Technical Explanations

Mitsubishi’s Super-Select 4X4 System and Off Road Mode Explained

4X4s are becoming easier and easier to drive, but there’s still a modicum of knowledge required to get the best from them. This is particularly true of Mitsubishi’s Super-Select.

The Super-Select system has been around for quite a while now on Pajeros of different types, as well as some Challengers and Tritons, and all of the Pajero Sports.  There are four modes:

  • 2H – two high, drives the rear wheels only. 2WD mode.
  • 4H – four high, drives all four wheels in all-wheel-drive mode.
  • 4H LC – four high locked, drives all four wheels in 4WD mode, locking the “centre differential” (LC = Locked Centre) for better traction offroad.  Don’t use this on high-traction surfaces like bitumen
  • 4L LC  same as 4H LC except the crawler gears are engaged.

superselect

So, what to use when?  To fully understand how 4WD systems work you’d need a book (ahem, www.4wdhandbook.com) but here’s a basic and quick guide:

  • Normal driving; 4H.  Just leave the car in this mode.  You may as well drive all four wheels, as you never know when that extra traction will come in handy as Editor Bober found out recently.   You will NOT get something nasty called transmission windup in this mode.
  • Dirt roads – 4H. The extra grip from the all wheel drive mode will be well worth it.
  • Offroad driving at speeds above about 30km/h – 4H Lc. That might be sand, forests, mud or snow.
  • Offroad driving at speeds below about 30km/h – 4L Lc. Deeper, slower sand, deep mud, rocks, hills and the like.

When to use 2H?  Pretty much never, in my considered opinion as an ex-owner, specialist in this subject and 4WD driver trainer.  The only time I use it is on high-speed freeway driving when the tiny, tiny improvement in fuel saving may perhaps be worth it.  Otherwise, I prefer having the surety of all-wheel-drive, 4H mode, which is essentially the same as the Prado, LC200, Discovery and most other recent wagons.

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Pajero Sport in 4LLc and its Rock Mode.
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Pajero Sport Super-Select system – that’s the dial. The two buttons in front are hill descent control and offroad mode.

In fact, I’d go so far to say that 2H should be deleted from the Pajero as very few people understand it, and they end up driving in 2WD then getting into trouble.  Like this….

It’s not the car’s fault –  Super Select is complicated

Here’s a story from a few of years ago.  A retired couple, onto their third or fourth Pajero were in a stoush with Mitsubishi.  The story was that his wife had been nearly taken out by a truck, and he blamed their Pajero.  She’d stopped at an T-junction in the wet, seen the truck coming and turned in front of it…with sufficient but not a lot of time to spare, so gave it a bootful.

Now the hoons amongst you know that circle work is done by turning tightly and a heavy right foot.  The rear wheels break traction, the back end spins around and it’s all joy.  Except when you’re an older lady trying to make a quick getaway.

So what happened was that the Pajero detected imminent loss of traction, and applied the brakes as well as cutting the engine power, slowing the vehicle.  You can imagine the effect on the driver of the Pajero, and the oncoming truck – there was very nearly a nasty accident.

The owners were upset, and contacted Mitsubishi to complain.  The engineers looked at it and said there’s no case the answer, the car works as designed.  No resolution, unhappy owners.  Then it came to my attention, and I was interested enough to go and take a look.

The Pajero drove and reacted exactly as it should, so I agreed with Mitsubishi.  But it was clear the couple only drove it in 2WD on the road, never 4H.  I was able to demonstrate to them on a dirt road (similar low traction to wet bitumen) how the back end would kick out in 2WD, then be stopped by the stability control system.  In 4H, that kickout would never happen.  Their previous Pajeros had been much lower powered and had no stability control, so they’d never had a problem.     The solution was simple – drive in 4H all the time, and especially in the wet.   One final point was that if the Pajero’s stability control system had not activated that nearly-fateful day, then the lady would have either spun the car or had to deal with an oversteer skid recovery.

Actually, one final final point.  Every 4WD system is slightly different so “engaging 4WD” to drive on high-traction bitumen roads is not something that you should normally do, it’s just that the Super Select system is a bit different to most others.

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Pajeros since Gen II have always had Super Select. It’s a more recent addition to Triton and Challenger. The Triton is one of the few utes that offers any form of all wheel drive – the VW Amarok auto is another, and the Defender one most people forget.

Super Select and the Offroad Mode Selector

Super Select determines only how many wheels are driven and the gearing; low range and/or centre differential locked. There’s also the Mitsubishi Offroad Mode Selector which is an adaptive terrain system. This is a system that reconfigures the car’s electronics for specific terrains, for example modifying the gearshift points, throttle response, brake/engine traction control and stability control. In Mitsubishi’s words here’s the modes and how it works:

Gravel

Allows just the right amount of wheel slip to balance acceleration and vehicle stability over unpaved surfaces of
small stones and dirt.
 

Mud/Snow
Controls tire slip to provide optimum vehicle stability or to avoid getting stuck when. When the vehicle gets
moving, it permits some slip and reduces intervention by the Active Traction Control within the Active Stability &
Traction Control (ASTC) system which adapts to road surface conditions to eliminate any feeling of losing speed.
If it senses the vehicle is about to get stuck in mud or deep snow while moving it reduces engine control to
improve its ability to extract itself.

Hmm not keen on this “reducing engine control business”.  Might need the power.

 
Sand

Controls wheel slip when accelerating from a standstill to avoid getting stuck and utilizes the limited-slip
differential effect to improve its ability to extract itself. When the vehicle is moving, it uses the Active Stability
Control and Active Traction Control systems which adapts to road surface conditions to eliminate any feeling of
losing speed. The automatic transmission uses a separate shifting pattern which makes active use of lower gears
to maintain forward drive.

I presume the “limited slip differential effect” is just traction control.  Otherwise looks good.

 
Rock

Reduces drive loss by reducing wheel slip and utilizing its LSD effect to improve power and the sense of stability
at low speeds when one or more tires are not in touch with the ground or when climbing steep gradients. The
automatic transmission uses a separate shifting pattern which makes active use of lower gears to maintain
forward drive.

Pretty standard for a rock mode.  No mention of really tightening up the traction control, hope it actually does so.  Rock is only in low range, same as Land Rover.

At present the Offroad Mode Selector is fitted only to Pajero Sport.

Further reading

All these vehicles have the Super Select transmission:

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is the editor of PM4x4, an offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com