CAPE TOWN – Blinging up double-cab bakkies is all the rage these days. Ford is particularly good at this with its Ranger Wildtrak (and FX4), while other brands have similar offerings, such as Isuzu's X-Rider Black and Toyota’s Hilux Dakar. Mitsubishi, now, has added another option with its Triton Athlete.
Available in dark grey or white, it sports blacked-out side-mirror caps, bumpers, door handles and grille with, um, "bespoke" 17-inch diamond cut black wheels and various orange accents.
Interestingly, a tailgate spoiler has also been added, with this particular test unit furthermore gaining an efficient and easy-to-operate Armadillo solid load bay cover. This is spring loaded and lockable, and provides security for goods stashed in the load bay (something that isn’t possible with the standard unlockable tailgate).
The styling of the standard Triton isn't exactly macho, with odd, over-the-top lighting designs, but the Athlete package helps to make this leisure-style bakkie stand out from the crowd. Inside, you'll find perforated leather in a mix of black and orange with neat orange stitching to match. The seats themselves are large and supportive.
The 2,4-litre turbodiesel engine is a worthy unit, smoother than the older 2,5-litre with more than sufficient grunt (133 kW and 430 N.m) and a satisfactory fuel consumption of 9,4 L/100 km (on CAR's index).
Ride quality is a standout feature of the Triton. I loaded some goods in the back on a longish trip but this was not heavy enough to make a noticeable difference. In our experience, it takes a load well without impacting the ride quality.
When we conducted our seven-bakkie shootout in 2017, we were all (including Hannes Grobbler) impressed with the all-round abilities of the Triton. One aspect we had to criticise, though, was the 1 500 kg towing capacity. This has now been corrected by tests and verification so the Triton can officially tow 3,1 tonnes of caravan, boat or trailer. Meanwhile, a rear diff lock plus the low-range ratios take care of the steep stuff.
The automatic transmission is old-school, with five forward ratios. It works well but there is a mix of turbo and torque-converter lag that can catch you out when trying to accelerate quickly from a standstill. In typical (and appreciated) Mitsubishi style, large aluminium paddle shifters are fitted for those who wish to pretend their bakkie is a sports car. And the shifting speed via the paddles seems a bit more rapid than the computer-decided decisions.
Steering feel is excellent and the vehicle is more nimble than most when it comes to parking and cornering. Safety-wise, you have seven airbags, Isofix child seat anchors, stability control and a rear-view camera. A five-year/90 000 km service plan is included in the price.
Some time in this special-edition model served to remind us just how compelling an offering the standard Triton double-cab bakkie has become (even though there's an extensive update on the horizon). Whether the bling adds to or detracts from the package, though, is entirely up to you...