Mitsubishi Shogun Barbarian first drive

Mitsubishi Shogun BarbarianMitsubishi Motors iconic three diamonds trade-mark has been carried on a wide range of models since the brand first came to the UK and Europe in 1974.

However the manufacturer produced Japan’s first production passenger car – the Model A in 1917 and their first 4×4 in 1933 – the PX33.

One of Mitsubishi’s most famous model ranges is the Shogun. These tough 4×4’s first came to the UK in 1983 in three-door form followed by the five door, seven-seater models in 1985. They were positioned, in marketing terms at that time, in between the agricultural early Land Rovers and the posher Range Rovers. The Shogun was an immediate sales success with demand far outstripping supply due to the import restrictions placed upon Japanese built vehicles at that time.

Mitsubishi’s other notable models, the Lancer Evolution, the 3000GT, Starions, Galants, and Colt Hatchbacks have come and gone through the ages but the various generations of the Shogun have soldiered on retaining their reputation for rugged on and off road performance, durability, good specification and all backed up by its unlimited mileage warranty.

Mitsubishi Shogun BarbarianToday the Shogun, despite the introduction of numerous competitors mostly using 4×4 drivetrains for optimum road going performance, remains popular with recent price reductions re-booting its UK sales. Today’s Shogun users still want a vehicle for durable country work, towing and go anywhere ability. The Police, Highways Agency and the Rescue and Fire Services are big business and commercial users as well.

The Shogun, also known as Pajero or Montero in Spanish speaking countries, is a truly global vehicle. No matter how sophisticated or primitive a country is the Shogun will have been used as diplomatic transport right the way through to being used as a workhorse in primitive rural conditions. Along with the Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol/Pathfinder and Land Rovers these hardy 4x4s are seen and used around the world.

In the UK the Shogun is still available in three-door 4/5 seater and five-door 7-seater body styles. All are powered by a 3.2-litre, 197bhp, four-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel with intercooler engine. Depending on the model chosen there is the choice of manual and automatic gearbox options and all offer full and part-time Super Select 4WD with a transfer box giving high and low ratio settings. Three door models tow 3,000kgs; five door models will pull 3,500kgs. Prices range from £26,199 up to £36,799. The new Barbarian comes only in three door body style priced from £31,999 for the manual gearbox model and £33,684 for the automatic. There are also commercial models as well, these have the three rear seats and rear side windows deleted and are aimed at the high profile business user deleted.

The Barbarian level of spec fits above the Warrior level and the additions include 20-inch glossy black and silver alloy wheels, Barbarian leather interior with carbon trim inserts, DAB digital radio, a colour coded solid spare wheel cover and alloy pedals. This equipment is on top of the high standard spec levels and includes air conditioning, heated front seats, Bluetooth, central door locking, cruise control, electric controlled and heated door mirrors, front side electric windows, tinted glass, navigation system, radio/CD player with six speakers, rear view camera, computer, front fog lights, rear roof spoiler and side steps.

Who is this polished diamond version of the Shogun aimed at? Well off retail buyers who really have no need for the regular use of the rear seats which offer plenty of room but access to the rear is not that easy, or business execs who want that added luxury and ‘bling’ from their go-anywhere 4×4 which easily copes with the worst of weather conditions. Being rugged with a tough suspension it easily shrugs off the impacts created by our very poor road surfaces and of course is copes with seriously rugged off-roading without flinching.

On the down-side this is no modern soft 4×4, it’s an authentic heavyweight designed for hard-core driving conditions, it is not aimed at using its 4×4 drivetrain for optimum computer controlled fast road work such as offered by the lighter weight Range Rover Evoque, BMW X3, Audi Q3, Mitsubishi Outlander or the lesser cost Crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga.

