Tow Comparison – Mitsubishi Pajero vs Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
The Mitsubishi Pajero will be discontinued, so is the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport a fit replacement for towing?
MITSUBISHI released the Pajero Sport back in 2015 initially as a 5 seater, then in 2016 followed up with 7 seater models. Just to make things interesting, the Pajero as we know it is still manufactured and now competing with the Pajero Sport for the consumer sale, although Mitsubishi did say they will discontinue the Pajero.
So, will the Pajero Sport really be the replacement for the Pajero? What should I buy now if I want to tow?
The Pajero Sport with its flashy design and slightly better towing capacity, or should I stick with the older technology, the well proven Pajero?
I guess the best answer is to test both as tow vehicles over a set distance, taking in local, freeway and hilly terrains.
Now, before you read too far into this article, I should explain that my objective is not to test all the features of both vehicles, but to concentrate on the towing capabilities of both the Pajero Sport and the Pajero.
First off, let’s look at the overall capacities of both vehicles. The 2017 Pajero Sport on test has a braked tow capacity of 3100kg and a maximum towball mass of 310kg. It is up against my own 2012 which has a braked tow capacity of 3000kg, but only with a towball mass of 180kg. So in practical terms for many towers the Pajero is rated to 2500kg where you can have a TBM of up to 250kg. These figures are the same for the 2017 Pajero.
The Pajero Sport’s motor is a 2.4 diesel 8 speed automatic, in comparison with the well-tested and proved 2012 NW Pajero Exceed 3.2L diesel 5 speed automatic.
It’s interesting that the smaller capacity motor in the Pajero Sport still provides 133kW @ 3,500rpm and 430Nm @ 2,500rpm. It’s a credit to Mitsubishi that the much smaller Pajero Sport motor, is only 8kW and 11Nm down on the 3.2 Pajero. As per Mitsubishi’s specifications, the Pajero Sport gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 2,710Kg with a combined vehicle / towing capacity of 5,400Kg. The Pajero has fully-independent suspension, whereas the newer Pajero Sport has a live axle at the rear. Both have coil springs all round.
The Pajero Sport is lighter at about 2050kg unladen (tare weight), and Pajero is around 2255kg tare weight as it is slightly larger. My own vehicle has offroad accessories fitted which increase the weight to approximately 2550kg.
The Pajero Sport has a slightly smaller turning circle at 11.2m vs 11.4m for the Pajero. Both vehicles are all-wheel-drive running Mitsubishi’s Super-Select 4WD system. While both vehicles have stability control, only the Pajero Sport gets the important towing safety feature of trailer stability control to combat trailer sway.
Both vehicles were equipped with camping accessories that we would normally put into the towing vehicle along with a full fuel tank and 2 passengers.
Hitched to the back of the test vehicles was a Lotus Freelander 20.6′ Caravan weighing in at 2850kg gross weight.
Here’s a summary of specifications. The 2017 pricing and specs are shown; these hold for the 2012 model is not significantly different except for the price!
2017 MITSUBISHI PAJERO GLS
PRICE : $58,990 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 5 years / 100,000 km SAFETY : 5 star (33.41 / 37) tested in 2014 ENGINE : 3.2L turbo 4-CYLINDER petrol POWER : 147kW @ 3800 rpm TORQUE : 441Nm at 2000 rpm TRANSMISSION : five-speed automatic DRIVE : Super Select II all wheel drive, low range, rear locking differential BODY : 4900 mm (L); 1875 mm (W); 1900 mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE : 11.4 m GROUND CLEARANCE : 235mm : APPROACH / RAMP / DEPARTURE ANGLES: 36.6 / 22.5 / 25.0 WEIGHT : 2255 kg SEATS : 7 TOWING : 2500kg braked / 3000kg braked (reduced TBM), unbraked 750kg FUEL TANK : 88 litres SPARE : FULL-SIZE ALLOY THIRST : 9.0 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : diesel
2017 MITSUBISHI PAJERO SPORT
PRICE : from $45,000 (plus ORC); WARRANTY : five-year, 100,000 kilometres; SAFETY : five-star ANCAP; ENGINE : 2.4-litre DOHC MIVEC intercooled turbo-diesel, 133kW @ 3500rpm, 430Nm @ 2500rpm; TRANSMISSION : eight-speed automatic, 4WD; BODY : 4790mm (L); 1820mm (W); 1810mm (H); TARE WEIGHT : 2045kg (GLX), 2060 (GLS), 2070 (Exceed); TURNING CIRCLE : 11.2 m; GROUND CLEARANCE : 218 mm; APPROACH / RAMP / DEPARTURE ANGLES : 30 / 23 / 24; WADING DEPTH : 700 Mm; SEATS : 5; TOWING : 3100 kg braked / 750 kg unbraked, 310 KG TBM; FUEL TANK : 68 litres; SPARE : FULL-SIZE ALLOY; THIRST : 8.0L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle; FUEL : diesel
Is this a fair test?
