Mitsubishi’s latest Triton promises to attract a new generation of local enthusiasts
If you’ve ever had a hankering to know the origins of particular vehicle names, you might be interested to know that Mitsubishi’s Triton actually owes its name to a minor sea god that usually sports a fish’s tail and carries a trident and a shell trumpet.
When it comes to names for its products, Mitsubishi has always found unusual inspiration. Back in the days of the Starion sports car, the suggestion was that it should have actually been called the Stallion, but a mispronunciation of the letter “l” turned into an “r” by a Japanese product planner and resulted in a word that meant absolutely nothing.
Not so the Pajero, which was named after a large cat that roamed the wild pampas grass areas of Patagonia. Unfortunately for the Japanese manufacturer, the same word in Spanish translates to an act that supposedly sent young acolytes blind if they over-indulged.
Perhaps it might have been safer for Mitsubishi to continue calling its ute range after the L200 nomenclature by which it was known in 1978. In export markets around the world, the ute, now in its fifth generation, remains known as the L200, but for the Australian market the name Triton has stood the test of time and has become well accepted.
The fourth generation of Triton was unveiled in 2005. Designed by Akinori Nakanishi, it was manufactured exclusively in Thailand and exported to 150 countries globally. Since Mitsubishi launched its first ute the company has notched up total sales of four million units.
Now, a decade later, it’s time for the fifth generation, and, from Delivery’s first drive, the future of the all-new Triton is looking extremely positive.
When you build four million units of a specific vehicle type, there’s every chance that you get particularly good at what you do. That’s the total production number of L200/Triton utes so far manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors.
Not content to stick with the “ute” descriptor, Mitsubishi’s marketing people have decided to call the latest Triton the “Ultimate Sport Utility Truck” or USUT.
Recognising that, in the Australian market in particular, the Triton USUT (remember they were never good at names) not only has to perform well off-road on the occasional weekend trek into the bush, it also has to look good parked in the driveway, when visiting a restaurant, or running the kids to and from school.
Mitsubishi’s designers have certainly achieved their goal. Although there’s a resemblance to the previous model, when one analyses the finite elements of the shape and flow of the panels as they roll and curve into each other, the final outcome is very smooth, highly appealing and more modern.
The pick-up version has kept the J-curve that sweeps the rear bulkhead up into a rearwards curve that’s copied by the rear edges of the back doors of the dual-cab. The same curve is picked up by the leading edge of the tub, and the side view looks in better proportion thanks to the rear axle having moved lightly rearwards, increasing the wheelbase.
Up front for the top of the line USUT you get LED daytime running lamps (a requirement under European legislation) and these are matched to HID projector headlamps. Polycarbonate headlamp lenses being something like three times stronger than glass make for proofing against stone punching.
Under the bonnet is a new, all aluminium MIVEC diesel engine, complete with balancer shaft technology to reduce vibration, a 200 MPa, high-pressure, common-rail diesel injection system and a variable geometry turbocharger. The balancer shaft technology is something that dates back to the Sigma engine and has been a major design influence in Mitsubishi engine construction ever since.
Given that the power increase of the new MIVEC engine at 133 kW is just 2 kW in advance of its predecessor, you might imagine that performance is all rather similar. Not so. With the smoothness of the variable geometry turbocharger and the willingness of the new engine, Delivery found the power and torque supply to be a significant improvement over the last model. Having an extra 30 Nm of torque to peak out at 430 Nm also doesn’t go amiss.
If you like to do the sums, a comparison between the MIVEC engine with its displacement of 2.4 litres, and the four-cylinder and five-cylinder Ford engines used in the Ranger, it shows a torque to weight ratio of 4.5 kg/Nm versus 5.4 kg/Nm of the 2.2-litre and 4.4 kg/Nm of the 3.2-litre. That said, the MIVEC produces its 430 Nm at 2,500 rpm whereas Ford spreads its torque output of 470 Nm through from 1,500 to 2,750 rpm. MIVEC produces maximum power of 133 kW at 3,500 rpm; Ford takes another 250 rpm to hit 147 kW.
