BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS MEDIUM
Like its predecessor the 2016 Challenger replacement used the Triton ute powertrain and chassis, with a coil-sprung live rear axle. With Super Select 4WD drivetrain and stability and traction control as standard, the Pajero Sport is one of the best specified and keenly-priced medium wagons. It was upgraded in 2018, in mid-2019, early 2022 and early 2023.
Mitsubishi Motors’ long-awaited successor to the asthmatic Challenger 4WD wagon made its international debut at the 2015 Bangkok International Grand Motor Show in Thailand.
Presented for the first time in production form, Mitsubishi’s third-generation Challenger featured Mitsubishi Motors’ new Dynamic Shield front face design concept. We thought it was hideous, but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Mitsubishi reckoned the new front “clearly distinguished it from other off-road SUVs”, but to us it looked like a Lexus and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Fortunately, the Challenger’s awful 2.5-litre diesel was replaced by the Triton’s sparkling 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo-diesel engine, with 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
Mitsubishi claimed that handling, stability, ride and quietness were improved, through optimisation of the suspension and improvements to the body mounts. Upgraded sound insulation and the new diesel engine provided a significant reduction in interior noise.
The 2016 Pajero Sport introduced a range of advanced and comprehensive safety technology that featured on the Exceed model for the first time.
New active safety features included Blind Sport Warning (BSW) and Ultrasonic mis-acceleration Mitigation System (UMS)
which, while stationary or at speeds of up to 10 km/h, used ultrasonic sensors to detect vehicle obstructions and regulated engine power if the driver depressed the accelerator too hard.
Additional safety firsts included a Multi-around Monitor which displayed a bird’s eye image of the vehicle’s perimeter and an electronic parking brake.
Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) braking also featured on the new Pajero Sport Exceed.
MMC’s RISE impact safety body design and seven SRS airbags provided occupants with passive safety.
The Pajero Sport used the latest version of MMC’s Super Select II four-wheel drive system. This was complemented by an Off-road-Mode terrain selection system, a first on a Mitsubishi.
The addition of Hill Descent Control, another first for Mitsubishi, and greater wading depth also enhanced the vehicle’s off-road capabilities.
Mitsubishi Motors Australia Executive Director of Marketing Tony Principe said the new-generation Pajero Sport demonstrated the brand’s renewed emphasis on style, refinement and cutting edge technology.
“Mitsubishi Motors’ Challenger successor is another example of our product direction and reflects the new appeal, design excellence, quality and refinement we are building into our vehicles.
“The Pajero Sport represents a new-generation of SUV with luxury, high-tech safety features and superior comfort while still delivering class leading 4WD capabilities and great on-road performance.”
The Pajero Sport went on sale first in Thailand, where it’s made and was launched progressively in 90 countries across ASEAN, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Russia.
Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) become standard features across the Pajero Sport range in April 2018.
The Pajero Sport range expanded to include a new variant: a five-seat version of the mid-spec GLS. Previously, the entry-level GLX was the only model available with five seats.
Cosmetic changes included new 18-inch wheels on GLX and the range-topping Exceed gained a tailgate spoiler. All models featured new soft trim along the console sides.
Other upgrades included two USB ports for second row occupants, in addition to the two existing USB outlets in the centre console bin, next to a new 150W/220V three pin auxiliary outlet. The prevous 120W accessory socket has been relocated to the rear of the centre console.
The 2018 Pajero Sport range had Recommended Retail Pricing of $45,500 for the GLX, $48,500 for the new GLS 5-seat, $49,500 for the GLS 7-seat and $53,650 for Exceed.
The 2020MY Pajero Sport
was released in late July 2019 in Thailand and in Oz in early 2020.
The new model received slight exterior restyling and a refreshed interior, with a new digital instrument display, 200mm colour LCD screen and Apple and Android links.
The tailgate was power operated and could be opened by foot motion or smartphone app.
2022 GSR model
Sitting at the top of the range, the early-2022 GSR 4WD model featured black exterior and interior accents, with matching black 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear bumper garnish, radiator grille and roof rails.
The GSR was exclusively available in two colours – Black Mica and White Diamond, the latter also featuring a black roof.
