More sport than utility

Former Lancer Evo owner Botchi Santos has always had reservations about SUVs, until he drives the Pajero and realizes that there's a reason the ‘S' in SUV stands for ‘sport'
Feb 12, 2009

HONESTLY, I'VE never liked the idea of a gasoline-powered SUV. The ‘U' stands for utility. If it's a gas-guzzling SUV, it loses its utility, its practicality and its value because SUVs - much like pickups -should be workhorses. Cheap, fast, efficient and very versatile.

Now a gasoline-powered SUV, even one priced just shy of three million pesos, should still perform like a workhorse. Otherwise, it has no real value other than being a penile enhancer.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I took the keys of the Pajero V6. Rally heritage notwithstanding, I knew the gas bill would be a sticking point in my wallet (well, Top Gear's small purse for that matter).

Definitely, the driving dynamics are still first-rate. The double-wishbone front suspension and the multilink rear, coupled with revised spring and damper rates, mean a more comfortable ride with no loss of control and balance even for a large SUV. Anyone who says large barges and dynamic performance are mutually exclusive should go out for a spin in the Pajero. You'd be surprised.

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Inside, the revised dashboard, seats and consoles bring the large Mitsu rally-rep well into the third millennium, looking rather somber but definitely not staid. I'm not a fan of wood paneling but it somehow works without looking tacky. Unfortunately, the absence of leather seat material is unforgivable in this price range.

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Thankfully, the third-row seats stow away underneath what seems to be a cavernous rear floor. With the rear seats stowed away, you can transport four bling-spec wheels and tires easily, a number of golf bags for a round out in the many scenic golf courses, or a couple of boxes for your balikbayan relatives and friends. With the third row up, five adults and two kids sit comfortably, and dual aircon zones mean cold air ventilation at all times. The sound system is pretty good, too. See? There's a lot to like about the Pajero.

As you climb aboard, the seating position feels slightly lower than that in the Pajero's previous iteration. The steering feels lighter as well, probably because of the 17-inch 265-section highway-terrain tires feeling less grippy compared to all-terrain tires that tend to be squirmy on their tread blocks.

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There's also a sense of vagenuess on-center that the previous model didn't have. Nitpicking aside, it feels great to be back in the saddle.

The great thing about these variable-valve magic devices is that they really create an illusion of loads of power. It had me completely fooled. In fact, it even fooled the 24-valve quad-cam 3.8-liter V6 into thinking it was a V8!

The engine rumbles like a V8, is just as powerful from idle as a V8, has fantastic mid-range torque just like a V8, but amazingly enough, doesn't have V8 thirst and V8 sluggishness. Best of all, it screams like a race-bred straight-six all the way to the redline. Amazing!

The MIVEC-equipped engine is very responsive and, combined with the INVECS II five-speed four-wheel-drive transmission, really feels like a proper driver's ‘ute - if there ever was one. I imagine a tight two-lane winding road with mixed surfaces, like a typical farm-to-market road our government seems obsessed to develop, and the Pajero will be king. Decent ground clearance, excellent body control and a very responsive powertrain combination will let you live out your Dakar Rally dreams.

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But don't use it for extreme off-roading. The independent front and rear suspension will work against it on the toughest of trails. But that's missing the point. Horses for courses as they say, and the Pajero's course is a typical provincial B-road, taken at full-tilt.

Since this is a new Pajero, most of the major exterior body parts have been changed. Front panels, all four doors, rear panels, hood, bumpers and the rear hatch are new. The exterior body claddings - installed to minimize body damage during light off-road excursions as well as tight parking lot spaces with the resultant door dings - look clean and simple, better integrated into the athletic lines of the Pajero. While the previous ones looked fussy, the new one looks more elegant and better for it.

The 17-inch wheels are also of a new design with the aforementioned Bridgestone HT rubber. The new front grille looks really handsome in a very European-inspired manner. Similar to a Range Rover, in fact. The chrome trimmings (especially the grille), though abundantly used, look well-integrated into the overall appearance of the Pajero, especially in black. It doesn't look like a cheap, trying-too-hard luxury aspirant. It works.

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About the only thing I don't like is the rear tire cover with the integrated third brake light. Looks tacky compared to the rest of the car. Thankfully, the rear lights give back some of that wow factor the front end has.

Great car, great engine. The Pajero's new MIVEC-equipped V6 really transforms the car. There's more of everything everywhere: power, torque, economy and response. A proper workhorse with a legacy built on Mitsubishi's unmatched rally program - now with a touch of luxury.
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