Mitsubishi Challenger LS & XLS

28 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Mitsubishi Challenger LS & XLS
Mitsubishi Challenger

Mitsubishi Challenger


Mitsubishi Challenger LS and XLS

Gold Coast Hinterland, Queensland

What we liked

Traction and roadholding offroad

Attractive style and sensible packaging

Intelligent auto transmission

Not so much

Engine might be more refined

Seats less supportive than in some rivals

Price a stumbling block?

Price, Packaging and Practicality: 2.5/5.0

Safety: 3.5/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0

X-factor: 3.5/5.0

— Midsize Challenger throws down the gauntlet

Mitsubishi has revived an old model name and an old product concept in its latest Challenger. Bearing the same name as the original petrol V6 model canned back in 2006, the new model is also based in part on the Triton one-tonne LCV pick-up. And just like the previous model, it fills a slot between a compact SUV (the long-gone Pajero iO, and now Outlander) and the larger Pajero.

For all the parallels between this new Challenger and its earlier namesake, there’s nothing shared mechanically. While both appeal to the same general demographic, the PB Challenger is a diesel and it’s based on a new platform, benefiting from Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) safety technology.

Mitsubishi expects the new Challenger to appeal to much the same market niche as the old one; young families, active offroaders and, in the case of the five-seat version, empty-nesters for whom the Pajero is just too big or too expensive.


— Paying for practicality?

Starting from $44,490, the entry-level Challenger is the sole manual variant, a five-seat model in the LS grade. At that price, the Mitsubishi comes in under such vehicles as the new Toyota Prado (starts at $55,900) and the importer’s own Pajero (long-wheelbase from $49,290), but it’s positioned well above its Korean softroader rivals, the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Above the LS grade, the Challenger is also available in the flagship XLS trim, which features a chrome grille to distinguish it from the base model with its black cross-hatched grille insert.

Both grades can be specified in five or seven-seat configuration. The automatic transmission version of the entry-level (five-seat LS) variant costs $46,990. Buyers willing to outlay a further $1900 can option the automatic LS Challenger with a third-row seat, providing the seven-seat accommodation (for $48,890).

The third-row seat option is not available with the manual transmission.

Boasting automatic transmission as standard, the five-seat version of the Challenger XLS is priced at $56,990 and can be ordered with the third-row seat option for $58,890, a sum which takes the Challenger across the threshold and into Luxury Car Tax territory. Once the Challenger fetches that sort of price, the value becomes questionable.

Fitted as standard, the Challenger LS features: side steps, leather trim for steering wheel/gear knob/transfer lever knob/parking brake handle, chrome door handles (inside and out), cloth trim inserts for door moulds, climate control, tilt-adjustable steering, cruise control, remote central locking, electric mirrors/windows, speed-sensitive variable intermittent dwell for wipers, remote cruise/audio controls on steering wheel, cloth seat trim, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 splitfold second-row seat, recline/slide adjustment for second-row seat, headrests for all seats, six-speaker MP3-compatible CD audio system, multi-information display and 17×7.5-inch alloy wheels, shod with 265/65 tyres.

In addition to the equipment fitted to the Challenger LS, the Challenger XLS also sports: body-colour/chrome rear garnish, woodgrain veneer, leather door inserts, leather seat trim, eight-speaker premium audio system, Mitsubishi Multi Communication System with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, reverse parking sensors/acoustic guidance, reversing camera, cargo blind (five-seat variant only) and five-year premium roadside assistance.

Seven-seat models of both the Challenger LS and XLS gain dual-zone climate controls with separate controls and underfloor storage behind the third-row seat.

— Emerging markets dictate diesel power

According to Mitsubishi, the engine choice in the new Challenger was determined by the company’s emerging markets in places like Russia, where diesel is king. Despite the previous Challenger getting around with a petrol V6, the diesel powerplant in new model should prove to be no obstacle to market acceptance in this country.

The 2.5-litre common-rail four-cylinder is carried over from the high-output versions of the Triton 4×4 and develops 131kW at 4000rpm. Peak torque of 400Nm occurs at 2000rpm. Driving through the base model’s five-speed manual transmission, the Challenger’s engine sucks down 8.3L/100km of fuel in combined-cycle testing.

Automatic variants return a figure of 9.8L/100km.

Other than the basic five-seat Challenger LS, all variants are fitted as standard with the automatic box, a five-speed unit which is also available as an extra-cost alternative as detailed in PRICE and SPECIFICATION above. Both transmissions are mounted longitudinally, behind the engine, and operate through Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD system — an on-demand part-time system that’s also shared with the Triton 4×4 range.

Up to 100km/h, the driver can select high-range 2WD, high-range 4WD and high-range 4WD with the centre differential locked. Only low-range 4WD cannot be selected on the fly. Traction offroad is maintained via locking centre and rear diffs.