Ask any circuit racer what wins the race, and if they are honest they’ll agree it’s not necessarily the driver, as the best in their profession perform to similar lap times. It’s more usually the vehicle with the best power to weight ratio. Mitsubishi claims the Triton 2.4-litre weighs in at 1,940 kg, compared to 2034 kg for the Ranger 2.2-litre and 2064 kg for the 3.2-litre. If you add a bulbar, winch, driving lamps, towbar, roof rack, side steps and other accessories, any comparison will be totally meaningless.
What Triton buyers can boast about is the tremendously capable Super Select 4WD II drive system that is a clone from the Pajero. If you accept that racing improves the breed, then consistent successes of Pajeros running in the Dakar Rally reinforce that premise to the absolute hilt.
With this driveline you can run in full-time 4WD High on the bitumen (with the centre diff unlocked) and enjoy a 40/60 percent front/rear torque distribution.
Option two is to lock in the centre diff when off-road in either high or low range. If you are not in the slippery bits then you still have the option of 2WD, which is quieter and on high-grip bitumen will return slight improvements in fuel economy.
Having traditionally also offered a locking rear diff on Pajero drivelines in past years, MMAL has chosen to include this only on the Triton Exceed model, leaving the apportion of power on all other versions to the traction control system through an open rear diff rather than a limited-slip (LSD) version.
Our pre-launch drive programme meant that our only available Triton was fitted with the Super Select transmission and an automatic gearbox, so at this stage we can’t comment on the six-speed manual gearbox. We can however comment on the Aisin five-speed automatic that can be over-ridden and controlled by paddles on the steering column, and this is smooth and slick in operation.
Noise levels of the new Triton are 2.0 dB lower than the previous model, and with six much larger solid rubber engine-to-body mounts the engineers have done a good job of isolating the transmission of noise and vibration. Certainly not bad for a ladder frame chassis with semi-elliptical rear springs and a typical independent MacPherson strut coil over damper set-up at the front. Increasing the rear leaf spring by 120 mm and moving the front spring hanger forwards by 50 mm and the rear further back by 70 mm have also improved ride comfort.
The cabin interior in the dual-cab version has increased shoulder room in the front by 10 mm, is longer by 20 mm and rear legroom has increased by 20 mm.
From a safety perspective, Mitsubishi has really pulled out all the stops. Featuring ABS with EBD, traction control, active stability control, trailer stability control, hill start assist, emergency stop assist and seven airbags, it’s got the safest levels available. A rear-vision reverse camera puts its signal through to the central audio display unit, a far better option than feeding it to the central rear-vision mirror mounted on the windscreen.
Cruise control, dusk sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers, speed limiting control and a well thought out and easy to view dashboard make the front-seat occupants feel they’ve definitely bought the upmarket version. The seats also need a mention for being very comfortable and for providing very high levels of support. It will be interesting to see how the Triton seats compare with the new Nissan “Magic” seat fitted in the new-model Navara, as both are extremely impressive.
The ride comfort and handling of the new Triton was impressive on the road network we had available in Adelaide, and the ute performed effortlessly when covering some very demanding off-road sections with steep climbs and descents over loose rocky terrain.
The paddle shifts work well and so too does the five-speed auto, whether or not you control it manually by the paddle shifts or leave it to its own ability.
Mitsubishi claims the new MIVEC engine is 20 percent more fuel-efficient, and with less wind noise it’s fair to assume the aerodynamic efficiency is better, enabling the Triton USUT to slip through the air more easily.
In overall terms we liked the feel on-road and were impressed by its ability off-road. With a turning circle of 11.8 metres it does come about with a faster response than some of the more boat-like turns of its competition, but you won’t be spinning on a dime or sixpence. In all respects, first impressions indicate the Triton in its fifth generation has a great future ahead of it.