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Review

First Drive: Mitsubishi Shogun Black car review

20/01/12

FAMILY cars come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and fuel-efficient, some moonlight as company cars and some are more like miniature buses. You also get some that look like off-roaders, but the Mitsubishi Shogun is none of these.

What we have here is the Shogun Black, a special edition model with an extra visual punch and all the on-board electrical kit you could wish for. As family cars go, its combination of talents is very hard to beat at any price.

For a start there are seven seats; the third row initially concealed beneath the boot floor. It’s a big, tall car and kids love that they genuinely have to climb into it. The front occupants even have grab handles to pull themselves up with. Tough leather upholstery cleans off easily if someone spills a drink.

The middle row of seats, a three-seater bench, offers enough legroom even for adults to relax in comfort should they hitch a ride. What’s more, in the back of the front seat headrests there are screens that display DVDs or computer games – two wireless game control pads come with the car as well. Superb!

And that’s the first clue to the ace up the Shogun Black’s sleeve. The second is that when it’s completely unladen, over bumps the back suspension feels a little out tune with the front; slightly too reluctant to compress and a bit too eager to bounce back.

The third and final clue is the engine configuration; a 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. That’s an unusual arrangement which provides one thing: torque, and lots of it.

Most large diesel engines in cars have six or even eight cylinders, which increases smoothness but reduces natural, inherent torque. Engineers try to regain it with clever turbo management but it doesn’t always work in the real world, particularly with towing.

The big 800cc pistons in the Shogun develop a lot of natural torque even low down in the rev range, which makes it perfect for carrying weights and pulling large loads with minimal impact on performance. It’s the sort of engine configuration you’ll find in vans designed to pull 7.5 tonnes.

Attach a towbar, whack a caravan on the back, fill the car full of people – do what you like and the Shogun will pull itself along pretty much as happily as it normally does. And that’s its real genius.

Despite it being more obviously ‘styled’ than a normal Shogun, with large matt black wheels and black bodywork detailing, it has supreme off-road technology under the skin. As well as selectable two- or four-wheel-drive, there’s a low-range gearbox and lockable centre differential – must-haves for proper mud-plugging. To be fair, you might want to swap those lovely 20-inch wheels first though.

Sometimes that sort of mechanical technology is essential just for getting out of a hilly camp site in the rain with a few tonnes of caravan and children-related rubbish dragging along behind you. Most cars struggle badly on wet, sloping grass, but not the Shogun.

Being a Mitsubishi, it’ll also be very reliable; the sort of workhorse you can depend on for a decade or more with no problems. An uncle of mine owns a 15-year-old model that’s completely problem-free and feels almost like new.

This particular special edition is incredibly well kitted out, with full leather upholstery and contact point trim, those games consoles, a 12-speaker Rockford Premium Audio system, satellite navigation, fantastic xenon headlights, a reversing camera and parking sensors, climate control, electric everything and much more.

In true off-roader style you also get a barometer, an altimeter and a very detailed instant and average fuel consumption gauge. For the price, the package is incredible. It’s many thousands of pounds cheaper than you’d have to pay elsewhere for an equivalent spec.

On the road it feels less refined than the more road-biased alternatives, but the tables turn when there are load weights involved. Keeping to 60mph on the motorway I returned 37mpg over 140 miles, which is really very good for a 2.3-tonne behemoth.

One other item of note is that the steering is quite slow, which is perfect for making precise adjustments to your course off-road. But it also has the unexpected bonus of encouraging slower, more relaxed driving. In the Shogun you’re happy to just plod along, enjoying the benefits of a driving position that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s ever been on the flight deck of a 747.

The Shogun is a car for all seasons, all weathers and all terrain. The SG4 Black edition adds elements of bold style and a huge equipment list, and when you add that to the honest, all-round indefatigability of the Shogun platform it creates an incredibly satisfying family car to own.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Mitsubishi Shogun Black, £42,799 on the road.

Engine: 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel producing 197bhp and 325lb.ft, Transmission: 5-speed automatic gearbox driving the rear or all four wheels (selectable), lockable centre differential.

Performance: Top speed 111mph, 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds.

Fuel economy: 33.2mpg.

CO2 rating: 224g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power2 (lower than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats7

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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