Big makes bet­ter sense

Work­horse now has a self-shift op­tion, writes JAMES STAN­FORD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test Mitsubishi Triton Glx- R -

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

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