Pajero. It’s at the top of your short list if you’re after a big go-most-places wagon, want to tow a white elephant around Oz, need or want seven seats, and you’re not into Patrol and after a viable alternative to the ever-popular, me-too LandCruisers.
Sadly, the nameplate that lasted all of its four generations was put to presumably permanent pasture earlier this year (2021), victim of Mitsubishi and global buyer tastes changing focus in the years since Pajero first lobbed locally in 1983 as a boxy little three-door.
Our subject here, though, is generation four. It debuted in 2006 and hung about in Oz for fourteen years, twice as long in lifecycle as its three proceeding generations. What launched as NS series was updated thrice, by the NT (late 2008), the NW (2012) and NX (2015), which held station until production ceased in March 2021.
Why a Pajero? Its drawcard is its blend of comfort-laden on-road manners, large seven-pew accommodation – at least in long-wheelbase form – and with enough of hard-core off-roading goodness in key areas: switchable drive, proper low-range, a manual option, good ground clearance, impressive (700mm) wading depth.
Fundamentally, gen-four was Pajero comprehensively remodeled inside and out, albeit essentially a reskin of the third-generation monocoque ‘chassis’ dated back to 1999. This uni-body construction was a paradigm shift from the ladder-frame construction of the first two generations and is currently adopted by the smaller, technical unrelated ute-based Pajero Sport.
No surprises, then, that much of gen four’s oily gear underneath was essentially carried over from its predecessor in mildly enhanced form, such as independent suspension front and rear, the torque variable Super-Select 4WD II drive system and rack and pinion steering.
Tip: if the main drawcard is big plus-sized utility on a small budget, don’t overlook the older gen three stuff…
New for gen four, though, was more sophisticated electronic governance, more comprehensive passenger-car like safety, larger brakes, and key upgrades under the bonnet.
The ‘6G75’ 3.8-litre petrol V6 was given MIVEC upgrade, bringing a big lift in power to 184kW (from 150kW) as well as 329Nm.
The ‘4M41’ 3.2-litre turbodiesel option, a newly refined common-rail injection design, arrived locally in NS with 118kW/381Nm paired with a five-speed manual transmission or 125kW/358Nm in five-speed auto trim.
Then 2009’s NT upped oiler outputs to a markedly healthier 147kW/441Nm. It around this point in the lifecycle that braked towing, in both engine types, rose from 2500kg to 3000kg, and the oiler gained a rear locking differential to complement its centre unit.
Early on, the gen-four Pajero range was vibrant and varied, offered in short three-door and long five-door forms and both five-speed manual and five-speed auto paired with both engine types. And in a choice of as many as 33 different body colours.
The NW series, for MY12, brought some suspension and monocoque changes for the five-door, but the shorty three-door version bowed out.
The longer the lifecycle grew, the more conservative its range became as the lion’s share of buyers were drawn to the diesel auto five-door wagon guise. The third row can be stowed, too, for big-booted wagon flexibility, though only some grades of latter-day examples offer curtain airbag coverage through all three rows of seating.
While Pajero kept reasonable step with electronic driving smarts, anything like modern tech is slim on the ground in even newer used examples. That said, by the time this year’s aptly named Final Edition arrived – in GX, GXL and Exceed tiers – the big Mitsubishi offered mod cons such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The fourth generation was also victim to the whole Takata airbag fiasco, so that’s definitely something to ponder on the essential checklist when tyre-kicking. The diesels, too, were prone to various gremlins. And the petrol, at 13.5L/100km claimed, remains a thirsty unit by any measure on a good day.
Oh, and infamously, ‘Pajero’ is a rather uncomplimentary slang word in Spanish. It WILL eventually crop up in conversation during ownership, sooner or later…