Is 2.4-litres enough? Putting the Mitsubishi Triton's towing to the test
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Thick slabs of puriri dense enough to last an evening or two. Light white pine and stubby morsels of macrocapa, ideal for splitting into kindling. Bright red chunks of gum make up a majority, good for a splinter or two if you're impatient.
The anatomy of a load of firewood probably doesn't make for riveting reading, but it's somewhat unavoidable (albeit useful) knowledge for someone living in a forestry family. Being generously stocked with all colours and creeds of firewood is one of my family’s traditions, and the near empty shed at home just happened to dovetail perfectly with the most pressing question I had of Driven's long-term Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R tester.
The Triton has been an office charmer thus far, having bounced around person to person for round trips to Hamilton, Coromandel, and other places that aren't Auckland. Although various grimaces have been posted about its inconvenient, non-foldable tonneau cover and the dinky 7.1in touchscreen, it's retained a brand of popularity spurred on in no small part by its rear-mounted tow ball.
Mitsubishi claims the Triton can tow up to 3500kg — making it equal to the best in the business, despite its 135kW/437Nm 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four being down on capacity, power, and torque when compared to most. It's 12kW/33Nm south of the Ford Ranger's 3.2-litre five cylinder and 12kW/63Nm south of the 2.8-litre Holden Colorado, to name a couple.
The elephant in the room with these kinds of manufacturer towing claims is that most utes in this segment, while capable of the feat, will still struggle when faced with more than three tons of tug. And, let’s be honest, even the most hardy do-anything double-cab ute owner won’t be lugging around that kind of load on a regular basis. (Those heaving horse floats double-stacked with Clydesdales notwithstanding.)
Still, we were curious, so the Triton was whisked to Matakana to haul home a dual-axle trailer load of gum, macrocapa, puriri, and pine — roughly two tonnes on the tow ball — with a further 700kg or so neatly stacked in the 1520mm by 1470mm bed.
Loading up the Triton, the first point of interest was the lack of sag in the rear suspension. Even though it was heavily loaded, the ute remained relatively flat in side profile. There would be no lightened noses or staring at the sky on our journey home.
It’s a surprising trait, given the Triton is one of the most comfortable rides among its peers. The wishbone and coil-sprung front set-up and leaf-sprung rear is reasonably typical for the class, but feels far more composed (weighed down, or not) than the likes of the Toyota Hilux.
On the road, the Triton’s abilities continued to impress.
The lack of rear sag translated to a no-frills, no-surprises driving experience with minimal change in the way it carried itself around corners. More impressive still was that 2.4-litre engine. For the most part, it felt more than powerful enough to shift away at the lights without feeling strained. No embarrassed glances or sympathetic waves at drivers stuck in behind, just smooth sailing.
There are some low-lights worth mentioning. The Triton’s lack of disc brakes on the rear could be felt on winding downhill stretches, and the four-cylinder starts to feel on the wheezy side, faced with an incline. Thankfully that six-speed automatic is up to the task of gear management; instinctively feeding the driver lower ratios when revs start to dive.
Having performed well in towing, the Triton’s donk has shown surprising gusto in other areas, too.
Having noted in our curtain-raising yarn that the Mitsubishi’s power-plant showed competent levels of enthusiasm off the line, the next hurdle would be economy. Some smaller-capacity engines struggle during real-world testing because it can expose deficits in the way they deliver power.
Not the case here.
Mitsubishi claims 8.6L/100km combined fuel economy in automatics (like our tester) and 7.9L/100km in manuals. We’ve had no problems at all in being able to repeatedly match that 8.6L figure on Kiwi roads, and this effectively certifies the Triton one of the most fuel-efficient utes money can buy. The twin-turbo 2.3-litre Nissan Navara we had on test last September, for example, returned 9.7L/100km. Similarly, while Ford’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo in the Ranger Raptor is rated for 8.2L/100km, we got a best figure of 9.0L/100km when we tested it ourselves.
How interesting it is then that one of the most unassuming powertrains in class is actually one of the most versatile all-rounders. Proof that flashy headline numbers aren’t everything, and yet more compelling evidence that our humble Triton deserves its seat at the big table.