The Challenger shares the forward section of its ladder chassis the Triton light commercial vehicle, but at the rear, the Challenger’s chassis is bespoke. That’s why the Challenger runs coil springs and a Panhard rod for its live rear axle, where the Triton makes do with leaf springs.

Front suspension is a double-wishbone set-up. Rack-and-pinion power steering and ventilated disc brakes, front and rear take care of cornering and braking.

The Challenger is built on a wheelbase slightly longer than the long-wheelbase Pajero (2800 v 2780mm), but the overall length of the Challenger is substantially shorter, at 4695mm (Pajero five-door is 4900mm overall). With that wheelbase measurement, the Challenger turns through a diameter of 11.2m. Ground clearance is rated at 220mm and the respective approach, departure and rampover angles are: 35.6 degrees, 24.6 degrees and 23.1 degrees.

Towing capacity for all variants of the Challenger is 2500kg (braked).

— At ease, no squeeze

The Challenger’s interior is pleasantly styled and seems a little more efficient in terms of spaciousness than that of its big brother, the Pajero — providing what seems like slightly better front-seat legroom.

But we have some misgivings about the driving position in the Challenger. There’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, for one thing.

Our co-driver didn’t like the firmness of the front seats, although this writer didn’t mind them at all. However, the Challenger’s front seats lacked side bolstering to hold the occupant in place mid-corner. There seemed to be a shortage of adjustment range in respect of height and tilt.

Our compatriot felt he was sitting ‘on’ the seat, despite the height being lowered as far as it would go.

Otherwise though, there was plenty of headroom in front and rear, plus good legroom in both rows of seats. As with its competitors, the Challenger features third-row seating best left to the kids, although another member of the launch contingent — of average height — was able to sit in the rearmost seats without his head touching the headlining forward of the tailgate.

Folding both the second and third-row seats forward for a flat-loading floor was fairly easy, although our usual criticism applies — you can’t fold up the base of the third-row seats from the tailgate. The user must be leaning in through the side doors to do that, which might not be easy if you want to load a longer object in through the tailgate.

The second-row seating was highly commendable, for the ease with which it folded up against the rear of the front seats.

The luggage capacity of the Challenger as a five-seater is notable. There is considerably less luggage volume in the seven-seater versions with the third-row seat upright, but it’s still enough for a few days of groceries for a ‘seven-seat’ family.

The so-called RV meter in the base-spec LS was pretty useful. It featured elevation, average speed, fuel consumption, time, barometric pressure/external temperature, direction of travel, etc. The only item of information it didn’t display, that we could observe, was the gradient of ascent/descent.

Where fit and finish were concerned, the Challenger meets the required standard for a vehicle of its segment. The doors closed securely with minimal effort and the plastics were firm and durable, but not especially cheap nor tacky.

— RISE to the occasion

Where the Challenger is concerned, Mitsubishi appears careful about alluding to its RISE technology. However, the SUV has been developed with some elements of the company’s crash-safety risk mitigation engineering built in.

Although the Challenger sits on a full chassis, the body itself incorporates high-strength steel at critical points for added strength without weight penalties.

Safety features include dual front airbags, side-curtain airbags, intrusion-minimising brake pedal, front seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters.

Mitsubishi Challenger

Unlike many vehicles in this offroad-capable category (and the majority of recreationally focussed one-tonne crewcabs, etc), the Challenger is notable for the fact it features antilock brakes and stability and traction control across the range.

For offroad operation in low-range 4WD, the electronic safety aids are automatically disabled.

— Challenger offers sport AND utility among SUVs

Pop quiz, hot-shot. Name the medium SUVs in this market featuring a full chassis and a diesel engine. Other than the Challenger itself, you might settle on the Nissan Pathfinder as the most logical rival.

Then there’s the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Land Rover Defender, SsangYong Rexton and.

Not much else. Toyota’s Prado is a more appropriate competitor to the Challenger’s larger sibling, the Pajero, and in pricing, it starts just below where the Challenger ends.

Some of the softroaders in the segment are substantially cheaper than the Challenger, but not many would even come close to the Mitsubishi for offroad competence. That’s where you pays your money.

Hyundai’s Santa Fe has consistently impressed us in the recent past and provides seven-seat accommodation and a modern diesel engine as standard — might be worth considering, along with its platform twin, the Kia Sorento.

While the two Koreans provide a softer alternative to the Challenger, the Jeep Wrangler brackets the Mitsubishi from the other side. In fact, for the price of the entry-level Challenger, you can pick up the top-spec Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

That’s a lot of offroad ability, if that’s where your heart lies. On the other hand, the Challenger seems so much more capable than the Jeep at speed on loose surfaces. It won’t climb over stuff the way the Jeep does, but you’d sooner take the Mitsubishi on rally roads.

