Mitsubishi Pajero Generation 1 Superwagon

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Mitsubishi Pajero Superwagon

1982 - 1991
V6 3.0 litre
2972 cc
5 spd. MT / 4 Spd. AT
Top Speed:
Number Built:
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Mitsubishi Pajero Superwagon
Mitsubishi Pajero Superwagon
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The first generation made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1981, and was launched in May 1982. Initially, it was a three-door, short-wheelbase model available with a metal or canvas top and three different engines options, although more were gradually added, ending with a 3-litre V6 on top of the range.

- 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol (2000/2.0)
- 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol (2000/2.0 Turbo)
- 2.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol (2600/2.6)
- 2.3-litre naturally aspirated diesel (2300 D/2.3 D)
- 2.3 litre turbocharged diesel (2300 TD/2.3 TD)
- 2.5 litre turbocharged diesel (2500 TD/2.5 TD)
- 3.0 litre V6 petrol (3000/3.0)

It was loaded with features that had previously not been seen on a Japanese four-wheel-drive car: a turbocharged diesel engine, a front double wishbone suspension with torsion bar springs, power steering and suspension seats. This made the Pajero a four-wheel-drive vehicle which integrated all the amenities of a passenger car. In January 1983, only a year following its launch, mildly tuned production Pajeros entered the world of motor sport. The Pajero, however, failed to appeal to everyone. In Japan it was seen as a commercial vehicle, and since it was only available in a short-wheelbase form, it didnít really appeal to those with families.

The need to address the family car issue was addressed in February 1983, when Mitsubishi came out with a long-wheelbase, five-door Pajero, to serve the needs of a larger target market. The long-wheelbase model was available with a choice of two different engines; a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol (badged as "2.0 Turbo" and "2000 Turbo" in some markets) and a 2.3 litre turbocharged diesel. It also came in Standard, Semi-High Roof and High Roof body styles. A stripped down nine-seater version of the High-Roof variant was commonly used in UN Peace Operations.

The long-wheelbase model also increased seating capacity to seven, with available third row seats, which could be folded to the sides for additional trunk space or combined with second row seats to form a bed. The Pajero was further refined in June 1984. The turbo diesel engines now had higher power/torque ratings, whilst the long-wheelbase models got standard four-wheel disc brakes and four-way adjustable shock absorbers as standard equipment. A new flagship model was then introduced in early 1987, with a two-tone paint job, fifteen inch (38 cm) light alloy wheels, front-seat heaters, wool seat covers, genuine leather headrests, a three spoke steering wheel and a sound system with radio/cassette. Also in 1987, a version of the Pajero/Montero was rebadged by Dodge as the Raider, which ran through 1989.

Challenging The Range Rover - The V6 Mitsubishi Pajero Superwagon

By the mid 1980s it was no secret that high spec 4x4 wagons spent most of their time on sealed surfaces,and the V6 powered Mitsubishi Pajero Superwagon's was no exception, despite its all-terrain abilities. There was no doubt that the Pajero was capable in the bush and the outback, but for most buyers (then as today) it was what it was like to drive around town the other five days of the week. And as you would have expected, unlike some of the fat-tyred bush bashing behemoths churned out by other factories the Pajero Superwagon was, within its type, reasonably compact. In terms of a normal car it was, for instance, both shorter and narrower than the comperable Falcon sedan and consequently presented no problem in tight parking spots or when manoeuvring in traffic.

Fitted with power steering as standard the Superwagon was easily managed around town, and with the good all-round vision provided by a high seating position, flat sides, and little overhang, threading it through the commuting throng and up alongside a meter was no more difficult than in an average car - if not easier. Of course you paid for the height and ground clearance by having to step up into the cabin, but though the means of entry might be akin to a truck the Superwagon's interior has more in common with a well equipped sedan. With dealer fitted air conditioning, a four-speaker AM/FM stereo cassette system, plush carpet and full trim, only the transfer box shift lever, inclinometer, and the hefty grab rail in front of the passenger recalled the utilitarian side of its character.

On the Inside

The sybaritic could take heart in the fact that power windows, an electric sunroof and cruise control were available as options. Strangely there was no provision for central locking, though a remote tailgate lock was standard. Despite this omission the general ambience of the interior was obviously upmarket. What's more, the Pajero Superwagon was comfortable too. Though more upright than a conventional car the driving position was economically sound and the reclining buckets and tilting steering column were capable of accommodating most variations of the human form. Well shaped, and with adjustable side supports, the front seats were perhaps a trifle firm in the base squab over long distances but the built-in 'suspension' mechanism (like that used in modern typists' chairs) more than cushioned any blows felt when navigating away from the beaten track.

What contributed to occupant comfort more than anything else was the ride quality and low interior noise level. Unlike other Pajeros, which utilised leaf springs at the rear, the Superwagon was given a multi-link, coil sprung back end which combined perfectly with the independent front to provide a smooth, comfortable ride at all speeds as well as enhanced off-road ability. It rode better than many passenger cars, and with good NVH characteristics kept quiet about it. Cruising at 110 km/h in the Superwagon was serene despite the questionable aerodynamics of the box-like body.

On the Road

That was partly due to the three-litre bent six which was exclusive to this model. Producing a conservative 105 kW, the multi-point fuel injected engine was long on torque giving relaxed, economical highway cruising and flexible around-town performance. The stock transmission was manual which, according to all accounts, proved a pleasant enough combination, but a good many Superwagons left the showroom in four-speed automatic form. Weighing in around 1700kg the Super-wagon requires a fair amount of left-arm action to step away from the lights smartly, and though the engine's broad spread of power took the sting out of town work you did need to shift more often than in an ordinary car.

But while the stopwatch (according for factory figures) suggested the Superwagon was a little sluggish over the 400 metre dash owners claimed there was no lack of 'real life' performance and in town or on the highway it was well up to the pace. Naturally cornering limits were constrained by the high centre of gravity, but under regular driving conditions road manners were little different to the average family sedan. Put simply, the Pajero Superwagon was a four-wheel drive that didn't compromise day to day comfort or driveability to take you off the road on the weekend. The only concession it demanded for the benefits of four-wheel drive, benefits such as generous load space, seating for six and all those creature comforts, was fuel consumption. Otherwise it was as pleasant and easy to live with as any medium-luxury saloon.

With all that said, what about the inevitable comparison with the Range Rover. In terms of all-round performance, if not prestige, the Mitsubishi was a lot closer to the Range Rover than the price would have suggested. Many buyers felt it was so damn close that it was a bargain.
Mitsubishi Pajero Generation 1 Superwagon

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