I’ve always liked Mitsubishi vehicles. Tough, rugged, with bullet-proof engines; they come across as functional rather than pretty, in a bland, urban sort of way – and perhaps this is where part of their charm resides.
But, after several years of marketing neglect, firstly in the hands of Ford and then Mercedes-Benz, the Mitsubishi range, at last, has ended up within the AMH Group, where a dedicated team has re-launched this iconic brand.
Its latest offering, the Pajero Sport Shogun, is the bodybuilder cousin in this team. Even more competent than the standard Pajero Sport, the Shogun – a Japanese name, which came into existence in about 1192 and which translates as, The General who defeated the Barbarians – is kitted out to the hilt and may be driven straight off the showroom floor into the rugged wilderness.
During our recent visit to the KZN battlefields, with a stay-over at Sprinbok Lodge in the Nambiti Conservancy near Ladysmith, the Shogun displayed excellent highway manners, fairly decent acceleration from its 131kW four-cylinder Diesel (with intercooler), and an equally pleasant five-speed automatic transmission that would have been quite at home in a luxury sedan.
With its state-of-the-art Tough Dog shock absorbers (imported from Australia), steel plate protectors for the engine, gearbox and differential, as well as a snorkel, brilliant Yokohama Geolandar tyres, as well as the latest Garmin GPS Nüvi Cam with Maps for Africa included, the Shogun was good to go. Rocksliders and a removable tow hitch also formed part of the value package, which came to R70 000 (included in the R515 000 asking price), and the standard roof rack will carry 80 kilogrammes of kit. It’s also worth mentioning that the Shogun, with its 350Nm of power, will easily pull a trailer weighing 1.5 tons.
With all these value-added items forming part of the Shogun’s DNA, one would expect a harsh ride and dodgy handling on some terrible gravel roads (between Warden and Verkykerskop in the Free State). Our fears were soon put to rest when the Shogun tackled this particularly nasty stretch of road without any indication that oversteer would let the rear slide out.
Although the fleet of Shoguns resembled a dust-covered dog’s breakfast at the lunch stopover, good door and window seals kept the interior clean and fresh, with the air conditioner cooling things down in the middle of a 38 degrees C heat wave.
The refuelling stopover in Ladysmith, likewise, was a pleasant surprise with the Shogun returning consumption figures of 11.19 litres/100 km – completely adequate, even good – considering that part of the journey up to that point had included driving in 4H mode. The 70-litre fuel tank is large enough for most African conditions and the Shogun is happy to run on 50ppm Diesel – which is not always freely available in the more isolated corners of Africa.
But, it was on rocky and rugged terrain, near the Spioenkop Battlefield the following morning, that the Shogun displayed its virtually unstoppable nature. Fighting through dongas and climbing over rock formations with the menacing battlefield looming in the background, the Shogun made light work of some really scary (to me) category four and five obstacles. It was all dust and drama, with villagers streaming up from the valley below to come and observe what these crazy drivers and their vehicles were getting up to.
Keeping an eye on the temperature gauge, since most of the obstacles were tackled in 4L, there was never a moment that the reliable Diesel seemed ready to overheat. In fact, it shook off the by now 38 degrees C as though it didn’t exist, while also having to contend with a hot berg wind which, at times, reached speeds of more than 100km/h.
Having dealt with this off-road course in style, the return trip (on good tar) once again illustrated the Shogun’s versatile nature. Stable at speed, the slightly optimistic speedo indicated 125km/h as a true 120. As expected, however, fuel consumption under-challenging off-road conditions increased to a still acceptable 15.13 litres/100km.
At R515 000 for this tough off-roader which, thanks to its great turning circle, is also an easy parking city vehicle, the Shogun should comfortably see off the opposition. Only 50 are being imported initially, and I predict that they will fly off showroom floors. The importers, I believe, should gear themselves for sales figures of some 100 vehicles per month (if they can hold the retail at acceptable levels).
The importers have hit the nail on the head with the Shogun. This, I believe, is what South African off-road enthusiasts have been waiting for. The price, at this specification and quality level, is excellent. The warranty covers three years/100 000kms, while the service plan is good for five years/90 000kms.
There are only two minor points of criticism. The steering adjustment does not cater for reach, and the 10 000-kilometre service interval is rather short.
Author Name: Bernard K Hellberg Snr