Review and road test of the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport/Challenger (1998 - 2009)
DOUBLE BARRELLED SHOGUN
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
You really do have to wonder what the 'Sport' refers to in the Mitsubishi Shogun Challenger and Sport models. Could picking the kids up from school ever be considered a sport? Or negotiating a shopping centre multi-storey ramp? Perhaps this is being a trifle harsh, but a great many of these excellent cars arrive on the used market never having got their tyres dirty. It's a bit like buying a Lotus Elise and using it to fetch the Sunday papers in - you won't see it at its best and it's a bit overspecified for the task. What it does mean is that for the used buyer there are hundreds of well-maintained and low-mileage Shoguns Sports and Challengers out there that have led yawningly easy lives.
Couple that with Mitsubishi's enviable reputation for engineering ruggedness and a near flawless reliability record and you've got something that could reasonably be described as a gift horse. But before you prepare to look one in the mouth, arm yourself with the following information.
Models Covered: (3.0-litre petrol 2.5-litre turbodiesel GLS, GLX, classic, Equippe, Elegance)
Introduced in 1998, the Mitsubishi Shogun Challenger was part of Mitsubishi's aim of capitalising on the considerable brand equity of the Shogun line. As the Shogun developed it had gradually got more and more expensive, leaving a gaping hole beneath it which was being eagerly exploited by offerings from Land Rover, Jeep and Toyota. The Shogun Challenger was the answer, although it arrived without a great deal of fanfare in November 1998. Based on a model already sold in Japan, the Shogun Challenger was hampered by the fact that it didn't look particularly groundbreaking. Tried and trusted mechanicals did little to create the impression that this was the latest thing to be seen in, and it has singularly failed to address the challenge from more style-conscious rivals.
Available with a 2.5 turbo diesel or 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, the Challenger, some may argue, was aesthetically challenged. It resembled an amalgamation of Subaru Forester and Daewoo Musso styling cues, long, flat and relatively low for a Shogun. Two trim levels were available GLX and a more upmarket GLS. The somewhat understated looks belie its true ability and that's what makes the Challenger such an interesting used buy. In March 1999, Mitsubishi attempted to redress this issues and set about the car with a mild facelift and 'lifestyle' trim designations to fit in with the rest of the Shogun range, which by then had been stretched further with the introduction of the tiny Shogun Pinin. At this point, it was re-named 'Shogun Sport'. The range received a significant revision in late 2001 with the adoption of a more powerful 114bhp turbo diesel engine from the L200, and a less powerful 3.0-litre 168bhp V6 in order to meet Euro Step II emissions regulations. Some minor trim changes were also effected by Mitsubishi. The Shogun Sport received a new front grille in the autumn of 2004.
What You Get
The blurring of the edges in the 4x4 sector has seen all-wheel drive cars like Subaru's Forester for instance pretending to be 4x4s. Lifestyle 4x4 estates like the Volvo V70 XC and the Audi allroad take this stage one step further. Reversing the course of natural evolution, the Shogun Sport and Challenger seem to be making 4x4s that try their best to ape the qualities of an estate car. Strange, when you consider the hardcore underlying mechanicals. There's a strange lack of the usual 4x4 addenda - spot lights, bull bars, running boards and macho spare wheel carriers with the Shogun Sport, Even the revised front bumper, restyled grille, clear headlight lenses and smoother tail lights that distinguish it from its Challenger predecessor only serve to make it look more urbane.
In the Shogun Sport 3.0 V6, you have a vehicle that can make sixty in 11.6s on the way to 109mph. Yet the same vehicle tows 2800kg, climbs at angles of up to 370 and wades at depths of up to 500mm. On top of that, the seats fold into a bed and you can carry up to 58.5 cubic feet of clutter with length enough for anything from a surfboard to a grandfather clock.
Given this kind of background, it's not surprising that Mitsubishi initially had trouble deciding what the potential competition (and the name) might be. Given a wide ranging price span, they clearly still think that potential buyers' current transport might be anything from a Volvo V70 XC to a Land Rover Discovery or even a full-size MPV like Renault's Espace.
To be fair, expecting Espace customers might be stretching things a bit. Unlike the five-door version of the larger Shogun off roader, the Sport can't offer a third row of seats in the rear luggage compartment. Still, that never put off Range Rover buyers - or indeed those who've spent so much money on American imports like Jeep's Cherokee and Ford's Explorer.
