Big makes better sense
Workhorse now has a self-shift option, writes JAMES STANFORD
MANUALS make a lot of sense when you’re running a workhorse. They’re sturdier and cost less to maintain, except when driven by an apprentice who hasn’t learned how to use a clutch.
Even so, it can get pretty tiring working the gears all day, especially if you drive a diesel. Their narrow power band means diesels require you to shift early and often.
The current ML Mitsubishi Triton is a competent work horse, especially with the 3.2-litre diesel. This engine was available only with a manual until six months ago, but a four-speed self-shifter is now part of the line-up.
Now there’s a huge list of Triton variants to pick from, with four engines, two tray styles, two body styles, and two or four-wheel-drive.
The 2.4-litre four cylinder has a role as the base powerplant, but the 3.5-litre V6 is a nicer, more potent unit. Unfortunately, the six slurps a disturbing amount of petrol. A new 2.5-litre diesel is an economical choice, but it is available for only two-wheel-drive models.
Many customers will require fourwheel-drive or simply want more low-down torque for hauling big loads. The bigger diesel is the most logical choice for them.
Mitsubishi’s commercial vehicle diesels have always been quite advanced and the Triton’s power- plant — a 3.2-litre four-cylinder common-rail engine with direct injection that generates a respectable 118kW and a handy 347Nm— is no different. The transmission is a fourspeed automatic, which costs $2300 more than the five-speed manual that comes standard.
Like the Holden Rodeo, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Toyota HiLux, the Triton is made is Thailand, and, like them, has a rugged separate chassis base.
The Triton tested by carsGuide is a Double Cab (crew cab). The stripped-out two-door Single Cab starts the range at $19,990; entry price for the Dual Cab range is the $25,990 four-cylinder petrol twowheel-drive model.
Our test car is the second most expensive model in the Triton range, the GLX-R ($46,990). For that you get the big diesel, the automatic transmission, four-wheel-drive with low-range and a rear-locking differential, sports bar in the tray, chrome mirrors, alloy wheels, a nudge bar, flared wheel-arches and a lot of gear — Bluetooth phone connectivity, MP3 compatible premium sound system, and a large central multifunction display.
There is also a central bin and armrest with cupholders, power control for the mirrors, electric windows, sports seats and airconditioning — but still no cruise control. It’s not available on any Triton.
Anti-skid brakes are standard on the GLX-R Triton, along with front airbags for the driver and passenger.
Side airbags and electronic stability control are not available.
The current Triton scored four stars in ANCAP crash testing, which is very good for a commercial vehicle.
ON THE ROAD
YOU still wouldn’t buy a ute like the Triton unless you really needed it, but it is now a lot more comfortable. Car-based machines like the Holden and Ford utes are still the best bet if you don’t need to haul big loads or take it off-road.
If you do, check out the Triton, along with the Toyota HiLux and chunky Nissan Navara.
At $46,990 the test car is not cheap, but you get a lot of metal for the money.
All the creature comforts are nice, but the most useful item is the automatic transmission.
Manual gearboxes in commercial vehicles like the Triton are chunky, with a long throw and a hefty clutch, which can become tiresome if you are doing it all day.
But the automatic in the Triton is not perfect. It has an overly active torque converter that hardly ever seems to lock up, generating a constant slurring sound.
Teamed with a good but noisy diesel, this feature of the automatic leads to an intrusive and annoying engine sound.
But the 3.2-litre diesel in the test car is a good engine. It has plenty of meat and is perfect for carrying large loads or towing (up to 2300kg braked).
There is also enough power in reserve for you to surge off the line like a sportscar if you hit the throttle hard enough. Of course, there is a lag while the turbo gets up to speed, but it certainly goes when it’s ready.
You even have to be careful when pulling out on to a street and turning that you aren’t too enthusiastic, or there will be wheelspin.
Fuel use is pretty good, considering the Triton has an aerodynamic rating similar to that of a house.
The test car used 10.9 litres/100km of diesel. That’s a lot better than the petrol version, which used four to five litres more for every 100km.
We didn’t come close to testing the limits of the Triton’s off-road capability.
This is a serious truck with a 205mm ground clearance, low range and, even better, a rear diff lock, which helps when negotiating slippery, uneven terrain.
The Triton’s suspension has a lot of give and there is a fair amount of body roll in corners.
There is plenty of room in the rear and it could easily house two big adults. This is a proper crew cab.
Just as in any crew cab, the length of the tray is reduced and longer items like a trail bike won’t fit (they might if you drop the tailgate), but that’s the way it is.
Still, the cargo area covers 1325mm x 1470mm, which is quite reasonable.
As for all the luxury items in the GLX-R, they are nice, but you wonder if they’re worth it.
A Bluetooth phone connection could come in handy, but you can keep the blue dials, the big blue screen with a compass, alloy wheels, sports bar and things like chrome wing mirrors.
We’d trade all of that for cruise control.
THE BOTTOM LINE
IT ISN’T cheap, but this Triton is an efficient workhorse that is now more comfortable. The automatic transmission is not perfect, but makes life easier.
Rugged: the Mitsubishi Triton Double-Cab GLX-R 3.2-litre diesel is a sturdy worker, and has the advantage of four-wheel-drive. Pictures: CAMERON TANDY