Great savings in a blacktop cruiser

The moniker of Toorak Tractor was coined for a reason. Big station wagons, with high up visibility and oodles of interior carrying capacity for a family plus fur kids or friends. And no intention of leaving suburbia—unless it was a run to a beachside resort or country escape with no more than a dusty gravel road to the farm-stay. The second gear stick may as well rust in place.

Today, manufacturers most commonly address that niche in the market with a purpose-built 2WD wagon configuration. Sometimes it’s built on the same platform and driveline, sometimes it’s an entirely separate model.

Mitsubishi has taken the route of providing those who love the practicality of their Pajero but never coat it in red dirt with the option to order the familiar 7 seat wagon in a 2WD option. Fewer components = lower price and no money wasted on stuff you’ll never use.

Very little else has changed in the 2022 Pajero GLS 7 seat wagon. The interior design, layout, and function will be very familiar to anyone owning the previous model.

Under the hood, apart from being minus the 4WD mechanicals, it’s pretty much status quo. That’s not a bad thing as the tenacious compact 2.4L direct injection four-cylinder diesel force-fed by a variable geometry turbo remains. Power figures haven’t changed, and it still cranks out 430Nm for towing duties, with an acceptable 133kW when you need to get a move on in the passing lane.

By avoiding the temptation to try to impress buyers with additional power gains, the engineers have avoided placing additional stress on the engine, which allows confident expectations that proven durability and longevity goal posts remain firmly planted.

As with any small capacity free revving engine, gobs of low-down torque at low rpm isn’t its strong suit. So, the 2.4 can feel a tad lethargic below 1,500rpm when jumping on the pedal to get out of the gate.

However, the shallow 4.8:1 first gear counters this by letting revs build rapidly to 2000rpm to ramp on the torque before you’ve had the chance to get across the intersection. Followed by a quick up shift from the smooth and efficient 8 speed auto to arrest any injurious tacho swing as the needle makes a dash for 3000rpm.

Once rolling, the Sport will convincingly shake a tail feather, dispersing any initial languid response as it harnesses the rapid surge of torque.

Dressed in smart 18-inch alloy wheels, the Sport 2WD has its feet clad with Open Country 265/80R18 rubber. Look a little closer and the moderate 110 load capacity with a 200kph H speed rating leaves little doubt about the bias toward quiet on road performance—logical given that’s where the 2WD Pajero will spend its time.

If you’re over six feet tall, be mindful that the A-pillar has a sporty swept back profile which can smack the unwary if you lean your head forward as you get in. Front seating is supportive, and the backrest provides sufficient bolstering to keep you snug during cornering without being restrictive. Thanks to the adjustable tilt and rake steering wheel and a good range of manual seat adjustment, it’s easy to get cozy. 

From the driver’s standpoint, ergonomics are very good, everything in a logical layout and easy reach. A slightly raised console complements an almost cocooned, sporty feel.

Cladding the steering wheel and gear lever in leather, along with soft touch surfaces at all human contact points, further improves the comfort levels of the GLS cabin. 

The fact that other surfaces are hard plastics didn’t bother me at all. Whether you’ve got fur kids, littluns or both; melted ice cream, sticky fingers, fur and slobber, plastic is easy to wipe down.

For convenience, connectivity is shared between dual USB and HDMI ports up front, a USB and AC power outlet on the rear of the console with an older style, 12V accessory plug in the rear. The stereo is a reasonable stock system, enhanced by well-balanced piping through six speakers around the cabin. DAB radio is the default or connect via Bluetooth or USB for Apple/Android connectivity. The 8” touch screen includes an internal sat nav powered by Tom Tom, which appears sadly dated.

From a practical storage perspective, the service logbook and owner’s manual largely filled the front glovebox. The center console has a forward dap spot in front of the shifter for your phone, with an additional small flat ledge underneath. There’s sunglass storage in the roof console, with rear seat pockets for maps and a tray for odd bits and bobs under the rear cargo floor. The console bin isn’t overly large but will easily accommodate your wallet, purse, house keys, parking, and fuel receipts etc. Front door pockets will hold a litre bottle, the rear pockets are smaller. There’s a fold down arm rest on the second row with pop out cup holders and the third row gets two coffee cup stowage points but, weirdly, both are on the driver’s side.

