Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Mitsubishi Triton GLS 4WD cab chassis, dual-cab ute
Tough ute's sensitive side
September 2006

OLD tradesmen don't quite know what to make of the new Mitsubishi Triton.

Like the retired builder checking out our test GLS version at Bunnings, where we were picking up some sleepers for a new sandpit for the kids the other day.

He was a Merv and in Merv's day, utes didn't look like this.

They were boxy, beasts of burden, not curvaceous creatures that love to play.

Lifestyle was a fanciful word and there was no flexitime, or Rostered Days Off.

The concept of a ute that doubled as a family vehicle would have been just as unthinkable.

As Merv looked closer at the gleaming Triton diesel dual cab, his eyes began to bulge: leather seats, climate control air-conditioning, an 8-way electric adjustable driver's seat, power rear window - what's the world coming to?

And what about the rear seat? It actually looks comfortable. Maybe the apprentices drive these days and builders stretch their legs in the back.

Alloy wheels, ABS, altimeter and compass, trip computer, CD sound system, side steps, nudge bar, hard tonneau cover and fog lights, surely this can't be true!

Well it is Merv. It is as real as work-life balance.

Mitsubishi is the latest brand to target adventurous families and weekend warriors with utes that have it all.

The longer, wider, more refined Triton takes on a range of quality offerings, including Toyota's handsome HiLux, Nissan Navara, and the bold Holden Rodeo.

The Mitsubishi is, however, perhaps the best looker of the lot, with its softer lines disguising rugged capabilities.

After 27 years as a vehicle that did the hard yards, it has been reinvented as a sexy, stylish and generously-equipped chariot that is just as much at home in the suburbs as on the building site or farm.

The new ML Triton range starts with a single or dual cab base-model GLX, priced from $30,690.

Next comes the GLX-R dual cab, likely to be the big mover. It is priced from $41,990 to $44,990 and has plenty of enticements for workers chasing a versatile family rig.

Then there's the one that really stuns the Mervs _ the GLS, as tested, for $49,990.

It comes with a 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine that produces 118kW of power at 5000rpm and 347Nm of torque at a low 2000rpm.

This is only available with a 5-speed manual transmission, although the pressure is on from buyers for an auto version.

If you want an automatic, the lone offering at the moment is the GLX-R with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit ($43,990). The V6 is a solid heart borrowed from the Pajero.

Inside the GLS, all controls fall readily to hand.

There is everything you want, plus more, like the altimeter. This gives you constant reassurance that you are above sea-level.

Five people are comfortably accommodated and there's a surprising amount of leg room in the back seat, which also has a central fold-down armrest.

Headroom is adequate.

The leather trim is a real treat, but the front seats are flatish and could hold you tighter.

The driver's position, as you would expect, is high and mighty.

Unlike its predecessors, this machine is a breeze to drive. The turning circle is remarkable for a vehicle of the Triton's dimensions and the improved handling is welcome relief for those who struggle with backing trailers and boats or pinching a park up town.

Ride is excellent when the Triton is carrying, but on the bouncy side when unladen.

A series of engine improvements have improved the Mitsubishi's acceleration and towing ability and brakes are upgraded with larger front discs and rear drums.

Triton operates as a 2WD in general play, but can be flicked over to high ratio 4WD on the fly, if required. When the going gets really tough, there's low range. The ute has a limited-slip rear differential and the option of a locked rear diff.

All attributes considered, this a stunning newcomer that is sure to find plenty of favour with those who work hard, but love to play.

Poor old Merv won't know what he's missing.


ENGINE: 3.2-litre 4-cylinder DOHC common rail diesel with intercooler and turbocharger

POWER: 118kW at 3800rpm

TORQUE: 347Nm at 2000rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual only

DRIVE: 2WD with part-time 4WD

PAYLOAD: One tonne, towing capacity is up to 2.3 tonnes

FEATURES: 16 inch alloys with 245/70 tyres, leather seats, 8-way adjustable power driver's seat, altimeter and compass, trip computer, side steps, nudge bar, hard tonneau cover, fog lights, ABS, climate control air and power rear window

PROS: Versatility, looks, tighter turning circle

CONS: Ride bouncy when no weight in the back, GLS diesel only available in manual, front seats a bit flat