In your letter to Santa this year, you kindly requested some bespoke 4x4 kit for your new bakkie-based SUV this Christmas. Firstly, a standard SUV might not suffice when the going gets tough and secondly, who wants their proud steed to look like that of the neighbours? Fortunately, Mitsubishi has done the legwork for you in speccing out the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Shogun with R70 000-worth of accessories at no extra cost.

So what do you get?
The Shogun is upgraded with Australian-sourced Tough Dog shock absorbers, chunky Geolander off-road tyres by Yokohama, Stofpad protection plates for the engine and transmission case, Stofpad chassis-protecting rock-slider running boards fitted, a Front Runner roof rack with spotlight,a detachable towbar and a snorkel. Inside, a rubber mat is provided in the boot to protect the cargo area and a new Garmin GPS Nuvi-cam that's pre-loaded with popular African overland routes and maps (thanks to Maps 4 Africa) will allow you to easily navigate to remote locations.

The vehicle
The Pajero Sport has been around for a while but never managed to step out of the vast shadow of the segment-leading Toyota Fortuner. This is unfortunate as it shares many qualities with the Toyota, namely its bakkie-based (Triton) roots, ladder frame chassis, proper off-road capability, including low-range and a rear diff lock, strong and reliable turbodiesel engines and seven-seater packaging.

Interior
Although the interior design does betray the Pajero Sport's age, the standard of fit and finish is good. Leather seats add a bit of class and the central display on the upper facia feeds you plenty of information, ranging from fuel consumption to an altitude reading. Handy though it may be, aftermarket GPS system's wiring is rather messy. But on the plus side there electrical adjustment for the front seats and legroom in the second row is excellent. Even the third row is capable of accommodating small adults comfortably.

Oil burner
The 2,5-litre turbodiesel unit currently employed replaced the trusty 3,2-litre engine about two years ago. The drop in capacity did not equate to a reduction in power output, however, as the newer unit delivers 131 kW and 350 N.m when paired with the 5-speed automatic transmission in the Shogun (the manual transmission version gets the full 400 N.m).

How does it go?
There is no hiding the fact that bakkie-based SUV’s are generally more agricultural when compared with their unibody counterparts. In the case of the Shogun the engine is quite noisy and the induction and turbo noises are amplified by the snorkel opening just inches away from the driver’s ears (the hardebaarde might actually enjoy this).

Do not be fooled by the supercar-like, metal shift paddles behind the steering wheel. The 5-speed auto transmission is of the lazy-shifting variety and encourages a conservative drive style. Stamp on the accelerator from a standing start and the turbo takes its time to spool up while the transmission becomes flummoxed by the hurry-up message. Once the engine speed reaches the mid-range there is more than enough punch, however. The Shogun is more suited to relaxed cruising on the open road than doing the milk-and-bread run around town.

Safety
The steering is on the heavy side but quite predictable. As with any bakkie-based SUV, noticeable body roll will see you slowing down dramatically for the bends in the name of safety. Talking about safety, the vehicle is fitted with disc brakes all round, electronic stability control and six airbags.

The ride
Owing to the uprated dampers, the ride is on the firm side, becoming decidedly choppy on corrugated dirt roads. Once the road surface oscillations diminished, however, the Shogun dispatched long dirt sections with ease, feeling sturdy and mechanically unbreakable from the driver’s seat.

Offroad
There is no denying that the Pajero Sport is a proper 4x4. Four-wheel-drive is still selected by moving the short stubby lever, located to the right of the gear lever, forward, with a further push forward engaging low-range. This setting is ideal for rock-crawling and the rear diff lock can be easily activated at the press of a button when additional traction is called for. It's a basic but effective setup, although taller drivers might find that the stubby lever brushes their left leg when 4H or 4L is selected.

Should you buy one?
The fact that the new Triton bakkie is expected next year (spawning a possible new Pajero Sport) might have something to do with Mitsubishi’s generosity in fitting the outgoing model with all of this extra kit free of charge. It is, however, beginning to show its age and consequently sits more on the rugged end of the driving spectrum, so if you need a vehicle for the daily run and commuting the hard-as-nails Shogun won't fit the bill. Still, if you need a vehicle for family adventures into Africa, the Shogun offers good value for money and undercuts the main opposition.