Whilst the Challenger made do with GLX and luxury GLS specifications, the revised Sport boasts three trim levels on offer for diesel customers - Classic, Equippe and Elegance. Either way, you get power steering, electric power for the mirrors, windows and sunroof, central locking, twin front airbags, an immobiliser and a decent quality stereo. For Elegance V6 models, the tally also includes air conditioning, ABS, alloy wheels, front fog lamps, headlamp washers, roof rails, a luggage area cover and load net, extra instruments and, more dubiously, imitation burr walnut trim and a roof spoiler. British leather upholstery is optional.
If you're into off roading, the diesel is the model to go for. Engine braking in sharp descents is, as you would expect, much better and low down pulling power seems to be greater. With both engines, all-wheel drive is accessed through Mitsubishi's 'Easy Select' system, offering all-terrain performance at the push of a lever. Here, you can switch between two and four wheel drive at speeds of up to 62mph in high range: you must of course stop to engage low range.
The result on most surfaces is pretty much the same kind of off road prowess as you'd expect from a Shogun: in fact, the only real difference between the two is the Shogun Sport's lack of a locking rear differential, a feature you'd be unlikely to need unless really stuck. And the only time this big Mitsubishi's likely to end up immobilised is courtesy of a wheelclamp.
What to Look For
Whilst the Shogun Challenger/Sport may well be built to last, there will be a small minority of owners willing to test this fact. Off road driving is a punishing activity and whilst few Shoguns will have indulged, they may have been subjected to other high-wear activities such as towing caravans, boats and the like. With this in mind, check for evidence of towing equipment and test the suspension fully, as towing can seriously deteriorate the life expectancy of rear shock absorbers - even on a Shogun. Also check for evidence of fuel leaks, a sticking differential lock and corrosion around the tailgate. Inspect the exhaust, wheel arch liners, suspension and chassis and for damage caused whilst off roading and get to know the history of the vehicle in question.
(approx based on 2000 Shogun Sport 3.0) Expect to pay around £230 for a clutch assembly and £300 for an exhaust system. Spark plugs will work out at £12 each, while a cam belt retails at around £70. Allow £12 for an oil filter. A catalyst will retail at around £400, whilst a starter motor is £130 and a headlamp the best part of £200. Front brake pads start at around £40 with rears weighing in at £65.
On the Road
Of the two engines offered in the Shogun Challenger/Sport the diesel makes up the vast majority of sales, due in no small part to the V6 petrol's prodigious thirst. This is a very credible turbo diesel engine, developing 99bhp with a level of refinement that makes Jeep's 2.5-litre VM TD unit sound coarse. The same goes for the diesels you'll find in Land Rover's Discovery and Vauxhall's Frontera.
All this is very significant of course, for if you're going to buy a vehicle weighing nearly 2000kgs, you're going to have a rather expensive time of it if the engine under the bonnet is petrol powered. The Shogun Sport's 2.5-litre turbo diesel manages up to 33mpg in ordinary motoring: some petrol rivals, in contrast, struggle to crack the 20mpg barrier. Yet you're not forced to pay for it by having to listen to an engine that sounds like a bag of nails. So-called 'Silent Shaft' technology means that only at idle is the engine's identity immediately obvious.
On the move, short gearing means that performance is more sprightly than the rest to sixty time of 18.5s would suggest, though the top speed is limited to a mere 90mph. If you want a bit more power and don't mind the consequences at the pumps, there is also a 177bhp V6 version offering the kind of performance mentioned earlier. Automatic transmission is now available as an option with this engine. To be fair, the consumption penalties aren't too great: on average, you can expect around 5mpg less than the 2.5TD.
On the road, body roll is reasonably well controlled and, you'll be glad to hear, the roof height won't preclude you from entering the tightest multi-storey car park. A nice technical touch is the LSPV (Load Sensing Proportioning Valve) system, which automatically adjusts front to rear braking bias, depending on the load being carried. It's easy to forget just how heavy cars like this are when trying to stop in an emergency. It's not the most elegant performer, but neither is it the lumpen companion most big 4x4s are. Its road manners correspond to its looks - a serious 4x4 toned down to appeal to those who want a bit more than a 'common or garden centre' estate.
With Jeep Cherokees and Land Rover Discovery models flooding the used market, it's easy to overlook the Mitsubishi Shogun Challenger/Sport. It's neither cheap, stylish nor wildly fun to drive. If you need something solid, dependable, but don't want to feel like a Montana back woodsman every time you drive it, this Shogun could be just the job. It does everything reasonably well, but in a crowded marketplace is this enough?
Mitsubishi Shogun Sport/Challenger (1998 - 2009) review by ANDY ENRIGHT