It’s in this type of scenario that you can pick the Dakar Rally, and dare we say Ralliart, DNA in the Challenger’s design.

— Dakar Rally testing pays dividends

Over the drive program laid out by Mitsubishi at Queensland’s Scenic Rim Adventure Park, the Challenger barely put a foot wrong. We wouldn’t care to give it an unequivocal thumbs up, without testing it in the wet as well, but on this dedicated 4WD testing ground, we were able to assess the Challenger for such things as wheel articulation, ground clearance and approach/departure angles. The Challenger passed with flying colours.

We were also privy to a co-drive with Hiroshi Masuoka (pictured), Mitsubishi’s top Dakar pilot, as he hurled the Challenger around a short course at high speed. On standard tyres and driving through an automatic transmission, the Challenger tackled tight turns, steep moguls and a short jump at speeds that, even allowing for Masuoka’s skill and experience, seemed preternaturally high for a bog-standard medium SUV.

The Japanese driver provided us with a useful tip: keep the tyres running along the high sides of the ruts and tackle the deeper stuff obliquely. That way, the body wouldn’t ground on the ridges between the ruts. By doing so, we experienced no difficulty whatsoever, on a series of tracks that would have grazed the undersides of other medium SUVs — keeping on the high side or not.

Apart from one light scrape, the Challenger got through some rocky sections — and we’re talking rocks that would be at least 20cm in diameter — without any bangs or thumps from underneath.

The Challenger negotiated grades with ease, whether ascending or descending. There were plenty of 30-plus-degree climbs and descents. The Challenger rarely even spun a wheel in anger, thanks to its 4L range and diff locks.

Ultimately, the Challenger didn’t provide the sophistication of a hill descent control system, so at times the driver was using the brakes to slow the vehicle on a downhill grade, but there was very little cause for concern on the dry Queensland tracks. We can’t say how the Challenger would have managed things in the wet, which is the one qualification to our praise of the vehicle’s offroad performance.

On the road, the Challenger doesn’t really offer a surfeit of power (this may be a consideration if you’re planning on towing), but it’s an easy vehicle to drive and in most circumstances it’s likely to be fairly economical.

Average fuel consumption over the course of the drive program was about 12.5L/100km. Given the amount of time spent offroad, with centre and rear diffs locked for much of the time, plus the vehicle operating in low-range 4WD, that’s not a bad effort.

The engine is fairly truck-like, especially by the standards of more refined engines in other medium SUVs. It’s very much at odds with the very competent five-speed automatic transmission we tried, a transmission that is quite adaptive, smooth and capable. On downhill grades, the auto box would readily change down a gear for additional engine braking without prompting — to its credit. By comparison, the 2.5-litre diesel powerplant is somewhat agricultural.

There’s a constant diesel rattle under load, but at cruising speed the engine is much quieter and wind noise was more apparent.

As mentioned already, the engine isn’t a powerhouse. On paper it’s not far off the new Hyundai/Kia R Series powerplant’s output, but in the real world it feels a tad shortchanged. This is not only due to the lower output but also thanks to the fact the Challenger, with its full chassis, is roughly 200kg heavier than the monocoque Sorento.

At least the Mitsubishi’s torque is abundant enough for the sort of offroad work likely to be undertaken.

As with other SUVs, the Challenger’s steering response could be described as reluctant, but as the load on the front tyres increases, the car settles down and turns into the corner. For on-road behaviour, there are other medium SUVs that provide more steering feedback than the Challenger, but once again, the compensation there is the Mitsubishi’s strong ability once the tar turns to track.

Ride comfort was about the median for competitive SUVs. It was not as soft as we recall for the Hyundai Santa Fe, for instance, but body control seemed very good — particularly in light of the car’s ability to drop wheels into deep holes and maintain poise and traction.

Offroad, the reverse-parking acoustic guidance fired up whenever the vehicle was called upon to reverse out of a hostile situation in what might be described as departure-angle-taxing terrain.

The last time this writer drove a Challenger (the old model, from around 2003), it was striking for its lack of rigidity and tendency to twist and shout, even when tackling conventional driveways on an angle. That model didn’t even compare well with Holden’s aging Rodeo crew cab of the same vintage.

We’re happy to say that the new Challenger is much improved in every regard. The new Challenger can turn from a steep grade on to a flat track at an intersection, rocking backwards and forwards between the left-front and right-rear wheels without a creak or shiver. Dare we say that Mitsubishi has struck an uncommonly good balance in the new Challenger?

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Published. Friday, 11 December 2009

Mitsubishi Challenger
Mitsubishi Challenger
Mitsubishi Challenger
Mitsubishi Challenger
Mitsubishi Challenger

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