Review and road test of the Mitsubishi Shogun (2012 - 2019)
AUTHENTIC TO THE CORE
By Jonathan Crouch
Not all large, luxurious family-sized 4x4s have to be pretend off-roaders, really more tarmac-orientated. Here's a five or seven-seater contender that really can cut it when the going gets rough and has a proper 4x4 heritage with a badge you can trust in this sector. This fourth generation Mitsubishi Shogun offers loads of space, decent value for money and an unstoppable feel and we look at it here in the improved form which launched in 2012 and formed the basis for the car which continued to sell until 2019. Though a Shogun can't match the road-going prowess and interior class of German large SUV rivals, it's more practical than any of them. Authentic, capable and very tough, it'll probably out-last you.
5dr SUV - SWB & LWB (3.2)
Mitsubishi likes to see its Shogun as the 'original' large 4x4, an SUV tough enough to venture where others feared to tread, yet offering the interior luxury of a high-end saloon. Back in 1982 when it was first launched, it was the only real option for those unwilling to stretch up to a Range Rover and sold in prodigious numbers until the Nineties arrived along with a host of new rivals, nearly all prioritising a smoother roadgoing experience. It took until the new millennium for the Shogun to make any real attempt to sharpen up its act on tarmac and even then, it continued to buck the luxury 4x4 trend by prioritising ultimate go-anywhere ability over ultimate road going response.
As the decade wore on, comparisons with luxury 4x4 models like BMW's X5, Mercedes' M-Class and Audi's Q7 seemed more and more irrelevant. This was something different, like Toyota's Land Cruiser a really 'authentic' large SUV designed for people who actually wanted to fully exercise its rugged virtues. People living in remote areas. People who wanted to tow. People who wanted more than just a lifestyle statement. These folk knew what they were getting with a Shogun, but there weren't enough of them. Hence Mitsubishi's continual attempts to do what it could to broaden this model's appeal, most notably with a far-reaching package of improvements in 2012 which gave the car a sharper look inside and out and, most importantly, a more efficient Euro V-compliant engine. A further update was made in 2015 and sales finally ended in 2019.
What You Get
Though the front end of this MK4 model gained a minor spruce-up in 2012 (and again in 2015) with a smarter grille and colour-keyed front bumper, the shape remains instantly familiar, the short overhangs, the upright windscreen, the strong high flanks, the flared wheelarches and the rear-mounted spare wheel all combining to remind buyers that this is no bling smoothie, instead wearing its credentials on its sleeve.
Mitsubishi remained one of the few brands to offer a three-door short wheelbase body style in this market sector, but that remained a minority choice, most Shogun customers preferring the five-door long wheelbase shape. It's a properly big machine, nearly 5m long and nearly 2m in both width and height, so you'll need a hefty garage with a fair amount of headroom, especially if you fit a roof box for ski trips.
The benefit of those huge dimensions is realised when you want to fill the car up with people. Unlike the way many large luxury 4x4s squeeze in a third seating row, this one accommodates it with ease, using an innovative 'Hide&Seat' system that folds the rearmost bench out of the floor. It's a pity though that you don't get two separate chairs so that when you're six-up, you can keep one folded and still have a modicom of boot space. As it is, there is of course very little with all the seats in use. Fold the third row though and a long wheelbase Shogun affords you 1790-litres of fresh air - and even more of course should you be able to flatten the middle bench as well. Short wheelbase Shogun customers get a 1120-litre boot.
Getting to the rearmost seats will be a fairly straightforward process for all but the elderly. And once there, you've enough space and floorplan height to ensure that you don't need to sit with knees up around your ears. The middle seat is comfortable for a couple of fully-sized adults - but much less so for three.
Which leaves the driving position, where the design changed little since we first saw the 4th generation Shogun back in 2007. So don't expect much in terms of soft-touch plastics and luxury-car-like erognomics. Mitsubishi subsequently did its best to smarten things up with better quality upholstery, nicer instrument illumination and a brushed silver finish around the power window switches on the doors. On a plush variant, you also get lashings of leather (which is nice) and artificial wood inserts (less so). Ultimately though, what really matters is that it all feels like it's been built to last.
What to Look For
You need to buy carefully. Our ownership survey revealed issues with things like engine over-heating, slowness in braking, erratic idling, rattling noises from the engine, crunching gears, cars that were pulling to one side and issues with door warning lights. Plus many cars will have been seriously off roaded or will have led tough towing lives. Electrics seem to be an issue too. Check for all these things on the test drive. Having said all of this, we came across plenty of owners who swore by this car and didn't want anything else. It's certainly a lot more reliable than any Land Rover product. If the car has been used for towing, look out for any odd noises from the four-wheel drive system. Bear in mind that Mitsubishi increased its standard warranty in 2015 from the original three years to five years.
