Does a rear-wheel drive-only version of the Pajero Sport make sense? We grab the keys to the seven-seat GLS variant to find out.

The Mitsubishi Triton might be on the way out ahead of a new model arriving later this year, the Pajero Sport SUV that rides on the same platform still has a couple more years left in the tank. That’s why, aside from the usual few upgrades models receive year on year, Mitsubishi has broadened the Pajero Sport range with the addition of variants that aren’t four-wheel drive, but are instead rear-wheel drive only.

Introduced midway through 2022, only the entry-level GLX five-seat and GLS seven-seat variants are offered in 2WD form, the latter of which is on test here. Although key rivals such as the Isuzu MU-X and Ford Everest are also offered in 2WD form, I must admit that off-roaders without four-wheel drive have always perplexed me to a degree. Sure, you’re not using four-wheel drive on sealed roads, and 2WD variants are considerably cheaper – at $50,190 before on-road costs, a $1000 increase over last year’s price tag, this GLS 2WD is $5000 cheaper than its 4WD equivalent – but I feel you’re sacrificing a key part of the car’s identity.

However, it turns out there’s quite a market for these 2WD variants. Despite being offered on only two of the Pajero Sport’s four variants, 2WD models accounted for 8.2 percent of sales since their introduction last year – and with 8838 sold last year, that’s no small number of them getting around on our roads.

“Affordability was a key contributor to introducing these models as part of the life cycle strategy discussion,” a Mitsubishi Motors Australia spokesperson told Drive Section. “Though 4WD remains comfortably higher in the model mix, there is a market for 2WD Large SUVs, where space and value are considered over off-road capability as the primary purchasing factors.”

What I would advise if you’re after value is being a bit less liberal with the options list than whoever specified my tester – as good as it looks with a vast array of genuine accessories all over it. Wearing $740 graphite grey paint, a $4168 alloy bullbar, the $1495 towbar kit which for some reason doesn’t include the $41 50mm towball in that cost, $689 Redarc brake controller, a $215 bonnet emblem, $221 cargo area liner, $231 stainless steel door sill scuff plates, and $170 rubber floor mat set, my tester sat at $58,160 as tested – and that’s even before on-road costs are factored in.

Fortunately, the Pajero Sport’s looks still hold up today courtesy of a 2020 facelift which modernised its front bumper design and mercifully shortened its divisive taillight design. I’m glad the roof spoiler has been added back to most variants as standard since initially being removed as part of that facelift – it makes it look far less naked at the rear and adds to the Pajero Sport’s angular design.

For the 2023 model year, the updates are pretty minimal – tyre pressure monitoring has been added to the GLS model and above, while Impulse Blue paintwork is also made available as an option on GLS and Exceed variants. Other than that, it’s still carrying on unchanged for the most part.

In terms of separating 2WD and 4WD variants, there are few telltale signs. On the outside, both look identical, while in the cabin our GLS 2WD tester misses out on paddle shifters, while there’s a small tray where the 4WD selector dial normally would be located. But again, as with the outside, there’s no difference beyond that.

Standard equipment in GLS models includes a seven-seat layout with waterproof cloth seat upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with TomTom sat nav and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, and dual-zone climate control. Manual seat adjustment is standard for both front seats with lumbar support for the driver; this GLS model comes standard with seven seats while the base GLX comes with five.

While I like that the standard cloth upholstery is waterproof and that there’s a good amount of padding in the right places, I do have some concerns around the upholstery’s durability as I noticed quite a lot of ‘pilling’ on the seats and armrests in this hard-worked press car which had 11,000km on the clock. On GLS 4WD models, there is the option of a Deluxe interior pack for $2250 which adds synthetic leather upholstery, powered front seats, and a 360-degree camera, but it’s not available on this 2WD version.

Although the front seats are quite comfortable and there is some clever storage space such as a cut-out through the transmission tunnel, there’s no getting around how narrow the interior of the Pajero Sport is. Your knee will be constantly pressed against the transmission tunnel – good thing there’s some soft padding on the sides of it – and space is tight for adults in the middle second-row seat as well as in the third-row.

This also impacts the boot a bit which is on the smaller side for an SUV in this class. WIth the third-row in place, there’s 131 litres of space, with it folded down there’s 502 litres, and with the second-row also folded down it expands 1488 litres of space. However, the third-row seat bases stand upwards rather than folding flat into the floor which may make it awkward for fitting some longer items inside, while there’s 1000mm between the wheel arches; if you need to maximise boot floor space, then, you’ll want to go for the base five-seater. A lower GVM means that payload drops from 715kg in the GLS 4WD to 655kg in this GLS 2WD, and its 3000kg braked towing rating is 100kg lower as well.