Rear seating is very good with plenty of head, shoulder, and leg room; ingress and egress are made all the easier with a comfortable external sidestep and well-located grab handles on both A and B pillars, plus a roof grab handle for each row to pull yourself in or out.

I appreciate clever design and having the dual climate control up front with an additional fan speed adjustment on the second row with roof vents for both second and third row seats will be a welcome addition in the hotter months.

Access to the third row is via a one touch lever that allows the second-row seats to fold and tumble forward in one easy motion. But it’s kids only; don’t put adults back here, as they won’t thank you for it. Unless you slide down and forward in the seat, you’ll most likely find your head touching the roof. Backrests on both the second and third rows have a small amount or recline function for additional comfort.

And there are two anchored ISO-Fix child seat points with three top-tether child restraints.

Luggage carrying capacity is very flexible depending on passenger load. It’s shopping bags only behind the third row but pull the straps to flip the rear seat base forward, fold the backrest for 502L to carry plenty of luggage. Want more?

Roll the second row forward and you get no less than 1,488L of space to accommodate a shopping frenzy at IKEA furniture or a load of Bunnings home improvements.

The on-road dynamics of this 2WDrive Pajero don’t particularly yell Sport.

Steering is light and given the market niche, the key fact is that it’s easy to manoeuvre in carparks with an 11.2m swing me around capability. 

There’s good visibility to the front corners for placement and a half decent reversing camera. The power adjustable wing mirrors give a clear view down the sides, if you take the time to adjust them correctly to cover your rear quarter guard blind spots.

Underpinning the nose is an independent double wishbone setup with coil springs.  

The first impression when traversing smooth roads is that the Sport is more intended for comfort cruising, allowing a little predictable body roll in the corners. 

However, the spring and shock calibration are firmer than you might think. Corrugations and secondary road bumps were transferred into the cab a little more firmly than I recall when testing the 4WD variant. Perhaps due to reduced sprung weight over the front end.

Most importantly, at sign posted road speeds, the Sport holds its line through corners providing a confident and reassuring response to steering wheel input.

In the tail is a coil spring three-link setup comprising dual control arms with a panhard rod locating a live axle. It’s OK, but not as refined as an independent rear end for outright road manners.

On the open road, the brake pedal feels firm with plenty of ability to put the squeeze on the four-wheel disc brakes to arrest the Sport’s movements. Even on well-graded gravel, the Sport maintains composure during an aggressive stop with the electronic brake force distribution balancing the braking force between front and rear axles. And the ABS avoids individual wheels locking up, so it maintains directional stability and steering control.

At 218mm, ground clearance isn’t stellar for a 4×4, but who cares? It’s brilliant for a 2WD! You can happily explore a dry, well graded gravel trail to the wineries or limestone paving at the caravan park entrance. But don’t delude yourself by thinking that because your Pajero Sport looks like the 4×4 variant, it will tackle a slippery mud-covered track, or rocky ledges. And stay off the beach unless the sand is like paved concrete.

Being a sunny day, we took the opportunity to explore a few smooth gravel trails to a picturesque picnic spot. For the most part it was an uneventful drive allowing us to take our time and enjoy the scenery. It was only when we encountered a couple of larger puddles that the differences in capability between the two drive line options was highlighted. The 2WD had a little more wheel slip, given its road tyres and understandably provided less capability over some slippery sections with only 2 wheels applying for traction. Did that mean the 2WD Sport was any less of a vehicle? No, it just confirmed Mitsubishi’s intentions that the 2WD version will perform well in the conditions and driving environment for which it is intended.

We may also have proved that boys will always play in the mud….

And this is the heart of the matter. There’s nothing wrong with a two-wheel drive. They were hauling families and caravans around Australia long before 4WDs become popular. But even if you don’t plan to go off-road, keep in mind the influence on towing performance if hauling a van will be your main requirement.

