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Mitsubishi's mid size four wheel drive Challenger has received its first upgrade since its introduction in 1998. It is referred to as the 2001 model year upgrade and features a new look, new rear suspension and transmission, numerous refinements and an all-new LS luxury model that has been added to the range.
Being only slightly smaller than its big brother Pajero, it can be a little difficult to see just where the Challenger slots into the marketplace. However, Mitsubishi claims it will fill a void at the lower end of the mid size four wheel drive segment.
Direct competition is likely to be experienced from Holden Frontera, Daewoo Musso/Korando, Nissan Pathfinder, Prado four cylinder and Land Rover Freelander.
Base model Challengers are available in either manual or automatic transmission and are priced at $36,990 and $38,990 respectively. The newly introduced luxury LS model is only in automatic and priced at $43,885. An A35 option pack consisting of cruise control, limited slip differential and two tone paintwork costs $1700 and an A36 pack consisting of the above three extras plus anti-lock brakes is priced at $2,900. Our test vehicle was an LS Challenger.
Standard equipment on both models includes alloy wheels, tinted windows, power mirrors, windows and steering, tilt adjustable steering column, height adjustable driver's seat, dual front airbags, air conditioning and free wheeling front differential.
Challenger's three litre SOHC, 24 valve, V6 petrol engine is unchanged and is claimed by Mitsubishi to be LPG compatible.
The five speed manual transmission is also unchanged, although Mitsubishi's INVECS II adaptive automatic transmission incorporating its 'Easy Select' part time four wheel drive system replaces the earlier system. High range four wheel drive can be selected at speeds of up to 100 km/h, while low range selection requires the vehicle to be stopped and the transmission in neutral.
The independent torsion bar suspension has been retained at the front of the Challenger; however, the rear has been upgraded to coil springs with a three-link set-up and an anti-roll bar. Anti-lock brakes are still optional on the base model but standard on the LS, ably complementing the four-wheel disc system on both loose and wet surfaces.
Changes to the external appearance of the Challenger are confined to front and rear bumpers, egg-crate grille, front and rear lamp assemblies, tailgate garnishes and wheels, plus a rear spoiler and side mouldings on the LS model. These all blend together to create an aggressive muscular look.
The front cabin area is roomy and comfortable while the driver's seat height and steering column adjustments enable a suitable driving position to be achieved. Although the rear passenger space is adequate for most adults, the seat is still lacking in contour and support. Luggage space is very reasonable and additional storage under the rear floor and the twin sunglasses compartments in the overhead console add to its overall versatility.
On sealed surfaces the Challenger performed smoothly and was pleasant and easy to drive. The adaptive automatic transmission and V6 engine gave momentary hints of being unequally yoked, when the shift pattern was either too slow or too quick to respond to the demands of its 1850 kg kerb mass. I also found the ride quality to be quite harsh, even with a full complement of passengers, and the steering was slow to respond, while the turning circle was excessive.
The off-road performance of the automatic Challenger was hampered by its large turning circle, restricted suspension travel, low departure angle and limited engine braking. However, it did demonstrate a tight, sturdy feel that produced a confident response when traversing low to medium grade off-road situations.
In spite of its harsh ride the Challenger's handling and braking provided confident operation on both sealed and gravel surfaces.
Mitsubishi has demonstrated considerable confidence in its Challenger model by upgrading its specification and introducing a luxury model. In spite of its few shortcomings, its pleasing appearance, attractive equipment list and its on and off-road ability should satisfy the leisure and business requirements of the average family's weekday and weekend adventures.
Test vehicle supplied by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited.
Harsh suspension feel
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||Three years, 100,000km|
$36,990 - Challenger manual
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||3.0 L|
|Induction||Multipoint fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||136 kW @ 5500 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||265 Nm @ 4500 rpm|
|Wheel size||15 "|
|Type||Power assisted recirculating ball|
|Turns to lock||3.25 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||12.9 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1910 mm|
|Fuel capacity||74 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||2270 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||69|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.3 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||7.8 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.9 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||13.2 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||12.4 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||13.7 L/100km|
|Average on test||12.8 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||33.1 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||62 dB(A)|