Car Reviews

2016 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS review

Robert Pepper’s 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell: The Pajero is a robust, well-proven 4×4 with a strong and loyal following, but it sorely needs an update to compete strongly in today’s market.

2016 MitSuBISHI PAJERO GLS

PRICE :  $58,990 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 5 years / 100,000 km SAFETY : 5 star (33.41 / 37) tesTed in 2014 ENGINE : 3.2L turbo 4-CYLINDER petrol POWER : 147kW @ 3800 rpm TORQUE : 441Nm at 2000 rpm  TRANSMISSION : 5-speed Auto DRIVE : super select II all wheel drive, low range, rear locking differential  BODY :  4900 mm (L);  1875 mm (W);  1900 mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE :  11.4 m GROUNd CLEARANCE : 235mm : APproach / RAMP / DEPArTURE ANGLES: 36.6 / 22.5 / 25.0 WEIGHT :  2255 kg SEATS :TOWING : 2500kg braked / 3000kg braked (reduced tBM), unbraked 750kg FUEL TANK : 88 litres SPARE :  FULL-SIZE ALLOY THIRST : 9.0 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : Diesel

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Editor's Rating

How we rated the 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS 88%
Time is passing by but the Pajero isn't keeping up. The seven-seat design is cumbersome and cramped, the refinement just isn't, the dynamics that once led the class are now average and towing capacity is below par. Yet the latest Pajero still does the fundamental job of being an all-round family wagon, retaining a solid charm that still sees it find homes with its many fans, particularly those that want a tough, capable and well-proven offroad tourer. The more time you spend with it, the more you forgive its shortcomings and appreciate its inherent capability.
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Also see our onroad and offroad test of the 2016 Pajero Sport.

Design

The last time I properly tested a Pajero was 2007 and, if I’m honest, not much has changed.  Still the same 3.2L diesel (albeit with a little more grunt), still a five-speed auto, one-piece swing tailgate with spare wheel. Is that a bad thing? Yes, and no.  

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This happens, but the Pajero does not stop. Notice the front right wheel is not spinning? That’s because traction control has kicked in hard and early, keeping momentum going.

It all depends on what you want from the vehicle.  Pajero fans know what they like, and this is just more of it.  Others will need some convincing against the competitors on the market.

Room & practicality

Starting from the front there’s a glovebox, sidepocket and a capacious centre console with a handy split storage system.  There’s a couple of good-sized drinks holders well out of the way, behind the Super Select II 4WD system selector.

The second and third rows are basic and generally behind the times.  The second row is a 40/60 split, with a cumbersome system to tumble the seats forwards.  The current market leaders have easy one-touch designs and fold the seats flat, and have a three-way seat split.

The third row is worse, off the pace as far back as a decade ago let alone today. The two seats there are either both up or both down, and difficult to set up – you need to remove a cover, pull the seat up, fit headrests.  The best current models are a simple one-touch pull up and all done.  The seats are also very narrow, close to the floor, and footspace is very limited. However, if you didn’t need the third row then you have a very nice storage space that many people use for water tanks and the like.

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There’s quite a bit of room in the cargo area, as you often find with older vehicles, and it’s a sensible shape for carrying gear too.  There are good tie-down points, and a 12v socket.

Let’s hope Mitsubishi find the funds to improve the Pajero, because it is truly a classic 4X4 and would hugely benefit from the engine and transmission in the Sport, plus an interior makeover.

On the inside

The seating position is fairly comfortable despite the steering wheel not being reach adjustable, just tilt.  The electric seats on our GLS are more adjustable than most, with base tilt as well as lumbar, not just forwards/backwards and seat back angle.

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There’s one 12v socket, hidden behind a panel, and two USB ports…but for some reason both are in the glovebox.  Not a good idea.  All the controls are easy to find and use – stalks, dials, knobs.  No touchscreen gimmickry for primary controls here, the Pajero is too sensible for such fripperies.

The second row does get its own aircon, something the kids will love, and dual rear seatpockets on the front row.  Less good is the location of the child restraints, inconveniently on the floor of the cargo bay which is not only hard to get to, but intrudes into cargo space.  No 12v in the second row, unfortunately.

The interior generally looks in some ways old, with an upright dash and narrow A-pillars.  But it’s not that bad, it’s all reasonably workable and looks fairly well coordinated.  A nice little touch is a display at the top of the dash showing fuel consumption and the like which means you don’t need to switch the main display to see that detail.  It all works well enough, more utilitarian than style.  The infotainment unit is very modern – Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, on which we have more here.

