TRIED AND TRUE

The next Tri­ton packs new tech, styling and com­forts but ro­bust­ness car­ries over

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - GRANT ED­WARDS

Ap­pear­ances count in the ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive one-tonne ute mar­ket. Ford’s Ranger has cat­a­pulted to near the top of the sales charts on the back of tough “F-Se­ries truck-like” looks, and Mit­subishi is look­ing to fol­low suit with its new Tri­ton.

A new chis­elled, ma­cho look­ing Tri­ton will ar­rive in lo­cal show­rooms in Jan­uary to take the fight to Ranger and Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lar ve­hi­cle, the Toy­ota Hilux. But Mit­subishi isn’t re­ly­ing on looks alone to over­take its ri­vals.

The com­pany says more than 2400 changes have been made to the pre­vi­ous model, with the en­hance­ments fo­cus­ing on new car-like safety tech­nol­ogy and a cushier ride.

Aus­tralia’s third most pop­u­lar ute has sold mainly on the back of sharp drive-away dis­counts but the new model is likely to be more ex­pen­sive and more de­sir­able.

Spokesman Karl Gehling says pric­ing is likely to in­crease “com­men­su­rate with the new tech­nol­ogy in the ve­hi­cle”.

The new look was first seen on the Pa­jero Sport, a ute-based SUV that has proved a big suc­cess for the brand.

The pre­vi­ous Tri­ton it­er­a­tion ar­rived only three years ago but es­ca­lat­ing com­pe­ti­tion and higher cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions have forced rapid im­prove­ment, par­tic­u­larly in the area of cabin re­fine­ment and safety.

No longer are utes con­fined to fleet and work du­ties. They’ve evolved into fam­ily cars with big boots and the best of them re­flect that dual pur­pose.

En­gine choices are un­changed on the new Tri­ton — a 2.4-litre petrol (94kW/194Nm) and a tweaked turbo diesel (133kW/430Nm) matched to five- and six-speed man­u­als re­spec­tively. There is new six-speed auto for the diesel.

The Tri­ton will dra­mat­i­cally im­prove its safety kit, though, with fea­tures that match the Ranger and Mercedes-Benz X-Class and sur­pass ri­vals in­clud­ing the Hilux, VW Amarok and Nis­san Navara.

Among the new items are au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing (AEB) to help mit­i­gate or avoid frontal ac­ci­dents and tech­nol­ogy to avoid pedal con­fu­sion.

The AEB op­er­ates be­low 140km/h us­ing cam­era and laser radar. If the tech recog­nises the risk of a frontal col­li­sion with a ve­hi­cle or pedes­trian, it sounds a beep — if the driver fails to re­act, the brakes are ap­plied au­to­mat­i­cally.

Blind spot warn­ing, sur­round view cam­era and rear cross traf­fic alert will be added to the safety gear, as will “Ul­tra­sonic Misac- cel­er­a­tion Mit­i­ga­tion” — a first for the seg­ment.

Cam­eras and sen­sors de­tect hard ac­cel­er­a­tion when set­ting off in for­ward or re­verse and the tech cuts en­gine power. It doesn’t op­er­ate in low range, so won’t in­trude when off-road­ing in tricky con­di­tions.

There’s more tech in­side as well. The rear seat has a USB charg­ing socket and air­con vents, while in high-end mod­els, the 6.1-inch touch­screen gets smart­phone mir­ror­ing.

Cab­ins in higher grades are more car-like, with soft-touch dou­ble stitched ma­te­ri­als, a darker colour scheme and ex­tra sil­ver gar­nishes.

On the out­side, the dis­tinc­tive curve where cabin joins tub is re­tained but the rest of the sheet­metal has been over­hauled to make the Tri­ton look more ro­bust.

In pro­file, a pro­nounced crease runs front to rear. Fog lamps sit higher on the grille to avoid dam­age when off-road­ing; and the bold, square tail-lights no longer stretch to­ward the cab.

“When you look at the gen­eral mar­ket trends they are go­ing for the tough and durable im­age,” says Mit­subishi chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Trevor Mann. “The pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion had its time. That was the mar­ket trend and it was dif­fer­ent at the time from most of the other pick-ups so it wasn’t a ‘me too’.”

Aus­tralia’s Mit­subishi team played a key role in the 2019 model’s de­vel­op­ment, with a vast test­ing pro­gram un­der­taken Down Un­der.

En­gi­neers cov­ered hun­dreds of thou­sands of kilo­me­tres over more than two years. They also spent time with cus­tomers eval­u­at­ing the ve­hi­cle in real-world con­di­tions, while ex­perts from other mar­kets trav­elled Down Un­der for off-road dy­namic anal­y­sis.

Be­hind Thai­land, Aus­tralia is Mit­subishi’s sec­ond big­gest mar­ket for Tri­ton.

ON THE ROAD

Un­der the skin changes are aimed to im­prove ride com­fort and re­fine­ment. On Bangkok’s high­ways the Tri­ton felt qui­eter and more ac­com­plished.

The sus­pen­sion set-up — dou­ble wish­bone front and leaf spring rear — is un­changed but the rear gains big­ger dampers.

On some ba­sic off-road­ing cour­ses the Tri­ton eas­ily han­dled the con­di­tions us­ing its new ar­moury of hill de­scent con­trol and an of­froad se­lec­tor on four-wheel drive mod­els that en­ables the driver to choose be­tween gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock modes.

On dirt roads it felt more com­pli­ant — but we’ll re­serve fi­nal judge­ment un­til a more com­pre­hen­sive lo­cal anal­y­sis. U-turns and park­ing are eas­ier with a tighter turn­ing cir­cle.

Fuel ef­fi­ciency is claimed to be im­proved on the diesel auto mod­els which cur­rently drink be­tween 7.0L-7.6L/100km, al­though of­fi­cial num­bers are yet to be re­leased.

Braked tow­ing ca­pac­ity re­mains un­changed at 3.1 tonnes (3.0 tonne for sin­gle and ex­tended cab mod­els), as does the gross ve­hi­cle com­bi­na­tion mass of 5885kg.

In­side, it’s the same lay­out, with some im­prove­ments to the ar­eas you touch most such as the cen­tre con­sole and doors.

In front of the shifter is a handy stor­age area for phones and other de­vices, close to a 12-volt port, two USB slots and a HDMI plug. There are also two USB points in the back of dual cabs.

Among the in­clu­sions are roof-mounted rear vents — a fan pushes air from the front into the back and a small lou­vre di­rects the flow.

Colours will in­clude two whites, grey, orange, red, sil­ver, black, blue and brown. Sin­gle cab, ex­tended club cab and dou­ble cab body styles con­tinue. Pric­ing and full specs will be made avail­able in De­cem­ber and ex­pect the sharp drive-away deals to dis­ap­pear as Mit­subishi tries to move the Tri­ton more up­mar­ket.

Some mod­els are ex­pected to land be­fore Christ­mas, with the bulk of new Tri­tons land­ing around New Year.

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