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Mitsubishi Shogun 3.2 DI-DC Elegance Automatic 5-door

Click to view picture gallery“4x4 owners strike back! Sales of
  SUV and 4x4 vehicles are 15% up and
  now account for one in eight new
  vehicles sold
. A good time to check
  out the latest Mitsubishi Shogun

MITSUBISHI'S HIGHLY RATED AND LONG SERVING SHOGUN range was first brought to the UK in 1983 in three-door form and, two years later five-door, seven-seat versions arrived to make it the first heavyweight 4x4 with a multi-seat layout. In fact, the Shogun's introduction is credited with Land Rover being forced to bring their middle-of-the-road workhorse Discovery to market.

The Shogun was pitched at the right time between the hard working Land Rover and the elitist Range Rover. It appealed on price, durability, a long warranty and pure on- and off-road good driving manners and capabilities. Being a multiple winner of the Dakar Rally helped as well.

Today, next to the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Shogun (or Pajero and Montero as it is known in other countries), is the world's best-selling 4x4. It can be found in most countries working for a living as well as providing day-to-day transport for all classes of people from royalty to renegades.

In the UK, the Shogun finds favour not only with private users in towns, cities and the countryside but it is in service with the Police, Fire and Rescue Services, Utility providers, the Airport Authorities and, of course, the high profile Highways Agency.

The Shogun cannot
be overlooked
on price or capability
by anyone
who is
remotely astute
The long-serving Shogun heavyweight 4x4 has recently received a series of updates. All models, both three- and five-door, now use an updated, cleaner, more efficient 3.2-litre, DI-DC direct injection turbodiesel with more power and torque.

Power has gone up from 168 to 197bhp; torque is up as well, from 275 to 325lb ft. There is more good news: the engine also has a 14 to 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, depending on the model and transmission, now ranging from 212 to 224g/km. Fuel economy has improved in line with those figures with three-door models improved from 30.7 to 35.3mpg and the main selling five-door automatics from 26.7 to 33.2mpg.

The improved eco figures have not slowed the Shogun's performance: top speed is increased to 111mph and 0-62mph now takes 11.1 seconds — par for the course for a diesel powered mud-plugger. The increased torque has certainly improved mid-range response and will not only benefit its towing performance but also its ability to climb very steep gradients or wade out of tyre-clinging deep mud.

Customers have the choice of manual or automatic transmissions depending on which level of specification is chosen — the five-speed automatic has a tiptronic-type sports mode. Traction Control and Active Stability Control are both standard fit items. Prices range from 26,499 to 37,999 and to keep running costs to a reasonable level Mitsubishi offers a three-year/37,500-mile service plan for 420.

There are Equippe, Elegance, Warrior and Diamond versions covering all the customer bases from workhorse to executive business users. All are heavyweight 4x4s — imposing to look at with reasonable on-road handling and brilliantly capable off-road or in bad road conditions.

All models have a selectable all-wheel drive system: high ratio two- and four-wheel drive; high ratio 'locked' differential four-wheel drive; and low ratio 'locked' all-wheel drive. The use of these different modes couldn't be simpler: a transfer gear lever is just pushed to the function required — no clumsy iControllers, computer scroll switches or push buttons. Just select what drive you need and it is there immediately with no guesswork at all.

The range-topping
Shogun Elegance 5-door
automatic costs 34,999.
Not cheap you might
think, but still
competitive when you
compare it against
the heavyweight 4x4
competition for ability
and specification
In the past, Shoguns had the option of a 'lock' for the rear differential but this has now been superseded by a limited slip rear differential which improves the on-road manners, traction and handling.

My test model was the 3.2 DI-DC Elegance 5-door automatic priced at 34,999. Not cheap, you might think, but still competitive when you compare it against the heavyweight 4x4 competition for ability and specification.

I have been lucky enough over many years to have driven Shoguns of many generations in many countries around the world: on road and off; in sand, snow, swamps, jungle, over mountains, in the sea, in motorsport action and even an amphibious prototype!

Fitted with the appropriate grippy tyres, the Shogun is close to being the ultimate off-roader but not at the expense of it being horrible to drive on road — there is no point having ultimate off-road traction if the on-road performance is too poor to live with. In fact, that really has been the success element of the Shogun: real 4x4 capability plus strength and durability, a versatile interior for multiple passenger carrying or load space and a high level of specification.

Today's Shoguns are also very capable tow vehicles with braked towing weights ranging from 2,800 to 3,500kg. No surprise, then, of their popularity with the recovery services, farmers, caravaners, boat-towers, equestrians and, of course, travellers.

Depending on personal taste the Shogun visually will not appeal to all-comers. Perhaps it is a bit too brash and glitzy for some 'sophisticates' and its Tonka Toy styling might not go down with the 'yummy mummy' brigade on the school run but it is big, strong, offers excellent vision from the interior, is easy to get in and out of and roomy. It's also tough and shrugs off the dents and scrapes which occur in the urban or rural jungles we all have to negotiate daily.

In addition it serves up a comfortable ride, pretty well balanced for a big 4x4 although it rolls during cornering but never so much as to feel unstable. The five-door model is easy to drive; better than its 4,900mm length would suggest. The handling is trustworthy, the visibility first rate, the steering positive and the braking strong. In automatic form, gear selection is a doddle and even the transfer lever selection is, literally, child's play.

“A special mention,
too, for the impressive
30GB hard disk drive
navigation system with
Rockford Fosgate 860W
12-speaker premium
audio system — a music
server complete with
colour touch-screen and
rear-view camera
Specification is very comprehensive and includes electrically-operated windows and door mirrors, climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a full array of airbags, alarm and keyless entry and 18-inch alloy wheels. And a special mention, too, for the impressive 30GB hard disk drive navigation system with Rockford Fosgate 860W 12-speaker premium audio system — a music server complete with colour touch-screen and rear-view camera.

The rear row of two bench seats that gives it maximum passenger carrying options folds flat into the floor when not in use, creating a large load space of 1,790 litres. The rear seats can only really be used for short trips as they provide minimal comfort and are difficult to get in and out of.

However, they will appeal to some families where their children have playmates or the school run is a shared rota system. I know — been there done that, sorry, my wife has. With the third row in use, boot space is a minimal 215 litres.

Reasons to buy one include superb off-road ability, easy to drive on road, much improved engine performance, better fuel economy, lower emissions, high specification, strong and well built, seats up to seven and comes with three years' unlimited mileage warranty. My only criticism is that it's overdue for a styling change rather than another facelift.

Because of its workhorse status the latest Shogun is not going to be acceptable for all customers in the heavyweight 4x4 market. I'm sorry to say there is still considerable snobbery involved in this sector: "mine's posher than yours, old chap" still applies in some social circles. But while it isn't a perfect vehicle, the Shogun is a very good one. One that cannot be overlooked on price or capability by anyone who is remotely astute.
David Miles

Mitsubishi Shogun 3.2 DI-DC Elegance Automatic 5-door
| 34,999
Maximum speed: 111mph | 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 28.6mpg
Power: 197bhp | Torque: 325lb ft | CO2 224g/km