The tried and trusted pre­vail

Top awards go to a cou­ple of old stagers, writes FRASER STRONACH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

TWO of the most trusted off-road­ers from Mit­subishi and Land Rover are the big win­ners in this year’s Over­lan­der mag­a­zine four­wheel-drive awards.

The tur­bod­iesel Land Rover Dis­cov­ery III won the over­all and large wagon cat­e­gory, and the Mit­subishi Pa­jero Di-D won the best value-for-money cat­e­gory.

The Suzuki Grand Vi­tara DDiS was judged best small wagon, the Mit­subishi Tri­ton Di-D dou­ble cab best diesel ute, and the Nis­san Navara D40 4.0-litre V6 dual cab best petrol ute.

Un­like Over­lan­der’s 4WD of the Year award, which looks only at ve­hi­cles that are new or sig­nif­i­cantly re­vised that year, th­ese an­nual ac­co­lades look at all 4WDs on the mar­ket.

Long-time cham­pi­ons dom­i­nate, but some­times even they must step aside.

The tur­bod­iesel Pa­jero has had a mort­gage on the best­value cat­e­gory for four years, but this year’s winning Pa­jero is not the same ver­sion that has won in the past.

It’s a con­sid­er­ably bet­ter Pa­jero thanks to changes that came with the NT model up­date that ar­rived at the end of last year.

Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the NT Pa­jero has a heav­ily re­vised en­gine and a new gear­box.

It also im­proves on noise con­trol and gen­eral re­fine­ment.

The changes were enough for it to be­come Over­lan­der’s 2008 4WD of the Year and go close to knock­ing the Toy­ota Prado out as the Best Medium Wagon (diesel).

In the end, the Prado held on to that crown sim­ply be­cause it’s more comfortable off-road than the Pa­jero, even though the lat­ter is a far bet­ter on-road prospect, with sharper han­dling and stronger per­for­mance.

The NT Pa­jero’s 147kW/ 441Nm four-cylin­der diesel en­gine is still a tad noisy, but per­forms strongly and is a fuel miser.

This is matched by a chas­sis that has the type of high­speed dy­nam­ics most Ja­panese 4WDs can only dream about.

The Pa­jero’s fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, rigid mono­coque body and Mit­subishi’s wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in events such as the Paris-Dakar Rally con­trib­ute to its on-road poise.

At the same time, the Pa­jero is still ca­pa­ble of­froad, thanks in part to an ef­fec­tive stan­dard trac­tion con­trol sys­tem.

The Land Rover Dis­cov­ery III TDV6 is still king, be­ing over­all win­ner and the Best Large Wagon (Diesel).

The TDV6 has ruled th­ese awards since it was first re­leased in late 2004.

It ac­tu­ally ar­rived a lit­tle to late for the 2004 awards but won 4WDOTY in that year and has been the Best Over­all and Best Large Wagon (Diesel) ever since.

In those years, the mag­a­zine’s ex­perts have driven the Dis­cov­ery III con­sis­tently un­der all con­di­tions and against a wide range of ve­hi­cles in many com­par­i­son tests.

It has stood the test of time and feels as fresh and mod­ern to­day as it did five years ago.

The cen­tre­piece of the Dis­cov­ery is the TDV6 en­gine, a 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel jointly de­vel­oped by Ford and Peu­geot.

De­spite its rel­a­tively mod­est 140kW and the ve­hi­cle’s portly 2.5 tonnes, this en­gine per­forms ef­fort­lessly and fru­gally, helped by the slick sixspeed au­to­matic.

If there is a limit to what the V6 can do, it comes with high-speed over­tak­ing.

On the road, the Dis­cov­ery is a crisp and sharp han­dler.

The ve­hi­cle’s full off-road po­ten­tial is re­alised only when the op­tional $1050 lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial is fit­ted.

The best: the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery was the over­all win­ner.

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