RIDING TALL. Are big SUVs a good choice for strictly urban drivers? Renaldi Hutasoit steps on the gas of this new Pajero Sport to find out
Why would anyone want to drive a truck-based SUV in a modern metropolis, let alone sit in the back while being chauffeured as if they were riding in a town car? These SUVs are big, kind of crude and don’t feel really smooth enough unless you’re driving over perfectly tarmacked roads. They also tend to be too tall for a lady to elegantly climb in.
Yet, I see thousands of them on the streets of Jakarta today. And all of them will inevitably look squeaky clean, free of dirt and polished to a mirror-like finish. This month, however, Mitsubishi lent me the All New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Dakar 4×2; so, let’s see if this would be the car to change my perspective.
As I climbed into the tall All New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Dakar 4×2, straight away I thought that there is no way a lady wearing a skirt above the knee and heels could comfortably get into the car. On the other hand, for guys (or girls in jeans, perhaps), climbing into the Pajero Sport will feel like getting an extra shot of testosterone. Indeed, once you are settled inside and looking out and down at almost everything else on the road, you can’t help but fell just a tad more invincible and powerful. If anything, you’ll definitely notice how other vehicles—massive TransJakarta and Mayasari Bakti busses included—treat you with more respect than they would if you were driving a sedan.
Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to achieve this level of macho-ness. The ergonomic leather seats are actually very cozy with ample cushioning. The front seats of this car would definitely be a great place to be during long drives. While not as comfortable as the front seats, the middle seat can accommodate three full-sized Indonesian adults in relative comfort. The third row seats, however, are perhaps best reserved for young children with smaller space requirements. Or the two persons in your group that you like the least. Comfort extends to the relative lack of NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness), especially considering that this is a truck-based diesel SUV. Engine and road noise is well damped, making the interior just as silent as in more upscale sedans.
Convenience is a whole different story, though. For instance, there is just no space on the center console to put my mobile phone or wallet, which I usually take out when driving. There are little cubbyholes on each side of the center console, but these can be hard to reach and are not exactly good replacements for a simple flat surface. The dashboard is also barren from any sort of storage space. I have no complaints about the main luggage space, though. With the third-row seats folded down there is enough room to hold a couple weeks’ worth of luggage for a family of five.
POWER TO THE MASSES
Another aspect of the All New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Dakar 4×2 is its ride quality. I can feel that Mitsubishi uses a soft set of coil springs for all four corners, coupled with shock absorbers that are soft when compressed but taut when extended. The goal is clear, which is to deliver a smooth ride over bumpy and uneven roads. Now, the design works, but only to a certain extent. The motion that resulted from this combination left my two passengers—my wife and daughter; both of them veterans of many test drives—feeling nauseated, even while we were travelling along JORR W2 (the Jakarta Outer Ringroad) at a leisurely 100kph. On slower speeds, the car tended to easily rock from side to side and lacked lighter steering.
Power, though, is something that the All New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Dakar 4×2 has in spades. With its 2.4L MIVEC Turbo Diesel engine chugging out 180hp and 430Nm of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, this 1.9-ton SUV has more than enough bite to back up its bark. There was very little turbo lag, which is of course helped by having just as many gears as the newest top-of-the-line German luxury SUVs. On the other hand, fuel efficiency is nothing to write home about, as I averaged 5.5km per liter over three days of my super-heavy-traffic daily route. And this in a supposedly frugal diesel vehicle. For comparison, I also averaged about the same in any 3-liter engine sedan I’ve tested so far.
After three days of testing, I have to report that I’m not entirely convinced why a truck-based SUV like the All New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Dakar 4×2 can be an appealing choice for city-driving. On the flip side, I can see why Indonesian car buyers would be attracted to this model. In a word, it’s security. For driving in a city full of pot-holes, bumpy roads and annual floods, the All New Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Dakar 4×2 is the perfect vehicle. The extra confidence boost from being in a big and tall vehicle is certainly a nice bonus. And to top it all off, the reasonable level of comfort and convenience certainly doesn’t hurt.
Engine: 2.4L MIVEC Turbo Diesel
Transmission: Automatic 8-speed
Photography Tony Narotama