Some people say that an SUV is like sex: over-rated. However, many of those people have never experienced a good SUV (or sex). I have to own up here and admit that I'm a virgin, to SUVs at least, and if you are reading this Mom, the other as well... My young personage has never been violated by the spreading fad that is the big 4x4. If I'm honest, I've never really been interested. In the past the “double-cab” pick-up variants such as the Mitsubishi L200 were popular not just due to their versatility, but also due to the convenient tax loophole that they exploited. This is now being closed and such cars are now on a level playing field with regular cars. So is there a valid argument for having an SUV, other than if you're a) a farmer or b) making a hip-hop video?
The Mitsubishi Shogun Sport nestles mid-range in Mitsubishi's 4x4 line-up between the Shogun Pinin
and the full-size Shogun
. It's available in a number of guises, the one we have on test here is the top of the range “Warrior”, in this case powered by a 2.5-litre four cylinder turbo diesel, but also available as a 3.0-litre petrol V6. Having seen the L200 I knew what to expect of the Sport but was amused to see that this is the full bling
version, complete with chrome grille, tailgate spoiler and 18” alloys. To some it looks cool; some warmed to its Tonka truck looks whilst others enquired as to whether I'd had a career change into the adult entertainment industry... Love it or loathe it, I think that the Warrior looks the part; it's big, brash and ballsy, if not particularly avant garde
Opening the door to get in reveals two things; firstly that it's a big step up - those in tight jeans or short skirts face a challenging entry - not aided by the second discovery: namely that the running rails on the sills are very slippery when wet. The roomy interior is decked out in good quality grey leather and the seats (in the front in particular) are large, comfortable and well cushioned. Plastics abound as far as the dash in concerned and to some extent they betray the Sport's lesser alter ego - as a commercial workhorse - in terms of the use of material, but are no worse than the competition. A full set of resilient fitted mats is a sensible inclusion as well given the potential for off road excursions. Interior space really is a strong point in the Shogun Sport; the rear seats can be folded flat and the anchorage points hint at the potential uses of the vast space. If you don't have a horsebox, you could probably fit a pony in the back! In all seriousness it may be possible to get something like a Jet Ski in there. Cubbies for glasses, CDs etc. are plentiful without intruding on leg or elbowroom.
The driving position is high, with excellent all-round visibility. The exception is the view directly backwards out of the rear screen, which is obscured by the rear centre headrest; this can be removed when not needed. The driver's seat itself is comfortable, even for long periods (I did an 11 hour journey without any discomfort) and has a good range of adjustment. All the controls are well sited but not as well damped and nice to use as those in conventional cars. Equipment wise the Sport includes air conditioning and a good quality CD player as standard along with the usual electrics as far as windows and mirrors are concerned. Some people may like a sunroof or two on this kind of vehicle; these are optional.
On the road the dynamics are those you'd expect of a two tonne vehicle with body roll being prodigious and acceleration not. The ride is hard due to the stiffness needed to suspend such a heavy vehicle and the low profile tyres on this model add to the problem. However, the grip available from the 255/55 R18 tyres is comical. Once you adjust to the roll angles adopted in cornering (despite anti roll bars as thick as your wrist) the Shogun will hang on gamely. This coupled with excellent visibility over hedges etc. allows for fairly quick progress cross-country and some preservation of that ever-valuable momentum.
Regaining that lost speed is not a task of moments; the 2.5-litre Tdi engine does a fair job of shifting the bulk but in its standard 114 bhp form (backed up by 177 lb.ft of torque) performance is only on a par with a super-mini. Interestingly a power upgrade to 138 bhp and 202 lb.ft is available as a cost option that must be worth a look. The engine eschews common rail in favour of a rotary fuel pump and uses exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to meet emissions standards instead. As a result it suffers in terms of refinement and noise. It's not annoying, but the drone is ever present. The engine also features a variable geometry turbocharger, which increases the usable power band. Despite this, a quick getaway requires 1st gear and a fair amount of revs; below 1200 rpm the engine is dormant. Once on the move the powerplant feels unbreakable and will no doubt be excellent for towing boats, horseboxes etc.
The transmission features selectable 4WD, which can be engaged via a lever on the move at anything up to 60 mph. Also available is a low ratio drive, again selected via a simple lever, but only when stationary. For the most part we ran in 2WD as 4WD makes low speed driving a nasty affair - it corrupts the steering and is only really advisable for use where it's intended (i.e. off road, slip-ways etc). The gearshift itself is quick and light, if somewhat long in travel and the ratios are fairly short. Given its diverse role then these short ratios are a compromise to ensure the Sport is useable off-road and can actually shift itself with some alacrity. In an ideal world a long legged 6th gear would be fitted to improve fuel consumption.
We had few niggles with the Shogun during it's week with us. The main annoyance was a sticky filler cap release that refused to open without some gentle persuasion. This in itself ensured that this Warrior's first battle was with a rather tired road tester stuck on a Cumbrian petrol station forecourt in the pouring rain, being driven into his face by force 9 gales, after an 11-hour drive. Following an intense skirmish (which involved umpteen trips from the cap to the release lever next to the driver's seat) the human triumphed and the reinforcements sent back to barracks, or bed in this case. We later found that if you have one person pulling the lever whilst another is deployed to tap on the cap at the same time the flap will open first time; not much cop if you're on your own though. We suspect this should not affect all cars.
The other issue was with the alarm and immobiliser. A click on the fob opens the door locks as you'd expect but there is also a transponder key which slots into the dash. To the uninitiated it seems natural to use this once inside the car to immobilise it. Indeed a reassuring 'plip' tells you you're right. However, what you've actually done is to re-arm the alarm, which sounds as soon as a door opens. Most confusing at first, then you realise the key fob is all you need. Small things like this rarely are mentioned in a road test as we acknowledge that an owner will soon get the hang of a car's nuances. Unfortunately we couldn't find this gem of information in the otherwise thorough handbook.
In terms of costs the Sport is a bit of a bargain. Earlier this year, the prices were reduced by £2,000 across the range leaving this, the top of the range diesel costing only £21,000. This is backed up by 9k mile service intervals and a 3 year unlimited mileage warranty. The Shogun Sport averaged 22 mpg over 1000 miles of mixed driving. The petrol V6 would probably struggle to get above 20 mpg.
Overall the Shogun Sport Warrior is a solid lifestyle vehicle. If you need to transport five adults with luggage and tow a boat or suchlike it's ideal. The lack of road manners may rule it out as a real alternative to an MPV or large family saloon but if you do live off the beaten track then it's a nice compromise. In answer to the question: are SUVs over-rated? Well, no. I actually enjoyed the Shogun's company. I can see the appeal of the raised driving position and go anywhere ability, but have to admit that it was nice to get back into a hot hatch at the end of the week.