x 4 shootout
Mitsubishi Pajero 3,2
Mercedes-Benz M-Class 3,5 V6
Grand Cherokee Hemi 5,7 V8
date : 26th March 2006
The Krugersdorp Game Reserve
organized a day trip with a difference for Car Torque
recently. Hendrik and the crew arrived to find that the
Sandown Motors group had assembled a diverse range of off-roaders
for us to sample.
Sandown Motors draws from the Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz and
Jeep line-ups to keep its off-road clientele satisfied, and in
this passenger-orientated assembly thereís an off-roader
catering for most tastes.
The Mitsubishi 3,2 litre diesel engine is a four-cylinder
unit, slow-revving, befitting its heavy internal components.
It produces a fairly modest 121 kiloWatts at 3800 rpm, and 373
Newton metres of torque at 2000 rpm.
The Mitsubishi Pajero is regarded as a serious off-road wagon,
right up there with the likes of Toyotaís Prado and Land
And although this Pajero has been around now for six years and
is close to the end of its model cycle, itís still
competitive, thanks to updates like the new centre diff-lock
and electronic traction-control combination system.
Unlike the Pajero, the new Mercedes-Benz M-Class is all-new in
2nd generation guise.
The basic M-Class is still very much an on-road soft-roader.
But one of those options includes adjustable ride-height,
which came in handy at the game reserveís off-road track.
The 24 valve 3,5 litre V6 is an impressive performer in any
context, be it in the SLK sports car or the much larger
The range also includes diesel and five-litre V8 variants, but
this 350 version proved more than punchy enough through water
crossings and over slow undulating territory.
The new M-Class has drawn lots of praise from motoring
journalists. Its subtle redesign sees it longer and wider but
with a lower roofline, and this special off-road pack just
makes it that much more versatile.
But when it comes to off-roaders, Jeep draws from a heritage
going back 60 years.
A mid 7 second 0-100 time puts the Grand Cherokee Hemi in Golf
Gti accelerative territory.
Chryslerís new Hemi V8 actually made its South African debut
in the top Jeep model in mid-2005 and itís noted for good
economy by V8 standards.
With sophisticated all-wheel-drive running gear, the Grand
Cherokee, in this line-up at any rate, falls halfway between
the soft-roader M-Class and more purpose-built off-roaders
like the Pajero.
And Mitsubishi has a no frills version of the five-door Pajero
specifically designed for South African off-roaders.
The well-proven 3,2 litre diesel may be a little long in the
tooth now, but with 373 Newton metres of torque at 2000 rpm,
itís still eminently controllable in slow off-road
This Pajero GLX doesnít have the ABS-based traction control
system of the luxury GLX model, but at the Reserve Hendrik
found the less-fussy straight-forward diff lock system easier
He also enjoyed the no-frills approach of the vehicle as a
whole in what turned out to be muddy conditions in the
Cloth seats and basic trim as fitted to the GLX African spec
Pajero, though, are no real hardship if you plan to spend lots
of time hopping in and out in rough conditions.
The interior trim package fitted to the second-generation Merc
M-Class has been praised for being a big step forward from the
rather shoddy fittings used in the first series of this
Improved plastic quality has been the biggest change, and
large switchgear suits the part-time off-road aspirations of
A key figure in organizing this range test was Protea Eco
Adventuresí Jannie Rykhaart. As usual, our man from the West
Rand was on hand to provide valuable off-road instruction.
The low-range gearbox fitted to the ML 350 with the off-road
pro-engineering package makes this semi-car, semi-off-roader a
far more versatile vehicle, much more controllable in
The pre-engineering package costs an additional R31 000 above
the base price of R520 000.
The tyres are still profiled more towards tar than the rough
stuff, and so is the suspension, which lacks the travel of its
more rural DaimlerChrysler cousins.
The Grand Cherokee Limited 5,7 litre Hemi, to give the vehicle
its full title, is fitted with the second-generation
Quadradrive traction system.
Jeep says the new system allows faster torque transfer between
wheels with good traction for smooth progress over slippery
All in all, a fun-filled day thanks to Protea Eco Adventures,
Sandown Motors and the Krugersdorp Game Reserve.
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