1 May 2000
It was all change for the third-generation Pajero, released in the middle of 2000.
Not only did the NM model dispense with the traditional backbone chassis in favour of a sedan-style monocoque body it also finally trashed the live-axle rear suspension and replaced it with a plush, absorbent, multi-link independent arrangement.
Off-road ability took a back seat to on-road comfort and dynamics.
Mitsubishi claimed that the adoption of a monocoque body also meant it was easier to engineer-in higher degrees of passive safety than normally expected in a large 4WD.
On top of that, the company gave the stylists their heads, with the result the Pajero looking - from some angles - almost radical.
The new model came in a single, long-wheelbase, four-door wagon shape only, with either the familiar 140kW/303Nm 3.5-litre SOHC 24V V6 petrol, or the long-lived 92kW/292Nm 2.8-litre SOHC four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit.
The new INVECS-II five-speed, Tiptronic-style automatic gearbox is a driver-adaptive transmission.
The NM Pajero also retains the ability for driver-selection of four-wheel drive mode with what it calls the Super Select system: it's possible to proceed in rear-wheel drive only or to activate full-time on-road 4WD via a centre differential complete with viscous coupling.
This centre diff can be locked to distribute power equally to front and rear wheels should conditions demand.
A low-range setting, complete with centre differential lock, is used in heavy-duty off-road situations.
The NM is broader (by 100mm) and lower (by 35mm) than the outgoing NL. Bigger inside, width also increased by 110mm, while the cabin is longer by 60mm.
The rearmost seats, intended for short adult trips only, fold neatly and easily into the floor.
Those familiar with the older Pajero will recognise the continuing SUV theme with the completely redesigned new dash.
Ground clearance has been improved, from 215mm to 235mm, and rear suspension travel has increased by 30mm, so the Pajero can be wheeled with confidence anywhere the previous model would go.
The dramatically short front overhang also means an impressive 42 degree approach angle and 24 degrees departure angle.
From July 2002 the NM Series II brought with it Mitsubishi’s all-new direct-injection diesel (Di-D) engine, replacing the old 92kW 2.8.
The 3.2-litre TCDI twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder turbo-diesel delivered 121kW of power and 373Nm of torque via a new five-speed driver-adaptive automatic gearbox, or a slick five-speed manual transmission.
The NP facelift arrived just a few months later in November ’03.
It included a redesigned, more aggressive looking grille, restyled front bumper, standard-fit integrated side steps, new spare tyre cover, removal of chrome garnish from around the tail-lights and smoother, more integrated body side-cladding.
An active traction control system, which utilises braking force to reduce wheel spin on slippery or uneven surfaces, was also available on some models.
From October ’03 the NP MY04 model introduced a bored and stroked version of the Pajero’s 3497cc single overhead camshaft engine, which is now out to 3828cc.
Available only in five-speed automatic guise (the NP Pajero manuals retain the 140kW/303Nm V6), the 3.8-litre SOHC 24V V6 offered 150kW at the same 5000rpm and 314Nm of torque delivered 250rpm lower in the rev range at 3250rpm.
ABS (including EBD) became standard across the range, while 3.5s pick up active traction control across all models, where previously it was only standard on the top-spec Exceed.