A 5 year old Pajero vs a new Pajero Sport? Yes, I believe so when you consider owners of the current shape Pajero may be looking for an update to a NX Pajero purchase or an alternative which could be the Pajero Sport, and the 2012 model is not very different to the 2017 model.
Our route was from Bayswater in Victoria to Reeves Beach Camping area in South Gippsland, a total distance of 460km return. The test circuit included 260km of freeway, 160km of hilly terrain and 40km of suburban driving.
This test circuit provides a great variation for any towing vehicle.
Questions to be answered – “Can the tow vehicle maintain a constant speed on the freeway? How will the tow vehicle cope with the constant uphill climb and down hill descent?”
The towing test was carried out over two long weekends. The Pajero Sport was first, and the Pajero on the following weekend. Weather conditions on both weekends were coincidentally similar with some rain and tail wind travelling to our destination with again some rain and a slight head wind on both return trips.
Hayman Reese weight distribution bars were definitely necessary to transfer the weight to the front of the Pajero Sport and provide additional towing height between the car and caravan. I would definitely recommend a suspension upgrade for towing of this nature and to maintain a level towing ride.
Perhaps due to the overall lower vehicle weight, the Pajero Sport was constantly drawn into the suction of overtaking trucks. You soon learned to keep well left each time you saw a large truck in your rear view mirror.
The 8-speed gear box is definitely a bonus for towing. I found however, you are continuously going up and down the gears in most driving situations, either in manual mode or leaving the shift in Auto. The paddles are a bonus making self up and down shifts very easy. With the auto in drive, I did note the gearbox continuously hunting for the right gear especially in the hilly terrain. This would increase not just the fuel economy but also the automatic gearbox temperature.
Overall, I was most amazed at the ease with which the Pajero Sport towed the caravan. With a little effort at the start, the turbo kicks in assisting in maintaining reasonable acceleration up to the posted speed limit. Freeway cruising was also impressive, maintaining a comfortable 90km/h with the cruise control being activated on the flat sections.
The overall ride with the caravan on tow was smooth though, although some sections of rough roads does send the shock waves through the vehicle. Luckily the very comfortable cabin isolates the road noise absorbing most of it.
The Pajero Sport brakes were a bit of a surprise. I found the brake pedal is very sensitive providing a very positive stopping result with little pressure. In fairness, it didn’t take long to adapt.
Note: on this vehicle the suspension has been lifted 50mm using Lovells heavy duty springs and shock absorbers with Polyair air bags also fitted.
The well proven 3.2L 4 cylinder diesel still has the power to comfortably tow the caravan well in most situations. Off from the lights, the strong torque of the motor maintains excellent acceleration to the posted speed limit. The 5 speed gearbox changes are extremely smooth both in auto or when using manually. The climbing of hills is achieved at a steady pace with the usual lower gear and more right pedal.
One thing to be aware of in all automatic vehicles is the rapid increase in gearbox temperature when towing, especially in hilly terrain. I do have a torque converter lock fitted to my Pajero which vastly reduces gearbox temperature. You can physically watch the gearbox temperature gauge needle drop when switching the torque converter lock on. For the sake of trying to balance the test between the Pajero Sport and Pajero, the Pajero torque converter lock was not used during the actual recorded towing test.
