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First drive: Triton diesel gets charged up

Competitive: A new engine has improved the Mitsubishi Triton considerably.

Mitsubishi's Triton workhorse now has turbo-diesel power and torque

9 Apr 2003

MITSUBISHI has increased the power of its Triton one-tonne diesel ute range by upgrading the engine to the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel that once powered the Pajero.

Mitsubishi has been watching the diesel segment of the pick-up and cab-chassis market (PU/CC) growing but for the past five years has stood by as its share of that market declined because the old 2.8-litre diesel struggled for performance against its competitors.

The company always enjoyed about nine to 10 per cent share of the PU/CC market until about 1998. But from 1999 on, as sales in the sector increased, Mitsubishi's share fell away to about six per cent.

The problem was especially acute in the 4x4 diesel segment where a consistent seven per sent share throughout the 1990s eroded to between four and 3.5 per cent between 1998 and 2002.

This has been especially galling because repeated requests for a more competitive diesel engine fell on deaf ears at Mitsubishi head office in Japan, until a similar need in the South African market made the cost of the investment in upgrading to a turbo-diesel worthwhile.

The move is aimed at appealing to rural buyers of 4x4s as well as the trades.

The metropolitan market in this PU/CC segment is dominated by 4x2s with petrol engines. But in country Australia, diesel engines and 4x4s dominate. 4x4s with petrol engines are actually losing popularity.

Diesel engines in the segment are also growing in the cities because issues like start delay, noise, smell and performance are being sidelined by better technology and buyers are keen on the better fuel economy a diesel offers.

Crew cabs are also on the rise as increasing numbers of people combine the workhorse with family duties.

This time around Mitsubishi is confining the changes to the turbo-diesel engine side of the Triton range.

The petrol engine version is a carryover from the previous Triton and there are only minor changes to the undercarriage in the diesel versions to take the additional 65kg weight penalty of the intercooler and turbo equipment.

Diesels are only fitted to 4x4 versions because that is where the market growth is. The turbo versions are distinguishable by a bonnet air scoop feeding the intercooler.

The new engine is the same as that fitted to the Pajero before it got its 3.2-litre four-cylinder direct-injection turbo, which produces 121kW and torque of 373Nm.

It was a desperately needed change because the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel was a bit of a dog in the Pajero, which is a much bigger vehicle and has more air to shift aside because of its high body shape.

But in Triton the new 2.8, which produces 92kW and 294Nm, is a hefty improvement over its predecessor.

For a start, the Triton 4x4 is 400kg lighter than the Pajero and, as the table below shows, the turbo 2.8 is a vast improvement over the old naturally-aspirated version of the Triton diesel engine.

In almost every department - power, torque, top speed and acceleration - there are very significant improvements claimed.

Despite a weight penalty of 60kg and clearly better performance, claimed fuel economy is also slightly better.

Engine comparison

Old 2.8 diesel2.8 Turbo DieselImprovement
Maximum Power71kW @ 4000rpm92 kW @ 4000rpmUp 30 per cent
Maximum Torque198Nm @ 2000rpm294 Kw @ 2000rpmUp 40 per cent
Fuel consumption9.5L/100km9.4L/100kmMarginally better
Top speed133km/h158km/hUp 25km/h
0-80km/h 4th gear passing13.8 sec.9.7 sec.Up 30 per cent
40-60km/h 4th gear passing7.8 sec.5.7 sec Down 27 per cent
80-100km/h10.1 sec.5.8 sec.Down 42 per cent
This data has lifted the Triton well up the competitive ladder - on paper at least.

Against the competitors, the new Triton turbo-diesel outshines all but the Nissan Navara in power or torque, or for both power and torque.

The Triton demolishes the 3.0-litre naturally aspirated diesel HiLux (as do all the other main HiLux competitors), which makes that vehicle close to uncompetitive and must put a question mark over the Toyota in the medium term.

The turbo HiLux does well in the torque stakes but is still underpowered in the segment.