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) was added as standard equipment to 2023MY Pajero Sport GLS and above grades and the popular GLS Deluxe option continued, boasting front seats power adjustment; leather seat, door and console lid trims; Multi Around Monitor and a steering wheel camera switch.
Impulse Blue marked a return to a blue colour option for the first time since 2021 Pajero Sport and the GSR offered two-tone Terra Rossa with black roof option
The GSR grade mintained black accents including: 18-inch alloy wheels; engine hood emblem; front and rear bumper garnish; front grille; GSR tailgate badge; headlight garnish and spoiler.
On and off road
The post-2016 Pajero Sport was the replacement Challenger, but although the name suggests some Pajero heritage there were no common parts. Confusing, isn’t it?
For a start the Pajero Sport came only as a five-seater, suggesting that Mitsubishi thought seven-seat customers would buy the aged Pajero. They might, but they may also have checked out seven-seat mid-sized wagons from other makers.
However that was a temporary situation, because Mitsubishi released a seven-seat option in mid-2016.
Pajero Sport GLS and Exceed variants were fitted with seven seats standard, while the GLX remained a five-seat model.
All Pajero Sport seven-seat variants were fitted with curtain airbags covering the full length of the cabin an taking the airbag total to seven: driver and front passenger, side, side curtain and driver’s knee.
Pajero Sport’s third-row seating folded forward to create a flat cargo space. A cargo box was also fitted under the floor behind the third row seats for extra storage.
The 60:40 split second row seating had a simple fold and tumble function to provide access to the third row.
Roof-mounted cooling vents for second and third row passengers were fitted to all variants: GLX, GLS and Exceed.
Mitsubishi also offered a cargo barrier.
Mitsubishi’s versatile and well-respected Super Select system allowed full-time on-road 4WD operation as well as the rear-wheel drive ability of a part-time 4WD system. It was the only vehicle in this class with a full-time-4WD driveline.
New for Mitsubishi were push-button modes to tune the chassis for the terrain: Gravel (the default setting when 4WD is selected) plus Mud/Snow and Rock.
The Exceed also had a rear diff lock, but with the excellent traction control disabled when the diff lock is switched in – why do manufacturers do this?
The centre console sat high and had hard edges (fixed in 2018). The door pulls, too, were a little sharp, but the armrests were soft-touch. Trim was cloth on the GLX and leather on the GLS and Exceed and front seats featured three-densities of foam.
The driver’s seat was height adjustable but as with most seats these days, there was no lumbar support adjustment. The steering wheel was leather in all models (adjustable for reach and rake) and the instrumentation clear and easily read.
Operation of the single- (GLX) and dual-zone climate control system was easy.
Our first test drive in the NSW Port Stephens area, the Wategans Forest and back to Sydney included a good dose of freeway and a smaller dose of bumpy back roads but, unfortunately, not much fast gravel.
The inevitable ride/handling compromise seemed skewed towards ride quality and the shock absorbers were found wanting on any bumpy surfaces. ‘The ultimate family sports car’ claims the TV ad: we don’t think so.
The engine/trans combo was delightful. Some multi-speed autos shift and hunt relentlessly, even on the freeway , but the Pajero Sport’s box found and held top gear by 80km/h and wouldn’t downshift from its locked-in-top 1600rpm point unless there was a shove from the right foot or a flick of the steering column paddles.
A pedal-to-the metal exercise gave an impressive midrange sprint that should translate into good towing performance.
The unfussed powertrain, Mitsubishi’s use of larger rubber body mounts and the noticeably soft suspension – not quite the ‘Sport’ image – contributed to an overall sense of hush and quietness in the cabin.
Mitsubishi claimed best-in-class fuel economy of 8.0L/100 combined and our on-road testing confirmed that. However, off-road it used around 50-percent more, like most highyl turbocharged diesels do.
The vehicle launch began with a beach run, where the Pajero Sport showed its prowess. With tyre pressures lowered it went everywhere with ease.
Mitsubishi retained the downhill braking strategy it introduced to the Pajero some years back. Even with the switchable hill descent control off, the transmission tried to prevent a runaway when descending sand dunes.
The Sport also had good ground clearance and useful approach, ramp-over and departure angles, so it’s no surprise it was happy on rough trails.
