The tried and trusted prevail
Top awards go to a couple of old stagers, writes FRASER STRONACH
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.