With the Shogun you get what you see, with the Barbarian version you just get a lot more in the way of luxury spec. The high ride height and shorter wheelbase length of the three door Shogun does produce a choppy ride and there is some body roll during cornering but on the plus side the high riding position gives excellent visibility and of course good ground clearance and the long travel suspension provides all the grip needed for off-toad work especially if courser grip on/off road tyres are chosen. The standard tyres are designed more for road use than off-tarmac driving so they will have their limitations but can be replaced for example by my preferred choice – the popular BF Goodrich all-terrain three ply tyres which are really good both on and off road.

Mitsubishi Shogun BarbarianMitsubishi Shogun BarbarianMitsubishi Shogun BarbarianI have to admit being a long-term fan and user of various Mitsubishi Shoguns. I’ve had various models as my transport for years. I’ve been lucky enough to drive them in many countries around the world, from deep Arctic snow to the hot sands of Africa, from the deserts of North America to the dust roads of Australia, to the traffic congested streets of Tokyo and London and even on water – yes there was an amphibious Shogun. I’ve towed formula 1-2-3 racing power boats, I’ve towed caravans and horse-boxes and I’ve used them for seriously difficult off-roading. It is a 4×4 that I have always put my trust in and not been let down. Their pedigree has also been proved by the countless successive overall and class wins by prototype and production models in the gruelling original famous Paris-Dakar Rally.

But there is no doubt the long-serving Shogun is now showing its age in the engine department but as a work-horse it still doesn’t come up short apart from its fuel economy and high CO2 emissions. The 3.2-litre direct injection four cylinder turbocharger with intercooler diesel engine is a strong and flexible performer with 197bhp and a hefty 441Nm (325lb ft) of torque delivered from 2,000rpm. Top speed is 111mph with zero to 62mph taking 10.4 seconds so it is no slouch. The five-speed automatic transmission Barbarian version I tried has an official Combined Cycle fuel consumption figure of 34.4mpg and on test using Cotswold A/B roads but not including off-road driving the figure was 30.5mpg. But be aware hustling this heavyweight 4×4 along motorways will reduce that figure significantly but driven at a reasonable pace, 50 to 70mph is its most efficient performance. Not so good are the CO2 emissions of 216g/km and this is where the Shogun looses out to heavyweight 4x4s with more modern engines. The Shogun 3.2-litre will cost £635 for VED road Tax for the First Year rate thankfully reducing to £285 for Year Two onwards. For business users and company car drivers this means a challenging 35% in Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Once this generation Shogun is finally retired, will we see another one? Mitsubishi Motors has been hit hard in recent years due to the recession a decade ago in Japan which restricted the development of replacement models. This period was then followed by the Tsunami followed by the recession in Europe and of course the move by customers wanting cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles.

Mitsubishi, famous for its 4x4s, has slowly fought back by introducing the ASX and Outlander SUVs, the latter with is ultra low PHEV plug-in electric, petrol, hybrid model which is proving hugely popular. The Shogun was the icon of the brand and a significant range when Mitsubishi sold over 30,000 vehicles a year a decade ago in the UK. Hopefully the Barbarian will not be the last of the Shoguns which used to rule in the ‘proper’ 4×4 market.

MILESTONES: Mitsubishi Shogun SWB 3.2 DI-DC Barbarian Auto. Price: £33,684. Engine/transmission: 3.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel with intercooler, 5-speed automatic with transfer box with 2WD High, 4WDHigh, 4WD High Locked and 4WD Low Locked settings. Performance: 111mph, 0-62mph 10.4 seconds, 34.4mpg Combined Cycle (30.5mpg on test) VED road tax £635 First Year rate then £285 thereafter, BIK company car tax 35%. Insurance group: 30. Braked towing weight: 3,000kg. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. For: A proper hard working 4×4, strong engine, high specification, great off-road, shrugs off potholed road surfaces, brilliant tow vehicle. Against: Expensive to run, three door layout has its limitations for practical family use, showing its age compared to less capable off-road modern lightweight SUVs and Crossovers. Miles Better News agency 

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