Mention the name "Pajero" and Mitsubishi's Paris-Dakar Rally involvement in the yesteryears comes to mind. Tagged with "Sport" suffix one would expect this full-sized SUV to live up to tarmac-scorching likes of the V6 or V8s 4WD of modern times.
Truth be told, this isn't the real deal Pajero. As you would have known, this is actually a hatchback-bodied 7-seater SUV based on the Triton's ladder-frame chassis. Nothing wrong with this actually, since in Thailand this variant just command a slight premium in pricing over the truck sibling. Here in Malaysia, the truth is telling and baffling - with the SUV-cum-7-seater docket prices plus its associated taxes and tariffs.
Mitsubishi has actually done very well with the body-on-ladder-frame bolt-on and suspension tuning on the Pajero Sport. The 3 days spent with the tester had me impressed how little "rippling" motions the Pajero Sport exhibited over a variety of road surfaces, bumps, braking-and-acceleration, as well as lateral forces while on-the-go.
Ride comfort is a little stiff but not uncomfortable, so is the stiff handling around corners. The truck-bedded version tracks around bends a bit more neutrally. Perhaps it's the curb weight of over 2-tonne bogging down the Pajero Sport's agility a few notches.
Cabin comfort is up to the mark - with leather seats, lighter beige-grey two tones and the chromed-rimmed meter-clusters looks better and that little bit more upmarket. The Kenwood-Garmin GPS though is dim-witted with latent satellite tracking and frequent errors or dropped out in routing. This SUV truck passed with flying colours lugging seven and some luggage on our road-trip up to Penang. However, the powertrain does not like to be rushed. More often than not, there is still that laggard feeling upon initial take-off and overtaking-after-a-slowdown, despite the rather promising Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) boosted output of 178 ps and 350 Nm. Should you want that little bit more rush or quicker dash up a gradient, you just have to downshift a gear or two with those magnesium-alloy flappy paddles!
Brakes are just adequate mostly but should you want to drive quicker or if you carry full load, you might wanna plan your braking point earlier. NVH is mostly good for this truck based SUV - at highway speed it makes for a quiet cruise despite those huge semi off-road tyres.
All in all, the Pajero Sport makes a good case for those looking for a "budget" full-sized turbodiesel SUV, despite its few little flaws here and there. It looks handsome enough just like its truck sibling, though a tad narrowly-thin profiled with a rather tip-toed stance when viewed straight-on from behind. As an urban-SUV it makes a compelling highlights for space, comfort and practicality while it can go for that occassional off-roading should you need or want to take your family along.