Mitsubishi's flagship 4X4, the Pajero, debuted in Paris Thursday and our own John Neff was there for our first detailed look at the redesigned model. We're a bit underwhelmed - despite a stem-to-stern redesign, the new Pajero manages to look like a mildly freshened version of the old model.

Mitsubishi decided to focus on the hard-core 4X4 market with the redesigned Pajero, positioning the model as "a true off-road vehicle rather than a fashion accessory."

The gasoline version of the Pajero gets a 48 hp boost with a switch from the old 3.5-liter powerplant to the new 250 hp 3.8-liter V6 used in the latest version of the Eclipse.

Despite the hard-core off-road market appeal of the boxy 4X4, Mitsubishi has added a host of optional goodies, including a 12-speaker, 860 watt Rockford sound system and a navigation/infotainment system with a 30 GB hard disk drive. Unfortunately, the company's attempt to dress up the externally-mounted spare wheel with a partial hard cover still needs work - John reports that the plastic shroud rattles like crazy when you close the tailgate.

The full press release, with lots of live shots and stock pics, after the jump.

Official Press Release:

MITSUBISHI PAJERO*

- Evolution -

After the successful launch of the L200 sport utility truck and prior to the international market introduction of the new Outlander SUV (first quarter of 2007 in Europe), Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) will complete its renewed 4x4 line-up with the world premiere of the next evolution of Pajero* at the 2006 Paris Motor Show (or "Mondial de l´Automobile").

Celebrating at this occasion 70 years of 4x4 technology at Mitsubishi (1936 PX33 4-wheel-drive torpedo) and 25 years of Pajero*, this evergreen Brand icon will trade all the "soft-roader" trappings currently en vogue in the full-size SUV segment for the long-term design integrity of a classic.

Pajero* will be launched in Japan in September 2006, to be followed by world markets. In Europe, start of sales will take place between the Fall of 2006 and the Spring of 2007 on a market by market basis.

Loyal
A loyalty rate of 70% (in Europe) gives quite some legitimacy to Pajero*.

This also creates a set of "obligations" with respect to its Customers and therefore gives Mitsubishi Motors a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong for Pajero*.

In this context, building upon its heritage is definitely right meaning more "evolution" than "revolution" following somehow the same approach used for years with the Lancer Evolution. In other words: the same, only better each time.

Authentic
Designed and engineered to be used as a true off-road vehicle rather than a fashion accessory, it will respect the loyalty of over 2.5 million Pajero* customers since 1982 – of which 160,000 of the previous 2000 / 2006 generation in Europe - and capitalize on the rugged image patiently crafted at the gruelling Dakar rally since 1983.
As an illustration of Pajero's* high loyalty rate (70%), customers rejected any dilution of its personality during early clinic tests, leading de facto to the latest car in both 3 and 5 door formats.

In that sense, this Pajero* marks a return to the unmistakable design vocabulary defined by the 1979 Pajero II Concept (tall, vertical and nearly flat windshield, "Pajero* eyes" front face arrangement, side-hinged tailgate, etc ...). Doing away with the bulging fenders of the previous generation in the process, this latest evolution offers a still clearly identified yet more balanced silhouette. The availability of 18" alloy wheels will also confirm this impression.

The chunkier and sportier 3 door body follows the same design strategy, keeping its longer doors, short wheelbase (2,545 m vs. 2,780 m for the 5 door), characteristic kicked-up rear quarter window and roll-bar-like B-pillar.

For both, the front grille also returns to a typical Pajero* rectangular crosshair pattern (horizontal bars over thin vertical strips), but incorporating Mitsubishi's trademark "Mount Fuji" signature treatment of the Three-Diamond logo, prolonged by a spine-like character line stamped in the center of the hood. The all-new MPR13 2007 Dakar racer will obviously share these traits.

An indispensable sign of authenticity, the outside mounted spare wheel was naturally retained. Now centered (and hard-covered), it allows the use of the high mounted rear combination lamp for better visibility.

High-end Quality
Adamant as they were for MMC to remain faithful to Pajero's* exterior design, customers also acknowledged the need for a full overhaul of its cabin, starting with a brand new – but still gimmick-free - dashboard.

Much more coherent in look, feel and materials compared to the previous car, it adopts a no-frill contemporary design. Soothing for long distance travels and apt to outlive fashions and trends, it translates Japanese quality and refinement into an understated, sophisticated cockpit with high-end watch-like precision and finish, from the audio controls to the sleek center console.

