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Phil Hanson takes on Mitsubishi's latest Triton
One of the things some motoring writers like to contemplate when trying a vehicle is whether they'd buy one. There's nothing like a bit of fantasising to pass time travelling to and from launches. It's a bit like asking a travel writer whether he or she would spend their own money to stay in some flash resort.
I can tell you now that my finger is hovering over the virtual Buy Now button for a new Mitsubishi Triton GLS -- and I'm not even in the market for a ute.
Two things stand out for me about this latest and best incarnation of Mitsubishi's one-tonne utility. Actually lots of things stand out, but two have my finger ready to stab the button.
One is that the seats are the most supportive and comfortable I've experienced in a ute. Thanks to a combination of coincidence anda spate of launches, the test drive calendar has been awash with new-model utes, some nice seats among them. The Volkswagen Amarok Dark Label's just look so classy, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak's really cool.
Photo / Phil Hanson
But none beats the Triton's for comfort. That recurring dream about being snatched by aliens and measured in a laboratory must have happened, except swap aliens for Mitsubishi seat designers, because the nicely upholstered buckets support and cosset my back and backside so perfectly that there can be no other explanation.
"Comfort" and "support" are subjective, of course, so the experience for your back and bum may differ, although maybe not by much. I asked several other adults of various sizes and weights to try the seats, and all left with a smile.
A point of clarification: these seats are not exclusive to the GLS as some sort of price enriching extra to pamper the suburban set. Nope, they're standard across the range. However, there are other good things about the GLS that you can't find on lesser Tritons.
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Photo / Phil Hanson
Among these is Mitsubishi's Super Select transmission, a mechanism that allows the driver to use it as a full-time four-wheel-drive or, at the turn of a dial, as a rear-wheeler. There's an extra level of sure-footedness having all wheels driven on the pavement -- just ask any driver of, say, a Subaru. Many people who frequently tow big loads love a full-time 4WD.
Other Japanese utes can't be used on-road or on any high-friction surface in four-wheel-drive because to do so would probably cause tyre and/or driveline damage. They lack a centre differential that compensates for frequent small differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.
It's a fore-aft version of the conventional cross-axle differential that allows the wheel on one side to travel at a different speed from the other, such as when going around a corner, rather than binding and doing damage -- not to mention ruining ride and handling by hopping and jerking.
Photo / Phil Hanson
Presumably cost is the reason for Mitsubishi not offering Super Select on other Tritons; it would be great to see it across the range, providing an important point of difference over its Japanese rivals. Volkswagen has its 4Motion full-time four wheel drive system on automatic Amaroks and Land Rover Defender pickups are full-time-four, but only have a manual gearbox and will soon be no more.
On the other hand, the GLS misses out on a locking rear differential, a useful off-road traction aid, that's standard on lower-spec GLX 4WDs. It seems like an odd omission, but Mitsubishi Motors' marketing head, Daniel Cook, says "the Super Select transmission is very capable off-road. As a result, and due to the relatively high cost of a diff lock, it was our choice not to include it on GLS models.
"We had it as standard on the previous model, but customer feedback showed GLS owners did not value the feature, as they rarely needed it." My finger moves a few centimetres back from the virtual Buy Now button. I'd like a locker on my GLS, thanks.
Also missing is satnav that features on the spec list of the GLS's direct rivals.
Although I'd be just as happy to plug in my TomTom, I fear the marketplace may think differently and that Mitsi might have made a mistake. Mitsubishi might be thinking the same thing, as Cook tells Driven they're thinking about offering on-board nav next year.
Photo / Phil Hanson
Despite the missing locker and satnav, the GLS is still a compelling package, especially at a $59,490 price that undercuts many rivals. This newest Triton has most of the electronic systems and gadgets of other top-model utes, including trailer sway control.
That, and the on-road 4WD, makes it task-ready for towing, despite a braked rating of "only" 3100kg.
Towing ratings are a can of wriggling worms, so don't read too much into some rivals' 3500kg, especially if the ute doing the towing is loaded to near its gross weight.
The GLS rides and handles well, has a lively yet generally unobtrusive engine, is relatively frugal with the diesel and has a Sport (i.e. manual-shift) mode on the transmission that can be worked by the shift lever or a pair of steering column-mounted paddles.
Wow, shift panels are something you don't expect to find on a ute and I love 'em. No harm in getting a bit of practice in case Ferrari wants me at one of their launches.
As an added inducement, the stylists did a great job of polishing Triton's somewhat polarising lines, so design-conscious drivers need no longer worry somebody will see them behind the wheel.
PROS & CONS
MITSUBISHI TRITON GLS
ENGINE: 2.4-litre four cylinder turbo intercooled diesel, 135kW/437Nm
Pros: Plenty of "I really wasn't expecting that" features.
Cons: No diff locker, no satnav.