SO MANY manufacturers these days opt to give their popular models a mid-life makeover or two, in an attempt to both keep the interest of the buying public but also to steal time before the introduction of an all-new model is absolutely unavoidable.
The mighty Pajero is the latest in the Mitsubishi stable to be pepped up with slight interior and exterior changes and the consolidation of the range.
The top-of-the-range Exceed is now a jaw-dropping $8000 less despite the enhancement of an already impressive inclusions list with the entry-level GLX and mid-range GLS, tested here, also boasting the capabilities, performance and features that make it a good-value proposition.
Inside, the Pajero retains that reassuring familiarity much like that favourite soft cotton T-shirt which may have lost its trendy design but feels like a comfortable old friend.
It is delightfully spacious with passengers in the first two rows able to stretch out with abandon, with plenty of headroom too, even for taller occupants.
The third row, now standard across the range, is most suitable for children and requires a dexterous hand to access. Anchor points for the kiddies' car seats are on the outer two seats of the second row, further impeding access to final row.
Changes have been made to the centre panel with new chrome dials to add interest. In all this, Pajero, almost a decade on, retains a somewhat rudimentary look.
Sure, everything you need is close to hand and set out in a practical way but it offers little of the cohesively modern features available in the competition.
Me, I don't mind the dot matrix display and the stacked display screens which create a feeling of uncomplicated nostalgia but most drivers who are parting with $60,000 probably expect a package with excellent graphics, the latest software and infotainment systems with less of an aftermarket hue.
Apart from the large boot space, which is generous with or without the last row in place, storage options can be scatty.
On the road
The Pajero is still powered by a grunty 3.2-litre four-cylinder diesel which has served the beast well so far. It too, however, is starting to show its age, with five-speed auto available when most competitors benefit from six or more.
This is a large four-wheel drive, but while you are aware of its bulk it is not cumbersome to drive.
It lacks finesse of course and can lumber around tight city confines but really does a good job in shifting its 2.2-tonne weight.
The independent suspension helps smooth out on-road irregularities and it holds its own even when you swing into corners unexpectedly, although it does sometimes have to be given a moment to gather its breath.
It is quieter in the cabin thanks to the addition of extra acoustic insulation. The Pajero may not offer a sporty drive but it is easy and dependable with smoothness at speed. Four-wheel drive is available on the fly which is great on country roads but you have to stop to engage the diffs for low range.
Off the bitumen the Pajero is a tried and tested proposition making light work of challenging trails and beach straights in comfortable fashion.
What do you get?
Luxury features have been added across the range with our mid-spec test car boasting rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, reverse sensors, dual-zone climate control with separate rear controls, heated and power front seats, Mitsubishi Multi Communication System with audio and sat nav and partial leather seat trim. Safety remains five star with six airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist, active traction control and stability control. Interestingly, but not for the right reasons, the curtain airbags do not extend to the third row.
Official figures stand at 9.0 litres/100km and surprisingly we managed to get quite close to that mark. Warranty is five years or 130,000km with five years roadside assist and capped price servicing for four years or 60,000km.
The updated Pajero will have to contend with the Toyota Prado GXL (from $63,190), Holden Colorado 7 LTZ (from $50,990), Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 (from $69,329) and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland (from $72,000).
The Pajero, with its 3000kg towing ability, is a hit with families with a caravan or boat and a valued companion of those who live in the country or who like to venture off the beaten track. It has ability and reliability that is hard to second guess and the sort of interior space courted by large or growing families.
It falls behind in terms of technological prowess demanded by drivers today and even though the sat nav is easy to negotiate, things like Bluetooth pairing and music playback from your devices can be a little tricky.
It may not be to all tastes but I like the boxy nature of the Pajero which I still think of as the mark of a real four-wheel drive.
Changes have been made to the chrome radiator grille, spare tyre cover, new LED running lights and front bumper as Mitsubishi aims to retain the Pajero's imposing nature and keep the outside at least looking sharper.
As much as we enjoyed the rugged beauty and innate sturdiness of the Pajero, there is little denying it needs more than a few interior tweaks to keep it in favour.
Competitors have forged ahead both with technical advances and cosmetic applications and despite the Pajero's popularity, for now Mitsubishi will have to work hard to keep up, until the brand new model makes its expected appearance in 18 months.
What matters most
What we liked: Spacious interior, seven seats as standard, willingness to tackle any challenge.
What we'd like to see: Overhaul rather than an update, funkier interior.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year or 130,000 kilometre warranty with fixed-priced servicing for the first four years or 60,000km. Average price is $650. Intervals are annual or 15,000km.
Model: Mitsubishi Pajero GLS.
Details: Five-door four-wheel drive large SUV.
Engine: 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 147kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 441Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Consumption: 9.0 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $58,990 (GLX @ $50,990 and Exceed @ $65,990).
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