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New Pajero Sport to be distanced from Triton

Mitsubishi says the next Pajero Sport may morph into more than just a Triton wagon

6 Dec 2022

AS MITSUBISHI Motors (MMC) gets ready to peel the covers off its new-generation Triton utility next year, senior staff suggest the brand is considering pushing the Triton and its Pajero Sport SUV spin-off a little further apart – at least as far as their showroom positioning is concerned.


With the Pajero Sport having taken over from the Challenger as Mitsubishi’s wagon-bodied Triton variant, the timelines of both products are inextricably linked and the current formula of significant under-the-skin platform and component sharing is expected to continue.


However, MMC vice president and chief of vehicle engineering development, Hiroshi Masuoka, revealed to GoAuto that Mitsubishi could introduce greater external differentiation to give the next Pajero Sport its own distinct flavour, and potentially position it as the successor to the discontinued Pajero wagon.


“The sad news is that we don’t have Pajero for now, but we have Pajero Sport in some markets. How do we grow the Pajero Sport globally?” said Mr Masuoka.


When asked if Mitsubishi’s plan was to have the Pajero Sport replace or take over the role of the fourth-generation Pajero that was discontinued in 2021 after 15 years of production, Mr Masuoka nodded.


“Pajero Sport has the potential to be stretched, to grow more. Performance, comfort, the bodywork, and the powertrain itself. We believe the Pajero Sport has that potential,” he continued.


If MMC chooses to go down that pathway with the next Pajero Sport, we can expect an off-road wagon that more than a three-row SUV body grafted onto a Triton’s ladder frame chassis and front-end.


Mr Masuoka’s suggestion that comfort and performance would be targeted as part of a Pajero Sport reinvention indicates that there may be a more road-friendly bias introduced into the new vehicle’s suspension. 

While the current Pajero Sport uses the same independent front suspension as the Triton, its rear axle bypasses the Triton’s leaf springs in favour of coil springs for a more passenger-friendly ride – though the significant unsprung weight of a live axle still introduces a ride quality compromise.


Would MMC move away from that setup in favour of a true independent rear suspension, like the final-generation Pajero boasted?


That vehicle utilised a monocoque architecture and all-independent suspension rather than the more typical ladder-frame and live rear axle combination favoured by other 4x4 wagons like Toyota’s 300 Series Landcruiser and Prado, and won many fans for its car-like composure.


However, deviating too far from a Triton-based architecture would introduce greater development and production costs. Instead, expect the Triton’s next wagon-bodied offshoot to feature a familiar suspension configuration, albeit one with tarmac-friendly spring and damper tuning. 


As for powertrains, Mr Masuoka would not elaborate on precisely how different the Pajero Sport could get from the Triton.


The next-generation Triton is expected to continue to offer four-cylinder turbo-diesel power via a new-generation engine, with a plug-in hybrid expected to eventually join the range later in the decade.


However the Pajero Sport’s focus on carrying passengers means it could debut an electrified powertrain for that platform, with shifts in SUV buyer sentiment and higher transaction prices for SUV products compared with light commercial vehicles potentially strengthening the business case for a plug-in option to be offered sooner than the Triton.


But it is styling that is expected to really set the next Pajero Sport apart from its Triton sibling. While sharing front-end bodywork, door skins and dashboard furniture is great for keeping production costs low, it’s also something that reminds SUV owners about the commercial origins of their vehicle.


By giving the next Pajero Sport a unique look both inside and out, its driveway – and showroom – appeal would be magnified. 


Just how much scope there is for visual separation is not clear, though critical structures like door apertures, A-, B- and C-pillar positions and the roofline are expected to be shared.


If Mitsubishi wanted to apply Pajero cues to its present design language, the Grand Cruiser PHEV concept of 2015 (pictured) would be a good starting point thanks to its upright body, near-vertical tailgate and generally rugged demeanor – though its paltry 40km EV range and space-inefficient four-seater interior are probably best left in the design studio.


A timeline for the new Pajero Sport – or potentially just ‘Pajero’ if MMC decides to resuscitate the nameplate – has yet to be announced, but with the Japanese car-maker committed to launching one all-new model every year until the end of this decade and the Triton effectively locked in for a 2023 debut, that puts 2024 as the earliest ETA for the brand’s next ladder-framed wagon.

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