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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Triton - GLX-R dual-cab V6 utility

Our Opinion

We like
Truly comfortable five-seat cab, smooth V6, economical and torquey turbo-diesel
Room for improvement
Load space sacrificed in dual-cab bodystyle, V6 sometimes overwhelmed at speed by high gearing, diesel noisy and rough

Mitsubishi logo15 Dec 2006

GoAuto 29/12/2006

AFTER trudging steadfastly along for 10 years with its narrow waisted MK Triton series, Mitsubishi has taken a mighty leap into the 21st century.

No longer must Mitsubishi dealers stare forlornly out the showroom windows as high-style Holden Rodeos, Nissan Navaras and Toyota HiLuxs glide by. The new ML-series Triton can stand squarely alongside - and probably upstage - the best of them.

In dual-cab form, the new Triton is undoubtedly a fashion statement among workhorses. Resembling an oversized bathtub, the new cab rakes steeply forward from the top of the rear window to set-up back-seat passengers with a 25-degree backrest angle not seen before in a dual-cab.

From inside, the Triton feels more like a sedan than any of its contemporaries and fits the role of split-function workhorse/recreational vehicle better than perhaps any other one-tonner presently available.

The Triton is more than a stretched-out version of the MK.

As well as the wider, longer all-new body, the Triton also gets new suspensions, a brand-new 3.2-litre CDi turbo-diesel and the SOHC 3.5-litre petrol V6 already seen in the Pajero.

The range covers single cab cab-chassis and tray backs, and dual-cab one-tonne utes, all but the top line GLS double cab – which comes as a manual CDi only – offering a choice of petrol or diesel power. Five-speed manual transmission is standard across the range, with V6s only offering a four-speed auto as an option.

We sampled both a CDi single-cab GLX fitted with the manual transmission and an also-manual GLX-R double-cab V6 ute – the latter a real visual standout with its rear rollover cage and (standard) body-colour hard tonneau cover.

As our first stint was in the dual-cab, the transition to the tray-back CDi was something of a culture shock, partly because of the far-harsher, load-carrying ride, but also because the turbo-diesel, for all its power and fuel efficiency, took us back to the good old days of oil-burners.

The Euro4 emissions-compliant 3.2-litre CDi might incorporate much of the latest diesel technology – common-rail, direct-injection, or Di-D - but that doesn’t mean it’s the quietest, or smoothest on the market. In the cab-chassis Triton, it’s noisy, quite rough and goes through noticeable vibration periods.

The impression is that little has been done, in this instance, to separate the single-cab’s occupants (a three-seater by the way – a two-seat bench and a normal bucket seat for the driver) from an intimate involvement with what’s going on in the engine bay.

On paper the CDi is competitive rather than class-leading among turbo-diesels, although in the real world it’s a noticeably strong slugger with plenty of real muscle at the all-important low-rpm segment of its operating range.

The turbo-diesel’s tremendous torque is matched by impressive fuel economy.

It’s better than the MK turbo-diesel, down from 10.5L/100km to 9.1L/100km, which makes it, once again, competitive rather than segment-leading (HiLux and Rodeo are better, Navara about the same, Mazda Bravo and Ford Courier worse).

The Triton’s manual gearshift might tend towards notchiness and changes might often be less than smooth, but those things aren’t really out of place considering the cab-chassis version’s role in life.

The V6, in dual-cab recreational guise, is something else altogether, with a noticeably smoother ride – yet it’s still a one-tonner – and sublime silence from the engine.

But despite its extra capacity over the previous Triton 3.0-litre V6, it struggles to cope with the tall fifth gear brought about by a change in final drive ratios to encourage better fuel economy.

With the more absorbent, long-wheelbase ride comes slightly more agile handling, although the steering remains relatively slow – nothing unusual in a one-tonne pickup.

An improvement over the MK is a tighter turning circle, down to 11.8 metres and way short of the HiLux’s 12.4 metres. This is something unusual for Mitsubishi, which is not known for the manoeuvrability of its vehicles.

Both single and dual-cab Tritons share the same instrument panel architecture, except the GLX-R is more feature-ridden.

Where the test V6 had Mitsubishi’s multi-coloured central multi-function display screen with trip computer readouts as well as information on outside temperature, barometer readings and direction of travel, the CDi sacrificed all this for an extra lidded cubby in the centre of the upper dash. Both suffer height-only steering column adjustment.

Suitably, the GLX cab floor is vinyl, rather than carpet-covered as in the GLX-R, and although it has power windows and remote central locking, the base single-cab’s mirrors need to be adjusted by hand. The GLX-R also gets an opening rearmost window, which is a nice Triton touch.

The seat trim of the GLX-R is also more upmarket, with "sports" cloth used instead of the GLX’s hard-wearing covering.

With all this, there is a clear distinction between envisaged applications. With its optional drop-side galvanised tray the GLX single-cab offered a really useful load area (2200mm long compared with just 1325mm for the dual-cab – although down slightly, by 25mm, on MK) with plenty of tie-down opportunities.

The GLX-R demonstrated its true role by offering minimum load space and severe restrictions on height brought about by the hard tonneau. Not the vehicle for chucking in wheelbarrows or cement mixers, and certainly well short, in terms of load area if not passenger space, of Toyota’s HiLux dual-cab.

But, unlike the Toyota, all Tritons have a load capacity of at least one tonne - 1120kg for the GLX CDi single-cab and 1015kg for the manual V6 GLX-R dual-cab.

Mitsubishi has steered away from fancy 4WD engagement systems, relying simply on a second shift lever jutting out of the floor, but it can at least be engaged on the fly at speeds up to 80km/h. Slipping into low range requires the Triton to be brought to a full stop. Auto-locking front hubs mean the driver doesn’t need to clamber out to lock them when 4WD is engaged.

Off-road, the Triton promises similar abilities to the MK with decent approach and departure angles (not quite as good as MK in the former and about the same in the latter) and a greatly improved ramp-over angle helped by the location of the rear leaf springs above, rather than underslung beneath the axle. A 200mm ground clearance helps too.

Judging by sales figures so far, Mitsubishi is getting off the ground slowly with its new Triton. Sales figures show the expected trend towards 4WDs, which are so far nearly 23 per cent ahead of 2005 year-to-date. Two-wheel drive Tritons are lagging a bit, at almost 17 per cent behind 2005.

With undoubtedly the best cab on the market, stand-out styling and entirely competitive performance, the ML Triton certainly has the qualifications to be up there with the front-runners. It will be interesting to see how the next 12 months pan out.

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