The Pajero Sport name has been used in Europe for the Challenger since it was first produced in 1996.

Launched in 1982 Pajero was hailed as the first affordable affordable 4WD vehicle that appealed to female drivers as much as their male counterparts. It comes as no surprise therefore that Australia is just the second country to receive the Pajero Sport after Thailand where it is built.

Pajero Sport becomes the latest contender in the expanding serious off-road SUV segment joining vehicles such as Holden Colorado 7, Isuzu MU-X, Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner.

The designers have managed to blend style and ruggedness, it features the latest Mitsubishi ‘Dynamic Shield’ frontal treatment. The other dominant feature comes at the rear of the vehicle with elongated combination lights that look a bit like a pair of icicles running down the entire side of the tailgate.


Pajero Sport includes a number of firsts for the Mitsubishi brand. These include eight-speed automatic transmission; hill descent control; and an electronic parking brake. There’s also a new all-terrain control system.

Inside there’s plenty of space for up to five occupants (it misses out on the third-row seats that its competitors have – although they may come later) with wide, supportive and comfortable seats all of which can be reclined. Entry to the front seats is helped by extra grab handles on the A-pillar. The steering wheel has reach and height adjustment.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is offered in three variants: GLX ($45,000), GLS ($48,500) and Exceed ($52,750). The GLX seats are cloth, GLS and Exceed get leather trim.

Power comes from a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel that Pajero Sport shares with the latest Triton utility. The engine generates 133 kW of power at 3500 rpm and 430 Nm of torque at 2500 revs.


The all-new Aisin eight-speed automatic has been specially developed for the Pajero Sport and includes an adaptive control system with features such as uphill and downhill control, and rapid kick-down control.

Manual transmission which was an option in the Challenger is no longer offered.

The new auto plays a major part in lower fuel consumption. The official figure of 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined city/highway cycle is a significant improvement on the 9.8 L/100 km from the 2.5-litre / five-speed auto in the Challenger.

When most SUVs are launched to the media the drive program route planners usually try and squeeze in some off-road segments. Often these are just a couple of kilometres of well-graded smooth gravel, some even manage a light beach run. It all depends on the confidence that the decision-makers have in the toughness of their vehicle.

Mitsubishi clearly had no reservations when they mapped out the drive route for their all-new Pajero Sport’s off-road ability when it threw everything but the kitchen sink at the newcomer.

First up was a visit to the Stockton Sand Dunes to the north of Newcastle. Looking like the location for ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ (it has been used for numerous film locations including the original Mad Max) these are said to be the longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. The dunes reach a height of over 30 metres with steep slopes and sand that ranges from soft to firm.

Apart from the occasional bogging by inexperienced sand drivers (mea culpa – I was one of them) the big Mitsubishi coped with the conditions extremely well during a two-hour traverse of the dunes.

Not content with this test the masochistic route planners took us on a diversion along the drive back to Sydney to send us on a steep climb deep into the Watagan Forest over some tortuously rugged terrain that required traversing deep ruts and crawling over large rocks. Again all 18 vehicles fought their way through and emerged unscathed.

Vital statistics for off-road usage are approach and departure angles of 30 and 24.2 degrees respectively; ramp brake over angle of 23.1 degrees; and wading depth of 700 mm. Braked trailer towing capacity is 3100 kg.

Pajero Sport comes with the Mitsubishi Super Select II 4WD system with four drive modes: standard two- and four-wheel drive (2H and 4H); then 4HLc which locks the centre differential for extra traction on snow or sand; and 4LLc which also locks the centre diff and uses low gears for extra torque.

Switches between 2H and 4H can be done at speeds up to 100 km/h, all others need the vehicle to be stationary and in neutral.

The new Off-Road Mode terrain control system provides four driving modes: Gravel; Mud;/Snow; Sand and Rock.

The route didn’t include any significant rural backroads but we did do the remaining commute back to Sydney along the motorway where the Pajero Sport felt like any other semi-luxury cruising SUV.

Standard safety gear on all variants includes seven airbags (including driver’s knee ‘bag), ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution; rear view camera; rear parking sensors; hill descent control; hill start assist; trailer stability assist and emergency stop signal.

The GLS adds a differential lock; dusk sensing headlights; and rain sensing wipers. Added safety in the Exceed comes from Multi-around Monitor System that uses cameras to show a bird’s eye view around the vehicle; Blind Spot Warning; and Forward Collision Mitigation, a warning / braking system to reduce the risk of collisions.

Exceed also gets a new safety feature called an Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System (appropriately enough abbreviated to UMS). The UMS system has been developed as a means to mitigate human error whereby the driver inadvertently operates the accelerator pedal instead of the brake. It shares the same ultrasonic sensors systems as the Blind Spot Warning system and Corner Sensors as fitted to Exceed.

Although Mitsubishi won’t confirm it, this may well be a reaction to ongoing legal action in the Philippines around claims that the Montero Sport (Challenger) suffered from “sudden unintended acceleration”.

Other standard features across the range include 18-inch alloy wheels; LED headlights and daytime running lights; keyless entry and push button start/stop; smartphone connectivity for Android Auto and Apple Car Play, and digital radio. In addition to the extra safety features the GLS adds leather trim and dual zone air conditioning while Exceed tops it off with and eight-speaker audio; power-adjustable and heated front seats; and rear-seat DVD entertainment system and 8-speaker audio.

New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is a highly impressive all-rounder. It has the looks, comfort and space to serve as an urban family workhorse or a long-distance holiday cruiser but then throw off the shackles and take on the most rugged terrain in confidence that it will emerge unscathed at the other end.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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