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No ordinary Chelsea tractor

Ryan Borroff
I HAVE a confession. I might be a less than ideal person to test the new Mitsubishi Shogun. This is because I live in N4. Off-roading opportunities are few and far between in Islington unless you include stolen Citroen Saxos driven on pavements. This means I am not going to tell you how the car performs off- road. This is something of a missed opportunity, because off-road is where the Shogun has traditionally excelled.

In the 1990s you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the Shogun was the defacto SUV of choice for Caravan Club members. It performed so well that it was showered with Best 4x4 awards around the world. Since then such big powerful 4x4s have become politically incorrect. This means that car companies are busy evolving these cars to improve both their eco performance and people’s perception of them.

Mitsubishi wants to become known for eco-friendly cars as well. When it introduces its iMiev all-electric city car later this year it will be ahead of most of its competitors. Surely such a goal is something of a contradiction when it comes to the latest version of its big Shogun 4x4? It seems unlikely that cars which are seen by many to be overweight and unnecessary gaz-guzzlers could actually become something cleaner, leaner and more socially acceptable for city use.

Somehow Mitsubishi has taken the new Shogun in the right direction. At first glance it’s more handsome and imposing than I was expecting. Yet somehow it’s not a Chelsea tractor, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what you look for in large 4x4s.

The car is lighter and more frugal than its predecessor and is also a good deal cleaner. In terms of its emissions, it chuffs out 224g/km of CO2, which is down from 280g/km. The manual models are even cleaner at 212g/km. But what’s key here is that the emissions reduction – as well as saving numerous dragonflies and 1.3 polar bears – reduces road tax by £400 a year.

The latest iteration of its 3.2-litre diesel engine is then greener and cheaper to run. Despite improvements in economy and emissions the new Shogun engine actually improves on the outgoing model. Power and torque are both up 18 per cent and the new Shogun has an increased towing capacity of 3,500kg (for the LWB – the SWB has 3,000kg). We found the ride to be fine, especially around town when it felt kind of regal.

At its heart the car is a keen and well-equipped functional workhorse. Which means it’s at the muddy boots end of 4x4 ownership and there is not – even in Elegance trim – much that glimmers on the inside. So it’s pretty much practicality that leads the interior, design-wise. Plastics and leather trim is durable, wipe-free and best described as functional. Interior styling too is clean and simple, if fancy-free.

Flexibility is where the car really shines. It’s a very useful, clever seven seater this. Second row seats fold forward easily realising a mahoosive load area. And if it’s people you’re moving – rather than the house – then two further seats fold out of the boot floor. As an alternative to a so-called MPV, the car represents a comfortable and practical people mover.

At 2,275kgs it’s obviously a weighty car, yet doesn’t feel as heavy as it might, or even quite as big. The driving position is high, feels safe – but not remote – and it is only when looking over your shoulder that you remember quite how much car you actually have behind you. Thankfully there’s a neat rear view camera which appears on the screen on the centre dash when reverse gear is engaged. Helpfully it will show you not just what’s behind you but also whether you are reversing straight or not. I matched the guidelines on the display with the boundaries of the parking bay – this meant that unlike the norm when driving such a large vehicle in London, I didn’t hop out to check that I was within the lines before turning off the ignition. Anyone that has endured a parking ticket for sitting one’s tyres millimetres outside the parking bay boundary in such a big car will know the importance of such technology in London.

The car is full of too much hi-tech to list it all here. Highlights include an 860W Rockford Acoustic Design 12 speaker audio system with a music server and colour touch screen. In the boot sits a couple of big sound boxes suggesting that maybe Mitsubishi is expecting tailgating parties to become increasingly popular in the UK.

The new Shogun is not the most refined 4x4 you can buy and in many ways feels like something of an old-school SUV, before they became all shiny and ostentatious. But then you’ll know if you need the Shogun’s practical capabilities and if you do then you’ll not care a jot for some of the so-called luxuries that you might otherwise miss. Next time I’ll take it off road.

THE FACTS:
SHOGUN LWB 3.2 ELEGANCE AUTOMATIC

PRICE (AS TESTED): £34,999
0-60MPH: 11.1 secs
TOP SPEED: 111 mph
CO2 G/KM: 224
MPG COMBINED: 33.2 mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN **
PERFORMANCE ***
PRACTICALITY ****
VALUE FOR MONEY ***