Performance, ride and handling

Around town:

The Pajero is an easy enough car around town for its size.  It doesn’t hurt for power, albeit delivered gruffly, wingmirrors are large, visibility is good and turning circle is acceptable. The reversing camera helps with parking too. All wheel drive helps keep traction under control, and we found no issues in the wet with traction even in 2WD, although we’d definitely recommend all wheel drive as a standard drive mode.  The steering is slow by modern standards, requiring a fair bit of wheel twirling.

The tailgate is one-piece swing-out; and that’s personal opinion as to whether you prefer it over the vertically split doors like in the Patrol, or a one-piece lift up like most SUVs, or a two piece lift-up/fold down as in many larger vehicles such as Discovery and LC200.  The spare wheel is full-sized and door mounted which makes the door heavy, but it’s still quite usable even for smallish children.  The reversing camera means rear visibility isn’t compromised.

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There are very few 4WD selector levers left in 2015 4X4s, but here’s one.

Towing

The Pajero is nominally rated to 3000kg, but only with a towball mass of 180kg.   So in practical terms the Pajero is rated to 2500kg where you can have a TBM of up to 250kg.

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We didn’t do much towing with the vehicle, just an 8×5 trailer that weighed 650kg loaded, so within the unbraked trailer mass limit of 750kg.

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We did find the Pajero very easily handled what is a small load for it, and as ever with trailers, all wheel drive is a bonus – Super Select II in all wheel drive mode (a Super Select explanation can be found here).  The large mirrors were helpful, and the steering was light and easy enough to maneuver. 

The Pajero’s tailgate is a one-piece door, and postioned so that it just clears the towball, something Editor Bober picked up on his long-term test.  However, it can get in the way of some trailers unless you have a long drawbar.  There are aftermarket kits to lift the spare wheel a touch, and even now one from Mitsubishi.

Overall, the Pajero tows smaller trailers well but it is not the vehicle you want for larger trailers, say above 2000kg.

On the open road: 

The combination of only five speeds and an aged diesel engine means that the car needs to rev fairly hard and sounds very, very noisy and gruff in the process, even at idle.  Still, progress can be quick and once up to cruise speed it’s liveable, but far from best in class.  Around the turns we find handling is reasonable for an offroad 4X4, the suspension soaks up whatever you drive over but this is not a highly responsive car or SUV, it’s more trucklike than you’d expect.  The main issue is the steering which lacks feel and responsiveness.

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Offroad:

Back in the early ’00s the Pajero horrified the offroad faithful with fully independent suspension and a “monocoque” chassis design (never true, the car actually has a sub-chassis).  Many people thought the car would be ineffective offroad and weak.

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Pajero is very much at home on this sort of surface.

Fifteen years later and time has conclusively proven the naysayers to be completely wrong.  There are many, many Pajeros doing sterling work offroad, and indeed the car is one of the default can’t-go-wrong choices for 4X4 tourers.  You don’t hear of people having issues with Pajeros, or breaking them.  The car may be basic by today’s standards, but it has proven to be be strong and robust. 

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Dirt-road handling is very good, thanks partially due to fairly long-travel independent suspension and inherently good design (maybe all those Dakar wins rubbed off a bit).   You can roll up in any Pajero to any 4X4 shop asking for gear and the answer will be “no worries we see these all the time” and for good reason – that reliable toughness again, plus more-than-decent offroad ability.  

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Into low range and we find independent suspension gives excellent clearance – 235mm stock — but means the vehicle is prone to the “Pajero Salute” of a wheel in the air.  This isn’t great for traction (or occupant comfort), but as Mitsubishi have done an excellent job with traction control calibration progress can be maintained, and there’s a rear differential lock too.  However, my experience is that in most cases the traction control does a better job than the locker, which is best left for long, steep climbs or very rocky, high-traction terrain, not least because engaging the rear locker knocks out traction control on the front axle, an annoyance many owners fix aftermarket.  The centre differential is lockable – no clever computers here – and that’s highly effective and safe.

There’s no electronic hill decent control, and only 5 speeds with a reduction of 1.9:1 in low range so engine braking is a weak point.   Still, going uphill you never hurt for torque, and gears can be manually selected.

The door-mounted spare is a bonus for offroading as it is easily accessible, and leaves space in the main body.

Overall, the Pajero is a reliably tough offroader as proven every day by the number you see on the tracks everywhere in Australia.

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Cocking a leg. Engaging the rear locker helps maintain engine braking on the rear axle while descending.

Safety

The basics such as side airbags and stability control but no advanced aids like AEB or active cruise control.  You do get a reversing camera.  The Pajero has been ANCAP tested in 2014 and rates 5 star.  No ISOFIX seats either.