It should also be highlighted that the Pajero Sport GLS misses out on a lot of safety equipment fitted to the Exceed which is positioned above it. Blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, and ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation are all off limits for the GLS. Although Pajero Sports built before 2023 were subject to a five-star ANCAP safety rating, that score has expired and it is now unrated. Even more disappointingly in 2023, the GLS also doesn’t have a digital speedometer (Exceed and GSR variants get a fully-digital instrument cluster) which really should be standard at this point.

READ MORE: Has the new Toyota LandCruiser gone too tech-heavy?

Under the bonnet, all Mitsubishi Pajero Sport variants use the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine which makes 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm, with it backed by an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.

Certainly, this engine’s power outputs look less healthy these days than when it first launched given it suffers a 20Nm torque deficit to the MU-X and 70Nm compared with the four-pot Everest. While it’s certainly an adequate engine for the Pajero Sport, it does definitely lack some punch if you try to hustle it and makes a distinct diesel clatter as it’s revved up. However, for relaxed longer distance touring it’s quite well suited with the majority of its torque located close enough to where it would be sitting while towing a caravan or boat, or while sitting at higher speeds all day.

I do like the eight-speed auto as it’s quite a smooth unit with well-spaced ratios, making it feel very driveable – and also making it a shame this 2WD model misses out on a set of paddles to command it with. It’s a big upgrade over the six-speed auto that’s paired with this engine in the Triton as the clever gear spacing helps this little engine work less hard.

The Pajero Sport’s ride is, one could say, on the sportier side as it’s a little firmer than you’d expect for a seven-seat family car, but this does pay dividends in the corners as it has quite good body control. Granted, the bullbar threw off the weight distribution a touch, but I didn’t think it made too much of an impact on its surprisingly pleasant dynamics. The bullbar also created some whistling noises at triple-digit speeds, but that’s by the bye.

What this car was sorely missing, though, was four-wheel drive – especially as Mitsubishi’s Super Select II system was ahead of its time at launch in offering on-road and off-road 4H settings. Not only does that system help give a real sense of security and sure-footedness when driving in wet conditions, it’s also better for driving on gravel roads not only for the same reason but because rear-wheel drive will see you chew through the rear tyres if you do drive on gravel. I’m sure it’d help out on a damp boat ramp, too. Without four-wheel drive, it just removes what I believe is an important element of the Pajero Sport’s character – its go-anywhere ability.

It’s also worth highlighting that whether you go for a 2WD or 4WD model, both claim the same fuel consumption of 8.0L/100km. Over the course of my 481km of testing, I saw fuel consumption of 9.0L/100km which is a good return considering the weight and aerodynamic impacts of the beefy bullbar up front.

What certainly gives the Pajero Sport – and indeed, all Mitsubishi models – a distinct edge over the competition is a lengthy 10-year/200,000km warranty pending you servicing it at a Mitsubishi dealership (service it elsewhere and that warranty length is halved). For those looking to buy a car with the intention of keeping it for the next decade, that’s a big selling point. It also offers four years and 50,000km more coverage than Isuzu does for the MU-X.

Further incentivising you to stick with the dealership is 10 years of capped price servicing, although it is at a relatively high average cost of $684 per service. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km. Up to four years of complimentary roadside assistance is also included if you service it at the dealership.

Where the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS 2WD is definitely a winner is when it comes to pricing. Compared to rivals and compared to its 4WD equivalent, it’s definitely cheap for what it is. Good fuel economy also aids it in that regard, although pricey servicing does add a bit of a sting.

But where the Pajero Sport falls short is simply in its sheer age at this point. With it up against a two-year-old MU-X and a brand-new Ford Everest, its lack of power, technology, and interior space clearly puts it behind the competition. This 2WD model also lacks the capability and flexibility that the 4WD model offers as well – whether that’s worth the extra $5000 or not, I’ll let you decide based off your needs.

I certainly see a market for this version of the Pajero Sport, though. Some caravaners, families, and fleets I think will find good use for this cheaper 2WD model, and the sales figures so far certainly back that up.

2023 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS 2WD (7 Seat) List Price: $50,190 | As Tested: $58,160
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Tech & Features - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Decent body control for the class, 2WD model is $5000 cheaper, more capable for towing than unibody seven-seat SUVs
Cons: Sorely misses 4WD, noticeably less powerful than rivals, outdated technology and missing safety features, pricey servicing

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited for a week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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