Set in a sober black or black/beige background theme, dressed-up with subtle aluminium-like and wood-like, metallic or anthracite accents – e.g. for the dashboard and door trim panels – and benefiting from a soft-touch finish, Pajero's* equipment is incorporated in a more consistent way than before, including new refinements today's customers expect like the Rockford Acoustic Design premium audio system and innovative hard disk navigation system with integrated music server function.
Same goes for the deep set meters, the climate controls, gear & transfer case levers as well as the steering wheel, all sporting the same quality finish and feeling highlighted by the mechanical precision of actuation of all knobs and switches, up to the rear A/C controls.

As expected from a Japanese car, interior lighting has been "constructed" with safety, comfort and feeling of space in mind, as exemplified by the amber illuminated foot rest area and console down light.

Additionally, whilst the convenient "Hide-a-Seat" 3rd row continues (5 door only), new equipment is now made available in this latest iteration of Pajero:
- Rockford Acoustic Design premium audio system (860W and 12-speaker),
- 30 GB hard disk drive navigation system with 7" color touch screen display and DVD player, plus music server incorporating a CD Database (CDDB) from GraceNote® that relays information about the CD being played to the display screen,
- Rear view camera,
- Rear seat entertainment system with 9" display and 5.1 channel Dolby® digital sound,
- Auto dimming interior rear view mirror,
- Steering wheel mounted controls for audio system and cruise control,
- Xenon headlamps,
- etc,...

Long haul
Customer surveys have demonstrated that Pajero* is first and foremost used for the purposes it was engineered for, i.e.: real-life 4x4 driving (off-roading, towing,etc,...) by professionals, competing with the likes of Toyota's Land Cruiser where roads do not exist anymore...

As such, Pajero* accounts for 25% (24,567 sales in CY 2005) of the fairly stable sub-segment of authentic off-roaders, weighing about 100,000 units a year in Europe (out of 350,000 upper-mid SUVs).

Confirming Pajero's* vocation, 80 % of its customers in Germany have for instance a tow hook installed, whilst 14 % of them use their car off-road for work almost every day and 22 % on rough terrain almost every day.

Further South, Pajero* is the least used of all 4x4s in Spain for the morning school run every day (12%) but is also the 2nd most used 4x4 as a working vehicle off road.

These facts were strong drivers to apply the same "evolution philosophy" to the technical definition of this Pajero*:
- There was no need to change Pajero's* architecture; the monocoque body with built-in frame has been retained but is now more rigid, to the benefit of both handling and NVH levels.

- The same goes for the electronically-controlled Super Select 4-II transfer case, except that a lockable rear differential is now available for better off-road performance. In line with Mitsubishi's All Wheel Control (AWC) philosophy, Pajero now comes with standard Traction and Stability Control systems whilst ABS, Electronic Brake Assist Control and Electronic Brake-force Distribution systems remain.

- Front and rear independent suspension systems retain the previous layout but have been re-calibrated for a smoother ride, less body roll (improved by 25%) and better high speed stability**, both on- and off-road.

- As far as the Diesel engine is concerned - just like for the new L200 - displacement (3.2 liter) and basic format (4 cylinders) were retained. However a common-rail architecture was adopted to meet two key objectives of the project:
o Euro-4 compliance
o Better NVH performance (noise level reduced by 15% for instance)

As an additional benefit, 10ps is gained in automatic form (up to 170 ps, thanks to a variable geometry turbo) compared to the previous Pajero*, whilst 8 additional Nm will contribute to more flexible performance – always a bonus off road – in manual form (up to 381 Nm):

3.2 Di-D M/T 3.2 Di-D A/T
Output 160 ps 170 ps
Torque 381 Nm 373 Nm

A DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) is standard on automatic versions; it will also be made
available on manual variants, according to market.

- MMC remained faithful to the V6 configuration for Pajero's* petrol engine but switched from the old 202 ps 3.5 liter GDI powerplant to the all-new 250 ps*** 3.8 liter MIVEC unit fitted to the recent Eclipse sports cars in North America.

- Lastly, both engines are equipped with evolutions of the previous, proven gearboxes: either a 5 speed manual or the 5 speed electronically-controlled INVECS-II automatic unit, with Sports (i.e.: sequential) Mode and "Adaptive Shift Control" for downhill driving.
Evolution
This Pajero* also forms the basis for an all-new cross-country racer that will be entered in the 2007 Dakar rally. Called "Pajero Evolution", this race car is also unveiled today at the Paris Motor Show, alongside the production car.
* Shogun in The UK / Montero in Spain
** Within legal limits
***Figures subject to homologation

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