Indeed, as the table shows, on paper at least, Navara performance has the segment thoroughly stitched up.

Rivals comparison

Mitsubishi Triton 2.8-litre TDi92kW @ 4000rpm294Nm @ 2000rpm
Toyota HiLux 3.0-litre diesel71kW @ 4000rpm200Nm @ 2000rpm
Toyota HiLux 3.0-litre TDi85kW @ 3600rpm[email protected]
Holden Rodeo 3.0-litre TDi96kW @ 3400rpm280Nm @ 2400rpm
Nissan Navara 3.0-litre TDi110kW @ 3400rpm314Nm @ 2000rpm
Mazda B-Series 2.5-litre TDi86kW @ 3500rpm280Nm @ 2000rpm
On value, Mitsubishi has managed to hold price increases to just $500 on all models in spite of the clearly superior performance of the more technically-advanced power plant over the previous model.

The range pricing takes the diesel 4x4 game right up to the competition - more than matching most of them on entry and mid-level prices - in some cases by several thousand dollars.

The company hopes that it will triple sales from 103 a month to 310 a month.

It is numbers like those above that give Mitsubishi the confidence to make such a prediction.

Mitsubishi Triton GLX T/D Cab Chassis $31,490
Mitsubishi Triton GLX T/D Club Cab $36,490
Mitsubishi Triton GLX T/D Double Cab $37,490
Mitsubishi Triton GLS T/D Double Cab $44,490 Options:
Mitsubishi Triton GLX: Dual SRS airbags $1200
Mitsubishi Triton GLS: Dual SRS airbags & "dress-up pack" $1600 Mitsubishi Triton GLX T/D Club Cab/Double Cab: Delete tray $750


THE story in this vehicle is really the engine. Nothing else of any consequence has changed other than fine tweaking like revised spring rates that go with the heavier power plant and taller gear ratios that can be accommodated with greater power and torque.

The Triton is a working man's vehicle and that is how we judged it. With 200kg of ballast in the back, it was put through its paces around the Sapphire Coast area of south-eastern NSW and on the Monaro plains.

We suspect that if you scratched the surface at Mitsubishi, they would have preferred to have been given the 3.2-litre direct injection diesel from the Pajero because, as improved at it is, the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel does show up some shortcomings.

It must be said that overall it is a very competent engine. But you do need to concentrate on making sure you hold the revs in the most effective rev band to ensure it does not fall in a hole.

Let it fall below 2000rpm in a tallish gear and recovery is pretty slow.

You need to go for the lower gear to get the turbo's attention so it will pump some life into the power plant. But if you row it around with your eye on the rev counter, you can really make the thing pedal along very nicely indeed.

In fact, a little band on the rev counter showing the best torque range would be a helpful addition.

Gear changes are slick enough thRough the five speeds. Automatic is only available with some petrol engine combinations.

Given there were two people and the 200kg ballast, it held speed well on long hills but it was best that fourth was used instead of fifth. Acceleration above 100km/h was fairly flat.

The off-road course was not all that demanding or challenging. But for a workhorse that might wind up travelling forest roads and rough country on maintenance details or the general duties required of farming or grazing, it proved the value of a good torquey diesel for ensuring creeping power for access in difficult conditions.

Given the drought, there was no opportunity to travel boggy tracks but we suspect the addition of the ballast would prove important to getting grip in slippery conditions.

There is not much weight on the back wheels of these utes so you wouldn't want to find yourself in some place you cannot climb out of.

In terms of comfort, diesel noise levels are low and the torsion bar front suspension combined well with the leaf springs at the back although, again, that must be set against the ballast preventing the sort of bucking you expect from leaf springs when utes are unladen.

Overall, it is horse for courses. The old engine deserved the declining sales it got - and maybe didn't even deserve some of those.

This new version is very competent and the Triton can now compete on equal - or better - terms for its share of a growing 4x4 diesel market. It seems to be a great leap forward into the present.

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