Considering that this shape model went on sale in Japan 14 years ago this month, the Shogun has aged well, and still sells in decent numbers in many countries
Mitsubishi Motors UK is on a roll, its August sales up 46 percent on 2012. The Outlander and Mirage are the main reasons but the Shogun, first launched in 1999, is playing its part too. Glenn Brooks gets reacquainted with this big SUV.
The sales rise for last month follows on from a 41 precent YoY gain for the first half of 2013, with one of the noteworthy aspects being improvements from models such as the Shogun and L200 pick-up. Neither of those two models was launched this decade but that doesn't seem to matter to buyers, especially when a summer price cut promotion kicked in. The importer has slashed two grand off the L200 and a few weeks back, up to five thousand pounds was cut from the Shogun's price tag, making the cheapest variant now GBP28,599, and rising to GBP36,799. As at the end of July, 504 Shoguns had been sold for the year to date, and 76 in July, compared to 39 in July 2012.
The top-spec variant was the one I had to test, and until early August, it cost GBP41,799. There hasn't been any change to spec, so this is still a seven-seat luxury 4x4, powered by one of the largest capacity four-cylinder engines made by any manufacturer. The 147kW (197bhp) 3.2-litre unit is standard fit for the UK market but in some countries, there is also a 184kW (247bhp) 3,828cc petrol V6.
Boasting 441Nm, the big diesel might be as torquey as you need it to be, but one of the ways in which you can tell the Shogun's age is its transmission. The five-speed automatic is certainly smooth enough, and it has a manual mode to help keep things steady and stable on long downhill stretches if you're towing, but it could do with an extra gear or two for motorway cruising.
This vehicle is super-capable in the mud and it has four driving modes - rear wheel drive, full time 4WD, four-wheel drive with a locked-up centre diff, or low-range. The last of these will get or keep you moving in extreme conditions but around town or on the motorway, you just leave the selector in RWD unless conditions get slippery.
This is not the sort of vehicle to throw around the bends, though it doesn't lean as much as you might imagine - there is no getting away from its high centre of gravity and steering that's different to the car-like feel you'll get from an X5 or Cayenne. It isn't priced or marketed as a rival for those kinds of dynamically handling SUVs, though.
Some people consider vehicles like this one to be too big but at 4,900mm, the Shogun is a foot shorter than the Jag XJ L which I recently tested. That means you'll get it into a standard British parking space. The illusion of a supersized vehicle possibly comes from the height, a lanky 1,900mm, allied to its width, which is just 25mm less than that number. Of course you don't have to have the five-door body, there's a three-door which measures a more compact 4,385mm.
The short wheelbase three-door comes in SG2 or higher spec SG3 trim levels, as well as top-spec Warrior model grade and a cheaper SG2 Commercial for trades and farmers. The long-wheelbase is available as an SG2, SG2 Commercial or SG3, as well as a special SG4 flagship, which is the one that now goes for GBP36,799. It's distinguished by 20-inch alloy rims, a colour-coded spare wheel cover on the side-hinged tailgate, and a DVD/iPod/USB entertainment system including 50 games for the second row of seats. Both the SG3 and SG4 also have an HDD navigation system with a music server juke box.
The Combined average is 33.2mpg and I saw 31mpg. The CO2 average is 224g/km and the VED band is K. The top speed is quoted as 111mph, or 180km/h and zero to 62mph takes 11.1 seconds.
Other stats? Mitsubishi has thoughtfully specified an 88 litre fuel tank, you can tow up to 750kg unbraked or 3,500kg braked, the roof rails will take 80 kilos of luggage and how about this - kerb weight for this big SUV is 2,300kg.
So despite having been designed about a decade and a half earlier than the new Range Rover Sport 3.0 diesel V6, and having a steel unibody construction instead of an aluminium platform, it's only about 150kg heavier. I wanted to demonstrate how a just-launched SUV that is similarly sized and with seven seats compares. It really is an enormous challenge to get the weight out of these big SUVs when people demand endless amounts of luxury gear, thick glass, eight-speed automatics and so on.
I've said a few times that the Shogun isn't the youngest kid on the block but it's competitive and I enjoyed driving it as much as I did another rival, the Toyota Land Cruiser V8 around this time last year. That Toyota 4.5-litre turbo diesel is in a silky smooth class of its own, but you need to pay over GBP25,000 more for one of those than you would do for a top-spec Shogun.
I haven't mentioned too much about the manufacturing side of things. Here goes then. Our model is built in Japan at MMC's Sakahogi plant, also known as Pajero Manufacturing Company Limited. In the home market, Australia and multiple other countries, Pajero is the model name, and Montero in Spanish speaking countries. Why the change for Mexico, Spain and elsewhere? Supposedly, this is the reason.
India's Hindustan Motors also builds a 2.8-litre Pajero diesel under licence at the Thiruvallur plant near Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, while production takes place in China too - part of the GAC-Mitsubishi Motors (GMMC) joint venture plant in the city of Changsha.
Mitsubishi calls this the fourth generation Shogun/Pajero/Montero. While that's true, this vehicle is closely based on the previous model which first went on sale in Japan in September 1999. The Mark III was replaced by this latest shape one in October 2006 but there have been updates since then. The most recent was announced first by both the British and Aussie importers in October 2011.
When will we see the fifth generation? Speaking to journalists at the Geneva motor show six months ago, Ryugo Nakao, Mitsubishi's head of Projects & Strategy, said the replacement has been pushed back until 2015 at the earliest. This successor model is also highly likely to return to the US: the current shape version was discontinued from the importer's line-up back in 2006.
Whenever the next Shogun is launched, it will have a lot to live up to - the reliability of all four generations is legendary and over 100,000 vehicles have been sold here since the first model was launched back in the '80s.
Aside from the VW Touareg, the Discovery is probably the Shogun's closest theoretical rival and it's about to get its second facelift. There's no word on prices just yet but the cheapest current Disco is GBP1,000 more than the dearest Shogun.
It will be interesting to see if Land Rover responds to Mitsubishi's up to five grand price cut in the coming months but falling price tags and the British brand tend not to terms we associate with one another. That probably means that the Shogun will continue to sit in its very own cosy and I should imagine nicely profitable niche in the market.