For companies selling pick-up trucks, it’s a challenge to keep customers interested in the same model for a longer number of years than passenger cars. Typically, pick-up trucks, having been treated like commercial vehicles, have a model cycle of up to 10 years. This was okay in earlier years when such vehicles were sold mainly to commercial vehicle operators who were not bothered with fresh looks or new technology. They just needed a tough and reliable vehicle for their work, usually off-road, and the less sophisticated the vehicle was, the less things to fail or break.

But since the late 1990s, the pick-up truck buyer has changed; while the volume of sales has increased significantly, a large proportion of the buyers are people who buy them as an alternative passenger car for use as daily transport in urban areas. Some of them are ‘hardcore’ types who by such vehicles for off-road activities but most buy them for the rugged looks and even the imposing size.

For the new generation of truck buyers, the needs are similar to those of passenger cars buyers. They want comfort, stylishness, the same convenience features that cars have, and the latest features to make their motoring more enjoyable. Off-road capabilities are not top of the list though it would be nice to know that when they encounter flooded roads, they can keep going while cars have to stop.

So car companies have to keep refreshing their trucks over 10 years to keep people interested. They don’t usually make technical changes which are costly as engineering development work is needed but facelifts and special editions with different bodykits plus adding new features can make a model that is many years into its cycle still look good and appealing.

The current Mitsubishi Triton arrived in Malaysia in May 2015 so it’s only about 2½ years in the market. In that time, there have been a few special editions as well as an upgrade to a new all-aluminium MIVEC engine and today, the Athlete edition joins the range. The choice of this name for the new addition is certainly appropriate for the type of vehicle that the Triton is although a number of people in Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) are also athletes! MMM’s brand ambassador, drifter Leona Chin, is also presented as a Malaysian Motorsport Athlete.

“The new Mitsubishi Triton Athlete is made for ‘Everyday Athletes’, highlighting the vehicle’s agility and nimbleness to take on everyday road challenges in Malaysia,” said MMM’s Chief Executive Officer, Tomoyuki Shinnishi.

To differentiate it from other Tritons, the Athlete version comes with a bodykit installed at the factory in Thailand which is the global production hub for the Triton. As with all other Tritons sold here, the vehicles are imported from Thailand in completely built-up (CBU) form so, as one MMM manager said, all its parts are 100% imported.

The Athlete version is differentiated from other variants by its black honeycomb grille (centre).

The bodykit includes a black front grille with honeycomb design, new front bumper garnish, sports bar and a nice panel on top of the tailgate which is referred to as a ‘spoiler’. Some items are grey but the Triton Athlete is available only in a Black Mica exterior finish, with some orange decals on the bodywork. The black theme encompasses everything – side steps, door mirrors, door handles and rear bumper. It certainly gives a mean look to the truck!

This trim piece on top of the tailgate is referred to as a ‘spoiler’.

Inside the cabin, the black theme is also adopted with orange stitching on the trim panels and other areas including the steering wheel. The seats have perforated leather with a sporty orange colour combination.

The infotainment system is also new and has Apple Car Play which is great for those who have an iPhone. The system will interface with the phone and replicate many of the apps on the screen. This is actually the way infotainment systems in vehicles will go as offering connectivity is better than trying to develop in-house systems. The mobilephone industry advances technology at a much quicker pace than the auto industry so it is more practical to just draw on the phone technology to use in cars.

Paddle shifters for the 5-speed automatic transmission are standard, along with a button for starting/stopping the engine.

The Triton Athlete uses the most powerful engine in the range which is the 2.4-litre MIVEC VGT turbodiesel that produces 181 ps/430 Nm.

In the safety department, it comes with 7 airbags (the seventh one being a knee bag for the driver) the usual brake management systems like ABS and EBD as well as Active Stability with Traction Control, Hillstart Assist and Trailer Stability Assist.

There’s also a Brake Override system which activates in situations when the brake pedal and accelerator pedal are pressed at the same time. This can be dangerous so the computer will send a signal to ignore the accelerator pedal action and give the brake pedal action priority. This can avoid accidentally driving into a wall, thus saving and expensive repair job.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the Triton Athlete has a price of RM126,990 (without insurance) which is the same price as the VGT Adventure X. There are 5 other variants in the Triton range with prices starting from RM77,390. All variants except for the Quest come with a 5-year/200,000-km warranty (the Quest has a 5-year warranty but maximum mileage is 100,000 kms).

There are 55 showrooms around Malaysia where you can buy the Triton Athlete and other Mitsubishi models, and 54 locations where there are service centres. Between January and March, there will be the Mitsubishi Ultimate Drive event on in various places where test-drives of all Mitsubishi models will be available. For the list of dates and venues, visit www.mitsubishi-motors.com.my.

Click here for other news and articles about the Triton.

[Chips Yap]

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