The Mitsubishi Triton moved into its second generation in 2015 (although the model series has a history going back to the late 1970s) and recently, the specs were upgraded with better safety features and a longer warranty of 5 years/200,000 kms. But the big thing about the Triton today is its all-aluminium MIVEC engine which was introduced last year. With the lighter weight, lower friction and higher output, this engine endows the Triton with a new level of performance that makes it more enjoyable to drive than many other pick-ups.
To enable us to experience the performance and also show off the capabilities of the vehicle, Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) invited the media for a drive in Sabah. Our drive took us from the typical urban environment to hilly terrain in the West Coast Division to the north of Kota Kinabalu. En route there, the twisty roads provided an opportunity to experience the handling and ride comfort of the Triton.
For this latest generation, the engineers worked hard to lower noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and they have done a fairly good job though I would not say the NVH levels are the same as a car yet. Sound insulation is good but you are still reminded of being in a diesel pick-up by the low-frequency vibrations. However, it helps that the MIVEC engine doesn’t have loud clatter and also seems to runs smoother than the diesel engines in other pick-ups.
Ride comfort used to discourage me from thinking about owning a pick-up as the leafspring set-up plus chassis-on-frame construction made for an unpleasant ride. But with the Triton, I was impressed by the reduction in harshness going over bumps and the ride is less jarring.
Handling too has been much improved with less body roll than what I usually experience in most pick-ups. It’s something I noticed following other Tritons and at the wheel, the stability in cornering was also pretty good. The rack and pinion steering system helps with providing a more precise feel too.
The Triton is the only pick-up in Malaysia with paddle shifters and like the ones in some Mitsubishi models, they’re made of lightweight magnesium. Although paddle shifters may seem unnecessary with an automatic transmission, they are useful in providing some degree of control over gear selection when driving on twisty roads, especially if you want to decelerate. I like how the paddles are mounted at fixed points on either side of the steering column, instead of being on the steering wheel where their positions change as the steering wheel rotates.
The MIVEC engine is quite a powerhouse with 181 ps and 430 Nm of torque from 2.4 litres. With the overall weight of the vehicle being lower than most other pick-ups in the market, the high output means its power/torque to weight ratio is very good. On the highway, you can get up to very high speeds quickly and with the good handling that I mentioned, it is actually enjoyable to drive.
Departing from hard tarmac, the first thing was to get into 4×4 and Mitsubishi’s Easy Select system is definitely easy! What a change from the old days when (with some vehicles), you would have to get out and lock the front hubs if you wanted to have 4×4 engaged. Then you had to struggle with a lever to engage the transfer case. Now, if you are not going into Low range, you can even activate 4×4 while moving. All that needs to be done is to rotate a knob on the console between the seats.
Conditions were very muddy and wet on the narrow track heading into the hills so the Low range had to be used. In Low range, the centre differential is automatically locked, inducing 50:50 distribution of torque between front and rear axles. With a locked centre differential, the front and rear axles turn at the same speed which is good when driving in a straight line but the wheels drag if you turn a lot. This isn’t an issue on muddy or loose ground though but you should not use it on tarmac.
Incidentally, our vehicles were fitted with the standard tyres (245/65R17) that are good for highway use as well as mild off-road driving. They were okay for the terrain we drove over but if you regularly go off-road, perhaps investing in ‘serious’ 4×4 tyres would be a good idea. The dual-purpose tyres get packed with mud very quickly and can no longer ‘bite’ into soft ground if you are driving in muddy areas.
The Triton’s turning radius of 5.9 metres is the best in class. This proved to be very useful as we had to manoeuvre through narrow sections. In fact, one section was a new route created to bypass a deep mudhole and the vehicle had to be driven in between trees.
While the 5-speed manual transmission gave me more confidence in the difficult conditions as I could maintain gears I wanted. I was also impressed with the 5-speed automatic transmission in such conditions. The automatic selection was intelligently done and for novice off-roaders, it is actually helpful because they can then focus on driving and steering the vehicle instead of worrying about the clutch and stalling. When necessary, you can still manual select a gear with the paddles.
10 years is a long time but that’s how long a truck generation is in production. During that time, the distributor has to find ways to sustain interest in the model. This is usually done with special editions although the manufacturer will also update the specifications periodically.
With the Triton, MMM has a product possessing an appearance that should remain appealing for some time to come. It’s also an inherently tough vehicle with strength that most owners are unlikely to find inadequate, given that many confine their ‘adventures’ to the ‘urban jungle’. But whether it is the real jungle or the urban jungle, the Triton can be placed among the top candidates in any list of pick-ups.