Heavyweight Shogun is a surprising off-roader in a multitude of ways
MITSUBISHI'S mighty Shogun is a heavyweight in a 4x4 market that's now dominated by compact SUVs.
It's big and beefy and recognised as no-nonsense transport that offers legendary off-road ability along with a most comfortable ride.
Climb up into the well-appointed cabin of the SG3-specification, long-wheelbase version featured and you find large and comfy seats covered in high-quality leather.
Fire up the engine and you are left in no doubt there's a meaty power plant under the huge bonnet as the lusty 3.2-litre diesel bursts into life.
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Mitsubishi has been tweaking the four-cylinder DiD common rail turbodiesel and the revisions have brought increased power and torque, both rising by 18%, from 168bhp to 197bhp and 373Nm to 441Nm.
Yet, surprise, surprise, emissions are down and the vehicle is more economical.
Its CO2 emissions figures are now among the very best in the large off-roader class, with these having dropped by 20% in the case of the automatic transmission version I was driving last week.
Emissions have fallen from 246g/km to 212g/km on manual versions and 280g/km to 224g/km for the automatics.
Better fuel economy means owners of the five-door automatic have the promise of 30mpg motoring. Mitsubishi quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 33.2mpg, up from 26.7mpg.
I averaged 31mpg on a long motorway journey and 24mpg driving around town and in the country.
A raft of engine revisions have been carried out to bring the performance increase and economy savings. It also helps that ride height has been reduced slightly.
And welcome news for those considering using the Shogun to haul a caravan or horsebox, towing capability for both three- and five-door models has increased by 200kg up to 3,500kg in the case of braked trailers.
Updating the range has not only brought the engine changes and a fresh look but also new trim names.
SG2, SGT3 and SG4 vehicles replace the previous Equippe, Elegance and Diamond versions, though the Warrior variants remain the same.
I do love the Shogun. It has been a winner in my book from its introduction into the UK in 1983 and I reckon the latest, fourth-generation range, introduced in 2006 and updated for 2012, is the yet. It's also a real plus that it is one of the few cars in its class to still offer a choice of either three-door short-wheelbase or five-door long-wheelbase versions.
Mitsubishi's engineers have further honed its position as a sturdy, reliable and well-equipped workhorse rather than soften its real world, off-roader abilities in line with the current trend towards soft-roaders in the expanding full-size off-road sector.
With two all-wheel-drive transmission modes that lock the centre differential, this is truly a 4x4 for serious off-roading.
Mitsubishi's Super Select 4 II transmission offers the choice of high and low ranges as well as two- or four-wheel drive. The driver can switch between 2H and 4H at speeds up to 60mph
Selecting 4HLc locks up the centre differential so that drive is transmitted through all four wheels to deliver gritty performance when driving in soft snow, sand, dirt or other high-resistance conditions.
In the 4LLc low gear with centre differential lockup, the Shogun can negotiate rocky terrain or swampy conditions where extra traction is required.
Good ground clearance is vital for off-roading and the Shogun's got it as well as power aplenty to haul you out of trouble. Its 3.2-litre advance, common rail diesel is all torque as well as cleaner, more economical and more powerful than before.
Moving the gear selector of the automatic transmission to the left brings a sequential sports mode into play, giving the driver the means to change up or down the box simply by nudging the lever upwards or downwards.
With cruise control, too, the automatic transmission GS3 version proved equally well suited to long motorway journeys as to mud-plugging.
Stiffened independent suspension all round and a lower centre of gravity means it's more car-like at the wheel. Handling is also closer to a family hatchback than a large 4x4.
An increase in length has made the Shogun one of the longest vehicles of its type on sale in the UK but, even with the spare wheel on the back door, I didn't find it ungainly. The way it corners with little body roll is a revelation.
There's no place for the spare under the boot floor because there is a concealed bench for two that turns the long wheelbase Shogun into an MPV-rivalling SUV. It's ever so easy to transform into a seven-seater. Simply pull a lever to lift the bench out of the recess and then another to unfold the back.
The hideaway bench gives the owner an uncluttered loadbay for some serious load-lugging. Fold the seats in the centre of the vehicle and the LWB Shogun is extremely accommodating. Mitsubishi quotes 1,790 litres capacity when all the seats are down.
Clearly, the best Shoguns are swish and sophisticated as well as most capable off-roaders as they top a formidable 4x4 line-up from Mitsubishi that also includes an all-drive version of the compact ASX crossover car as well as the popular Outlander and L200 models.