Pricing & Equipment

All grades for 2016 now have Android Auto / Apple Carplay (review coming soon).  All Pajeros are now diesel automatics, with the petrol and manuals dropped, and all run 18″ rims – which you’d want to swap for 17s if you intend to drive offroad.

The range is now three models, and here are the key differences (excluding various bling features like decorative scuff plates).

GLX – $53,990

  • Rear cross-axle locking differential
  • Rear aircon
  • Seven seats

GLS – $58,990 all the GLX features plus:

  • HID headlamps
  • Dusk sensing headlamps
  • Leather-look bolster seats
  • Lumbar adjustment
  • Electric front seats
  • Heated seats
  • Reversing sensors
  • Rain sensing wipers

Exceed – $65,990 all the GLS features plus:

  • Premium audio
  • Leather seat facings
  • Automatic high beam
  • Sunroof
  • Alarm

As usual with new cars these days there’s the paint cost – you pay $550 for any colour but solid white.

Out of that lot the GLX looks pretty good, and maybe the GLS but the extra coin for a Exceed simply isn’t worth it.  Value for money would be good if you get a reasonable discount, but with the likes of Fortuner, Everest and even Pajero Sport coming through then the Pajero needs price incentives to remain competitive.

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Just a few happy Mitsubishi 4X4 owners at a Muster in 2010.

Second opinion

Juliette Remfrey

The moment I put the car in gear I had a flashback to the late ’90s and early ’00s, not surprising considering that the Pajero sits on a platform rather unchanged from 2000. Whilst it has been tarted up on the outside and made to look more modern, it is fundamentally the same car. I’d moved no more than twenty metres before I noticed the steering, which is dreadfully slow by modern standards, requiring huge amounts of steering lock to take relatively benign corners. It doesn’t get better with speed either.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is well behind what you’d be expect in a modern 4×4. The engine is loud and the cabin vibrates a bit excessively at idle. The suspension is on the firm rather than luxury tourer side and there’s a lot of feedback through the car despite the vague steering.  The cabin has typical older Mitsubishi style of being mostly practical, but dull, boring and plastic. The instrument cluster is hard to read, mounted low and the colours used require far too much time with your eyes off the road to read in daylight. I spent too long looking for a USB port to plug in my phone and eventually found that hidden at the top of the inside of the glovebox on the passenger side – completely out of reach of a driver strapped in. You need to plan to plug your phone in before your journey and keep the lid open or risk it and close the lid squashing your cable. Not a lot of thought went into the placement of the USB ports, essential for connecting your compatible Android or Apple smartphone to Android Auto / Apple CarPlay. In my view the USB ports should be closer to the driver and the Pajero certainly has plenty of room for them.

The Pajero tested was a 7-seater, but the third row seating is best left down keeping this car a 5-seater. There is no space for adult legs of the third row passengers and minimal space for shopping behind the third row as the passengers are jammed up against the rear door. Keeping the third row of seats down maintains the Pajero’s excellent visibility and despite complaints about steering it is easy to park with great visibility out of the windows, large mirrors and via a reversing camera. Still, there are much better alternatives if people moving and the capability to sit seven adults while transporting gear is required.

IMG_4262  The Pajero begins to make up for its shortcomings once you take it off-road. As an inexperienced off-roader I found the car incredibly forgiving over very trying terrain, even if I’d taken a less than optimal approach to the obstacle. The steering feel becomes less of a bother off-road and it feels more at home navigating through ruts than it does driving through suburbia. You get little in the way of aids to help you – no hill descent control which is not great as it’s only a 5-speed gearbox and low range isn’t that low, so engine braking isn’t very good.

On the other hand, the brakes are excellent, confidence inspiring, but the stand-out is the superb traction control system. You might have a wheel or two in the air, but with a steady application of throttle the car will get power to the wheels on the ground and you’ll be moving along. The clearance and excellent all-round visibility also make it a great off-roader removing some of the worry of not being able to see ahead or to the side and making it over a large obstacle without bottoming out on the diff or undercarriage.

RMP_3203 The Pajero makes sense as an off-roader, and for that reason it’s understandable that it has remained more or less the same car for the past fifteen or so years. The off-road capability has been improved with fantastic traction control but sadly that’s one of the few points that brings the Pajero into the modern day. Many modern 4x4s leave it in the rear view mirror when it comes to on-road livability.

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New found love of 4x4s! I took the Pajero out to the country when I volunteered to work at a dingo sanctuary. Handy to have a 4×4 and not worry about rutted dirt roads, grass, hills or anything else.

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!