The Pajero Legend II is a luxury SUV with impeccable off-road credentials

It’s not for nothing that the Mitsubishi Pajero has been dubbed a legend – it has won the Dakar Rally outright 12 times, seven of them consecutively. It was named after the pampas cat (leopardus pajero) found in southern Argentina but it was changed to Montero because pajero has an unfortunate connotation in Spanish.

001-off-my-wheelsBrian Joss – General Motors also had a problem trying to market its Chevrolet Nova, which in Spanish means no go (no va). That’s just some trivial information. However, there is nothing trivial about the new Pajero Legend II, the long wheel base (LWB) and the short wheel base (SWB) that I have been driving recently. And which arrived in South Africa not too long ago.

The Pajero Legend II: The LWB and the SWB: comfortable on the road and off the road. Picture: Quickpic
The Pajero Legend II: The LWB and the SWB: comfortable on the road and off the road. Picture: Quickpic

The first Mitsubishi vehicle was the Model A built in 1917 followed by the PX 33, the Japanese car maker’s first four-wheel drive diesel passenger car. The rest is history: the Pajero was first unveiled in 1973 and in 1985 it took the first of 12 wins in the Paris to Dakar Rally. The three diamonds of the Mitsubishi logo were inspired by the Iwasaki family crest, according to Mitsubishi’s website. The word Mitsubishi has long been used to denote a diamond shape in Japanese.

I have previously driven the Pajero on a 4×4 route and I thought I would try the new SWB on the Atlantis dunes but the day I went the wind was howling and the sand whirling all over the show so I gave it up as a bad job. But the Pajero is capable of tackling most rough stuff. And I could go into all sorts of technical details about why it can, but I won’t. You can choose from four drive modes using the short transfer case gear lever.  This includes rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, four-wheel drive with centre differential locked and low-range with centre differential locked and if you want to be brave, with traction control switched off. There is also a rear diff lock which you can lock and unlock from inside the cabin.

The 3.2 litre turbodiesel delivers 140kW @ 3800rpm and torque of 441 N.m @ 2000rpm.  It is also quite miserly with fuel considering the engine size. I recorded figures of just under 10litres/100km driving at the legal limit. During normal driving engine power is delivered to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic gearbox, with self-shifting option.

The LWB is the top spec model and it is equipped with heated leather seats electrically adjustable for the driver and front passenger, a multi-function wood and leather steering wheel, a touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth and USB modules, a reverse camera with rear parking sensors, a double volume glass sunroof and privacy glass for rear passengers. The SWB is 235 mm and its length drops from 4.9 metres to 4.4 metres. Inside, the dimensions in front are the same as the LWB and there is ample room for rear seat passengers where there are pop-up windows only.

The SWB has two doors so getting in and out of the back is a problem if you’re not athletically inclined. The front passenger seat does slide forward quite a bit though to make entry easier. The driving seat not so much. The boot is deceptive. It looks small but you can load a fair amount of luggage or shopping into it but you will have much more loading space if you fold the rear seats forward. The LWB on the other hand has four doors but otherwise the dimensions, apart from its length, are the same.

Safety features include six airbags, ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), BAS (Brake Assist System), Active Traction and Stability Control (ATSC) and Mitsubishi’s patented high-strength Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body shell.

You can use the Pajero for your daily commute or the school run, apart from going off-road. The driver has an excellent view of the road thanks to the large glass area surrounding the cabin and on the highways and byways the Pajero delivers a  comfortable ride. Around the bends there was some body roll but when you’re driving a proper off-roader that is to be expected.

On one of our day trips we headed out to Franschhoek on the N1 and returned over the Franschhoek Pass with its many hairpin bends and twists and turns and the Pajero didn’t put a “takkie” wrong. It held the line and the steering gave lots of feedback.

At times the noise was a bit intrusive but it did nothing to detract from the overall excellent impression of the off-roader. From my point of view the cabin design is somewhat old fashioned. Although it does have leather seats and an info centre which features range, temperature, altitude,  audio functions, media connections and a reverse-view camera. There are also controls on the steering wheel. The Legend is a very comfortable car to drive and the seats are excellent with good driver support. There is a storage box in the centre that also serves as a padded armrest. The extendable sun visors are a useful feature: they’re not there for show and they do help to cut the sun’s glare.

At one stage in Somerset West we were caught in gridlocked traffic which is nothing unusual for that part of the world. And the Pajero was quite happy just idling for minutes on end and this is where the aircon proved its worth.

The SWB was plastered with decals: one said “Pajero tough” and another stated 12 times winner of the Dakar Rally. Other motorists assumed, wrongly, that I was a famous driver travelling incognito and so tried to overtake me or rev their engines to a screaming pitch at the traffic lights and then burned rubber as they pulled off.

The Pajero’s off-road credentials speak for themselves but it is equally at home on the open road or in the city streets where it is easy to manoeuvre, even in to tight parking bays.

If you’re looking for a vehicle that can take you off-road or cruising the Pajero Legend II is just the ticket. The LWB carries a sticker price of R819 900 and the SWB R759 900 but check with your dealer.

*All Pajero Legend II models are sold with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km maintenance plan. Service intervals are 10 000 km.

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