You cannot save $6 or 7K in comparison with the 4×4 model and still have all the functionality or exactly the same performance. 

You didn’t pay for a front differential, front drive shafts, front tail shaft, two-speed transfer case and lockable center differential. Which drops kerb weight from 2,069kg to 1,980kg. Interestingly, that doesn’t appear to translate into better fuel economy—with Mitsubishi quoting the same 8L/100km for each. Meaning the 68L tank should keep you rolling for 750 to 800k’s.

With the 2WD Pajero Sport, the tow capacity is down slightly from 3100 to 3000kg, with the tow ball weight following suit dropping10kg, and payload now 655kg some 60kg less than the 4WDrive.

But what is Mitsubishi’s Super Select and why would you want it?

As far as I’m concerned, this is the benchmark of functional 4WDrive capability. This system will allow you select which drive configuration you want to best suit the conditions. You can have simple two-wheel drive 2WD, or all-wheel drive AWD on lose and hard high traction surfaces, or engage four-wheel drive high range center diff locked 4WDH for slippery low traction surfaces then four-wheel drive low range center diff locked 4WDL for additional torque in challenging difficult terrain.

Even if you don’t ever plan on engaging the two 4WD options, the AWD setting is a winner.

In any situation, a vehicle with good contact and traction on all four wheels that can apply drive to each wheel will demonstrate improved stability and control in slippery or low traction environments such as wet roads or loose surfaces when compared to a standard 2WDrive.

When towing a larger van in bad weather or on rough roads, that’s not just less strain on a driver anxious to stay in control, it’s a safety advantage and highly desirable risk mitigation.

For my own lifestyle and driving requirements the extra investment to gain the Super select functionality and the AWD capability for me is worth the outlay. However, if you never intend going off-road or only need to tow a moderate camper or small van preferring well established blacktop destinations with the occasional well graded gravel road, then the 2WDrive Pajero Sport is an unpretentious all-rounder that makes light work of the daily duties of the modern family. A quick run to the deli for milk and bread, no problem. Hook up the box trailer for a trip to Bunnings, easy. Pick up friends and take two fur kids for a 2-hour bush hike, before heading back to the local for a Sunday roast special and a cold ale, absolutely. The Sport ticks all the boxes for comfort, room, practicality, and ease of operation.

Back that with good reliability and relaxed appearance looks, and it doesn’t take a scientist to discover why this wagon is so popular with active Aussie families, couples with fur kids and those now enjoying the freedom of retirement.

At day’s end, decide if you plan on exploring challenging trails to weekend bush camps, hauling a camper to remote locations, and consider whether the thought of getting your pride and joy covered in dust, dirt and mud exploring nature makes you feel faint.

If what you really need is a comfortable daily driver and all-purpose family-friendly black-top cruiser, then you can spend the dollars saved on what you really love and thank Mitsubishi for giving you the option. And let’s be honest, if chosen wisely, who doesn’t like a bargain!

Model: 7 Seat Pajero Sport GLS 2WD

Price: From $52,240

  • Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
  • Output: 133kW/430Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Fuel: 8.0L/100km
  • Safety rating ANCAP 5 Stars including Forward Collision Mitigation system (FCM), Emergency Brake Assist system (EBA), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

The seven seat GLS is the second level up from the base GLX starting at $47,240 and only comes in a five-seat configuration, both are 2WD. These same model variants are also available in 4WD configuration, with an extra two additional models in the 4WDrive stable.

You can opt for the more luxuriously appointed Exceed or the flagship model, the new GSR topping the range at $64,490. According to the Mitsubishi website drive away pricing for our test 7 seat GLS 2WD starts at a reasonable $52,240 some 6-7K cheaper than its GLS 4WDrive counterpart.

However, add in a few personal touches like optional dark graphite grey body colour, slip on a polished front bar, a flashy bonnet emblem, protective cargo liner, tow hitch assembly with optional chrome tow ball, an electric brake controller, some rubber floor mats front, and rear as fitted to our test vehicle; and that will take you past the $58K mark.

Drive Editor - Ray Cully

Drive Editor – Ray Cully

About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.