First off, a disclaimer! The Pajero being tested can be described as typical of a Pajero that has modifications for both towing and exploring off the beaten track. The bullbar, winch, underbody protection and rear cargo rack add approximately 150kg to the overall weight. The bullbar also reduces the frontal aerodynamics.
The Pajero Sport has a smaller 68 L tank vs the Pajero’s 88L tank. The fuel usage can be an important factor when considering the capabilities of both vehicles. The overall fuel usage of each vehicle towing over the test route was very close, thus the larger capacity fuel tank in the Pajero was most beneficial. There are long-range tanks available for the Pajero and now also for Pajero Sport with a 107L replacement tank offered from Brown Davis.
I tested both vehicles over a 35k circuit over a 7 day period (245k total) comprising local suburban and freeway driving. Both vehicles were driven as smoothly as possible to gain the best fuel economy. Additionally, both vehicles were fitted with standard all terrain tyres, and were driven at various times in both 2 and 4WD.
The Pajero Sport’s frugal economy without the caravan was quite amazing.
The consumption in L per/100k was taken from the vehicles readout. Understanding the vehicles readout may not be 100% accurate, however most drivers will use the vehicle’s economy read out as a basic fuel economy measure.
- Pajero Sport – best overall recorded = 6.4 L/100k. Average = 6.8 L/100k.
- Pajero – best overall = 7.1L/100k. Average = 8 L/100k .
Note: A torque converter lock was used during all freeway driving.
The Pajero Sport’s lighter body, road tyres and more aerodynamic shape certainly assisted in fuel saving. The Pajero however still can hold its head up high when considering the additional weight of accessories it is carrying such as the bullbar.
Section (1) 230k to Reeves Beach:
- Pajero Sport = 17.3 L/100k
- Pajero =17.6 L/100k
Section (2) 230k return to Bayswater North:
- Pajero Sport = 19.2 L/100k
- Pajero =17.2 L/100k
The overall economy was quite a surprise. The Pajero came in with the best result of 17.4L/100k compared to the Pajero Sports 18.3 L/100k overall.
There will always some variables and debate over economy figures, but despite the many ratios in the 8 speed automatic gearbox, the 2.4L diesel in the Pajero Sport was certainly earning its keep towing the caravan. The Pajero Sport seemed to handle the hill climbs easier than the Pajero thanks to the 8 speed auto and less overall weight.
Both Pajero Sport and Pajero cruised comfortably on the freeway, but the Pajero Sport required more concentration and correction when the larger semitrailers overtook.
Pros and Cons
- I liked the quiet and well insulated cabin. Modern and functional.
- I was very impressed by the torque and towing ability from the 2.4L turbo diesel.
- I am now a paddle convert! The shift paddles certainly assisted in changing up and down the 8 speed auto.
- Due to the small sloping rear section, rear visibility was greatly reduced.
- Be aware that the stiff suspension will produce a ‘thump’ through the vehicle on some potholes in the road.
I could be a bit one eyed when it comes to the well-tested Pajero, but:
- I’m always impressed by The 3.2L Turbo Diesel responsiveness.
- Despite its age, and lack of new technology, the Pajero is a reliable workhorse which fulfils it’s tasks as a family wagon, tow vehicle and capable off road 4×4.
- Again, the interior is dated but user friendly. I much prefer having the on board maps as opposed to the connectivity required in the Pajero Sport – you have to connect your phone in order to view any maps.
- A big plus – having the spare tyre easily accessible on the rear door and not having to unload cargo to access the release mechanism for an under body spare tyre.
- Cons – OK, there are a few rattles which despite the fist thumping, are still there!
So the big questions are:
Q1 – If and when the Pajero ceases production, is the Pajero Sport a worthy replacement?
Yes. At a starting price of $45,000 the Pajero Sport represents extremely good value for your hard earned $. The Exceed with all the bells and whistles will set you back approx. $53,000. Equipped with 7 Seats, leather and as described above, a very efficient tow vehicle and, a very capable off roader. The Pajero Sport is an ideal family wagon that is certainly not too big to park in the local supermarket carpark.
Q2. – Would I give up my Pajero for a Pajero Sport?
Not at this time. If and when the Pajero ceases production, then I would certainly consider the Pajero Sport as a replacement for my Pajero.
Title photo credit: Ralph Longley.