The Exceed had a rear diff lock but even the base GLX that relied on traction control alone had no trouble in conditions that saw wheels lifting constantly. Wheelspin mitigation via the traction control was smooth and very effective.
However, we’re not convinced some underbody components will survive gravel rash too long: there are some components and lines outboard of the chassis rails that will cop a spray from the front wheels, but time will tell.
The test vehicles were fitted with Mitsubishi’s accessory under-vehicle protection, but it’s not hard-core sheeting.
There are single recovery points, front and rear.
Check out our video test:
The 2010 Challenger shared the Triton ute’s 2.5-litre common rail intercooled turbo diesel engine and automatic and manual transmissions. The Challenger ccame in five- and seven-seat models in two specification levels.
The engine produced a claimed 131kW of power at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque at 2000rpm when paired with a manual transmission and 350Nm at 1800rpm with a carry-over automatic transmission. Mitsubishi claimed combined consumption figures of 8.3l/100kms (manual) and 9.81l/100kms (automatic).
The Challenger body was built on a ladder-frame chassis with double wishbone coil-spring front suspension and three-link rear axle suspension with coil springs. Four-wheel disc brakes were fitted and towing capacity was 3000kg with 10-percent ball load.
The Challenger had MATT (Mitsubishi’s All Terrain Technology system) which included Active Stability and Traction Control (ASTC), multi-mode ABS with EBD, and rear diff lock. Super Select 4WD allowed the driver to choose between four driving modes: 2H two-wheel drive high range for highway touring in fine weather; 4H full-time four-wheel drive provides added traction in inclement weather, or when the road surface became rough; 4HLC four-wheel drive high range with locked centre differential delivering power equally to front and rear axles; 4LLC four-wheel drive low range for steep off-road conditions.
The entry level, five-seat LS Challenger had 17-inch aluminium wheels (with a full sized alloy spare), side steps, chrome exterior door handles and mirrors, and roof rails. Inside, the LS came standard with automatic air-conditioning, steering wheel mounted cruise control and audio controls, power windows with driver’s automatic up and down, remote keyless entry and central locking, single CD player with six-speaker system, leather bound steering wheel, gear shift, park brake and transfer lever, colour centre display and an audio jack for MP3 player connection.
The LS Challenger with manual transmission was priced at $44,490 at launch, and, like all Challenger variants, came standard with a rear diff lock. Challenger’s five-seat LS variant with automatic transmission was priced at $46,990.
The seven-seat Challenger LS featured third row seating with 50/50 split rear seat, manual rear seat air conditioning controls, under-floor storage area and standard automatic transmission and was priced at $48,890.
The five-seat Challenger XLS scored a chrome grille, leather seat trim, power driver’s seat with slide, dual height and recline movement, colour keyed side protection mouldings, privacy glass, wood-trim console and centre panel, cargo blind and cargo room net, Mitsubishi’s Power Sound System with eight speakers for, Mitsubishi Multi Communication System (MMCS) with satellite navigation, reverse camera and video jack and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity.
The XLS also featured fog lamps, headlamp washers and reversing sensors as standard. The Challenger XLS five-seat variant came standard with automatic transmission and was priced at $56,990. The Challenger XLS with seven-seat option featured third row seating with 50/50 split rear seat, manual rear seat air-conditioning controls and under-floor storage area, with automatic transmission as standard, and was priced at $58,890.
The Challenger was covered by Mitsubishi’s leading five year/130,000km whole vehicle warranty with roadside assistance, backed up by a 10-year/160,000km powertrain warranty.
On and Off-road
We took two new Challengers on our 2010 Camper Trailer Torture Test (see under Camper Trailers on this site) and found the new wagons very capable on and off road machines.
The Challengers were powered by 131kW/350Nm 2.5-litre engines that coupled to older-generation auto boxes that had an upper torque limit. While our test drivers appreciated the ease of towing provided by the autos they all expressed a desire for the missing 50Nm that the manual transmission models scored.
Towing performance was marginal and fuel consumption was worse than that of the more powerful Pajero.
The Challengers and Tritons returned a collective average of 14L/100km, with the Triton/Heaslip combination at 15L/100km and the Triton/T Van combination at 13L/100km.
