Following the model's debut at the Paris motor show last week, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation on Wednesday announced the Japanese market launch of the fully redesigned Pajero (Montero in Spain, Shogun in the UK; it's no longer sold in the US).

Though MMC called it a redesign (see later), industry pundits described the vehicle shown in Paris as a major re-skin over new mechanicals, including the the 3.8 V6 MIVEC engine available in the US on the locally-made Eclipse sport coupe and convertible.

A Mitsubishi Motors Europe spokesman countered the critics' dismissal.

The "fully" redesigned tag applied to the car refers to the fact that the product went through a thorough re-design end re-engineering process in order to improve on the previous generation whilst retaining what worked well," he said.

"Somehow, this follows the same philosophy we have applied since 1992 to the Lancer Evolution: no change for the sake of changing - the same, only better, each time. As an illustration, the level of carry-over parts between the previous Pajero and this one is of (only) 22% to 26% for the European-specification version.

"This approach was dictated by a very high loyalty rate: in Europe for instance, 70% of customers will come from existing Pajeros. This is also the reason why more radical Pajero Evo-like design proposals were rejected in late '03, both by Pajero customers and non-Pajero customers: too far away from what they expected a proper Pajero should look like. Hence also the design direction of the new Dakar racer."

MMC has sold 2.5m Pajeros in over 170 countries and regions since its introduction four model generations back in 1982.

Tax inclusive prices for the models start at JPY2,415,000 ($US25,700) in Japan.

The latest Pajero retains the all-round independent suspension and Super Select 4WD-II (SS4-II) driveline introduced in the third-generation model. New technologies include an upgraded Active Stability & Traction Control (ASTC) system that can accommodate the installation of a new rear differential lock, a weight-reducing aluminium bonnet (hood), and stiffer body joins and use of more plated steel sheet for improved durability and reliability. A new sound system and interior also feature.

The Pajero has improvements in safety and environmental performance. Dual-stage SRS airbags for driver and front passenger, side-impact and curtain airbags and other new passive safety measures earn the equivalent of a 6-star JNCAP rating in in-house testing. In terms of environmental performance all models achieve 3-star emission ratings with levels that are 50% below the Japanese 2005 Emission Standard requirements. The new Pajero also meets in advance the standards laid down in JAMA's Voluntary Vehicle Interior VOC Reduction Initiative for new cars introduced in and after April 2007 and levels of hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury and other environment-loading substances have also been substantially reduced.

The new Pajero also boasts significantly better build and finish quality with the introduction of Mitsubishi's In-stage Quality Creation (ISQC) system on the assembly line, the automaker claimed.