(approx based on a 2015 Shogun LWB 3.2 excl. VAT) A pair of front brake pads are around £26-£50 depending on brand. Rear pads are around £30 a set. A pair of front brake discs are around £63-£114. Rear discs are in the £66-£82 bracket. Wiper blades sit in the £12-£22 bracket. An air filter is around £23; an oil filter is around £22. A shock absorber is about £98. A starter motor is around £348.
On the Road
Climb aboard a Shogun and you're transported back to a time when luxury SUVs were SUV first and luxury second. Plusher versions have plenty of interior tinsel of course, but none of it disguises the over-riding feeling that it's a vehicle that would feel more at home in the Sahara than in Surbiton. Which in its way is rather refreshing in an era where most other luxury models in this segment compete to be as car-like as possible, refining themselves to the point where the last thing you'd ever want to do would be to take one of them seriously off road.
This one, in contrast, is never more comfortable than when you're venturing off the beaten track. All right, so despite its 11 Paris-Dakar rally wins, this model was never the very last word in off-road ability - but that's probably a good thing. Not many of us want to drive around in Land Rover Defenders after all. What it does offer is a very useable compromise between acceptable on-road refinement and extreme off-road ability that will be more than adequate for most.
Under the skin lies a tough, proven AWC all-wheel control system, which works in tandem with a 'Super Select' transfer case. Using a centre differential lock to split available torque 33:67 front to rear, this system offers no fewer than four transmission modes, selectable via an extra gear stick. '2H' (or '2WD High range') is what you'll be using most of the time on tarmac, though you might be tempted at speeds of up to 62mph to switch into '4H' (or '4WD High range') on a particularly rainy or icy day.
Off road, the default setting will be '4HLc' (or '4WD High range with centre differential locked') which improves traction on snow, sand or dirt roads by distributing torque equally front and rear. Finally, for really gnarly stuff, there's '4LLc' (or '4WD Low range with centre differential locked') where there's greater torque for really extreme conditions. Mate this with an impressive set of off road credentials and you've one tough customer. Here's a vehicle that can wade through water of up to 700mm, climb slopes of up to 48-degrees, not topple sideways across a 45-degree slope and tow up to 3500kgs. A very capable vehicle indeed.
The drawback of course is that you can't have all of that, yet still get a vehicle that handles through tarmac twisties like a BMW X5. The laws of physics have to tell somewhere. As long as you accept that and approach roadway driving in a relaxed frame of mind, this Shogun can function as perfectly acceptable everyday transport. The double overhead camshaft 16-valve turbocharged and intercooled 3.2-litre direct injection is probably the biggest four cylinder engine in any production car from this period, with masses of low down torque and mid-range power. It's not an especially refined engine but is man enough to transport nearly 2.3-tonnes of Japanese real estate to sixty from rest in about 11s on the way to a maximum speed of 111mph, no mean feat.
Though fine on major routes, the ride is pretty unsettled over poorer surfaces and sharp, fast cornering needs care. To try and rein things through the turns, there's the M-ASTAC control system, incorporating a couple of things you'll be glad of if you rather unwisely throw this vehicle into a tight, damp bend believing it to be some kind of executive estate. Active Stability Control will automatically limit the engine power and dab the brakes. While the 'Traction Control' element is there to deal with wheel slippage and will prove particularly useful when you're starting off on slippery surfaces.
The MK4 Mitsubishi Shogun occupied a small but important niche in an ever-evolving 4x4 market during its lifetime. As sales of the more ostentatious cars waned in favour of more environmentally responsible transport, there remained a core requirement for an all-weather, all-terrain vehicle that could tow, fulfil the family responsibilities and not be too precious about things in the process. The Shogun discharges these duties with a minimum of drama.
This improved post-2012 fourth generation car held no great surprises but in many ways familiarity bred respect for Mitsubishi's low-key approach. Solid engineering, a thoughtful compromise between off-road durability and on-road refinement and value pricing all combined to make sure that what some people considered a throwback was, in fact, a vehicle of keen relevance. We'd be prepared to bet that Shoguns will still be running long after Porsche Cayennes and Range Rover Sports are distant memories. Ultimately, perhaps this statistic is the most telling one.
Mitsubishi Shogun (2012 - 2019) review by Jonathan Crouch