The safety benefits of traction and stability control on the Challengers were obvious in the mud, rock-hopping and bulldust sections of our test and we doubt we’d have managed the mud run into Bedourie without these aids.
Although the Triton GLXR and the Challenger shared the same chassis, powertrain and front independent suspension and body panels they differed in rear bodywork and suspension.
The Triton had leaf springs, like most utes and the Challenger had the same live rear axle, but with coil-spring suspension. The Pajero has independent coil-spring suspension front and rear.
When we’ve tested these Mitsubishis as solo vehicles the ride and handling differences were quite marked, with the Pajero having car-like qualities and the Challenger not far behind.
The Triton’s leaf-sprung rear end was noticeably firmer and more jittery than the coil-sprung wagon suspensions. However, with camping loads on board and trailer nose weights as well, the ride differences were far less noticeable and three Mitsubishi models handled rough roads and off road conditions with relative ease.
The original Mitsubishi Challenger was so named because it was specified to challenge the then-dominance of the Jeep Cherokee in the medium wagon market. As with the current Challenger the original used many components from the Mitsubishi ute range.
The first model was introduced in March 1998, as a medium-sized, recreational all-terrain 4WD five-seat wagon, powered by a 3.0-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 petrol engine with 136kW at 5500 rpm and maximum torque of 265Nm at 4500 rpm. Standard transmission was a five-speed manual and there was an option four-speed automatic.
Mitsubishi’s ‘Easy Select’ part-time 4WD system was fitted with a free-wheeling front differential, allowing selection between 2WD and 4WD high range up to speeds of 100 km/hour.
This first Challenger rode on unequal length double wishbones and torsion bars up front, with a live rear axle, mounted on leaf springs.
In late 2000 the Challenger got a facelift, a new luxury package, new suspension and a new automatic transmission. The 2001 model year upgrade incorporated a new grille and headlamps with chrome surrounds.
The ‘LS’ model had chrome mirrors and door handles, body-coloured rear spoiler and side step mountings, unique design alloy wheels and fog lamps.
The new auto was Mitsubishi’s INVECS II ‘intelligent’ transmission.
The leaf springs of the previous model were replaced by a three-link rear end with coil springs.
Standard Challenger features included dual SRS air bags, air conditioning, power windows, reclining front and rear seats, 60/40 split rear seat, improved radio/cassette with CD controller function, power antenna, four-speaker audio, electric mirrors, central door locking, overhead console with sunglass storage, fully carpeted floor and cargo area, and cargo area underfloor storage boxes.
Challenger LS spec’ added a leather steering wheel, leather seats, woodgrain panel, radio/single CD with six speakers, and illuminated vanity mirrors for driver and passenger.
In late 2001 the Challenger scored remote keyless entry, a radio/single-CD security-coded audio system and side steps standard on the entry model.
In mid-2002 the entry model standard equipment included dual SRS airbags, power windows, steering and mirrors, new 8-spoke 16-inch aluminium wheels – previously 15-inch – central locking with remote keyless entry and air conditioning. Cruise control, ABS and limited slip differential were optional, as was two-tone paintwork.
LS had these standard features, as well as leather interior; woodprint dash panel; leather-wrapped steering wheel; six-speaker security coded AM/FM CD; projector fog lamps; chrome exterior mirrors and body highlights; ABS; cruise control and a hybrid LSD that outperformed any conventional LSD.
For 2004 body-coloured side protection mouldings were standard on monotone coloured vehicles – previously standard only on two-tone vehicles. The LS model had black roof rails as standard.
ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, a hybrid LSD, cruise control, cargo blind rail, passenger seatback pocket and electric antenna with half-way position stop were added as standard equipment.
The LS had an electric tilt/slide sunroof and an in-dash six-CD stacker.
The 3.0-litre V6 engine complied with Euro 2 emission standards.
The upgraded Challenger is now available in showrooms at the following prices:
For 2005 the Challenger received its last updates: body coloured grille with chrome accent; new six-spoke aluminium wheels and clear lens tail lamps.
After racking up some 14,000 sales the first Challenger was discontinued in 2006.
Older Challengers can benefit from suspension modification and traction aids, such as locking rear diffs. New models have good ground clearance out of the box and great traction aids. All Challengers need snorkels to avoid water entry.