Mitsubishi Challenger Exceed 2010 Review

In the automotive world there are still some tough tasks waiting to be truly mastered. Like making a V8 engine that’s economical, or designing a cheap convertible sports car that isn’t labelled as a hairdressers ride. For Mitsubishi, the new mid-size SUV Challenger represents another difficult venture. Slotting into the range between the Outlander and the Pajero, the Challenger is designed to offer the elusive correct mix of soft roader comfort and cabin feel with fierce off road prowess. Car and SUV got into the all-new Challenger to see if it’s solved this complicated equation.

Visually the Challenger leaves no doubt about its off road aspirations with a chunky, tough look all round. Based on the Mitsubishi Triton’s tough ladder chassis it has a neutral ute-type stance and is tall (1,840mm) with a high ground clearance (220mm). Front-end styling is shared with the Triton but the top spec Challenger Exceed (as tested) receives chrome trim on its Mitsubishi family grille. Chrome and silver touches also feature surrounding the fog lamps, on the door handles and side mirrors, side steps, front scuff plate and17-inch alloys. Elsewhere exterior practicalities include a wide vertical-opening rear hatch, integrated roof rails and rear tinted glass. Overall, the Challenger’s ute underpinning give it the size and elevated stance of a serious off roader, it has a rugged high-waisted appeal that’s modern but not overly rounded or extravagant.

There is little that looks or feels agricultural in the Challenger cabin and the exterior bulk is transferred into good interior spaciousness. In the 7-seater Exceed model all three rows of seating allow for decent headroom with the front two rows well sorted for legroom too. The seats fold easily, with the back row stowing into the floor and the second row tumbling forward to reveal a massive flat loading area. The seats are finished in soft leather with electronic adjustment helping the driver easily get comfortable despite the steering wheel not offering telescopic adjustment.

Interior appointments and quality are at a high level with a two-tone curvaceous dashboard being a visual feature. Climate controls are basic and well positioned and the NZ model receives a high-mounted colour touch screen that handles audio and sat nav duties. The three-ringed instrumentation is easy to read and leather wrapped three-spoke steering wheel looks great and houses cruise and audio controls. The only small complaints are with the foot pedals which are placed too far apart and the contrasting silver trim that doesn’t feel as durable as the other interior plastics.

Under the bonnet lays the same 2.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel engine that’s fitted to the current Triton. It’s a strong unit that produces 133kW of power and a large 356Nm serving of torque. Utilising a variable geometry turbocharger the motor is impressive and can shift the 2,110 kg Challenger with gusto. Unfortunately the flipside of all the torque on offer is serious engine noise entering the cabin. Rattles and vibration are noticeable mostly at start up and under light throttle but once the Challenger is at cruising speed and warm the engine does mellow. Towing capacity is graded at 2,500kg braked and 750kg for an unbraked trailer.

Shifting the cogs is a 5-speed automatic transmission that also offers a sports sequential shift option. It generally goes about its work with minimal fuss but can be caught hunting through the gear ratios searching for the optimal way to move the heavy SUV. While it may not be the most sophisticated auto box around it does assist in returning 9.8-l/100km combined fuel economy, an impressive figure for a mid-size SUV.

On road the Challenger provides more comfort than it’s Triton cousin thanks to a coil-sprung live rear axle rather than the ute’s leaf-sprung set up. The ride is fairly compliant absorbing broken bumpy roads nicely. As you’d expect there is some body roll during sweeping or tight cornering but the Challenger is easy to control and offers solid grip even in 2WD mode. On urban roads, manoeuvrability is fairly good, aided by a tight 11.2m turning circle and well-weighted steering albeit with an excessive ratio meaning many turns of the wheel are required.

While the Challenger’s on-road dynamics are liveable it’s off-road where it really excels. A ladder-frame chassis, rear diff lock, generous wheel travel and a low ratio transfer case are the underpinnings for major off road credibility and the Challenger delivers in spades. Mitsubishi’s clever Super Select 4WD system sits above the mechanicals allowing for four driving modes and can make on-the-fly shifts from 2WD to 4WD at speeds up to 100km/h. When heading off road, 4HLC can be selected which will lock the centre differential and distribute power equally to all four wheels. When the going gets even tougher, 4LLC mode engages the lower gear range and maximises the vehicle’s low-end torque to deliver the most traction possible. It’s a very competent set-up and is capable in negotiating slippery, steep and uneven terrains. There is nothing ‘soft roader’ about the Challenger’s off road capability and only the most vicious off road track could trouble it.

For safety the Challenger is covered by MATT (Mitsubishi’s All Terrain Technology system) that includes stability and traction control, ABS brakes with EBD and the rear diff lock. Front, side and curtain airbags are also included as standard fare.

So is the Challenger the ideal blend of on road comfort and off road prowess? Not exactly, while it has the off-road half of the equation well solved, its on road dynamics and refinement are caught wanting. Mitsubishi have done a nice job of the styling inside and out, the ride is comfortable and it has a spacious practical cabin. But the harsh reality is that under its well-fitted business suit exterior still lives a pig farmer, most noticeable in the ute ladder frame and the strong but noisy diesel engine. The bottom line it that the Challenger is a well built and practical SUV that must spend as much time off road as it does on road for an owner to realise it’s full potential.

Price: $61,990

What we like:

  • Smart styling
  • Spacious and practical cabin
  • Off road capability

What we don’t like:

  • Noisy engine
  • Distance between pedals
  • On road dynamics

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

See below for specifications.

Other road tests of interest:

Great Wall X240 (2010) — Road Test

Jeep Cherokee Sport (2010) — Road Test

Kia Sorento R Ltd (2010) — Road Test

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (2010) — Road Test

Mitsubishi Challenger Exceed (2010) – Specifications

Engine

Type High Power 2.5L Common Rail Intercooled Direct Injection Turbo Diesel Engine
Displacement – cc 2,477
Bore and stroke 91.1 x 95.0
Compression ratio 16.5:1
Max power DIN (kW @ rpm) 133/4000
Max torque DIN (Nm @ rpm) 356/1800
Valves DOHC
16 valves
Fuel consumption – L/100km 9.8
CO2 – g/km 255

Vehicle specifics

Fuel tank size – litres 70
Fuel type diesel
Departure angle – degree 25
Approach angle – degree 36
Ramp breakover angle – degree 23
Battery 95D31L
Alternator 12V-90A

Dimensions / weights

Overall length – mm 4,695
Overall width – mm 1,815
Overall height – mm 1,840
Wheel base – mm 2,800
Track front – mm 1,520
Track rear – mm 1,515
Ground clearance – mm 220
Turning circle – m 11.2
Kerb weight – kg 2,110
Gross vehicle weight – kg 2,710
Max pay load – kg 650
Maximum front axle load – kg 1,260
Maximum rear axle load – kg 1,600
Seating capacity – persons 7
Interior length – mm 2,585
Interior width – mm 1,420
Interior height – mm 920
Cargo room length – mm 1,555
Cargo room width – mm 1,375
Cargo room height – mm (7 seat) 925 (7 seat)
Towing braked – kg 2,500
Towing unbraked – kg 750

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