Mitsubishi Triton Penang Drive-47

As we head into an age where rapid modernisation effectively blurs the lines between one’s life and work, the new Mitsubishi Triton is one such truck that understands this. Gone are the days when pick-ups were just labelled as a basic, no-thrills, heavy-duty vehicle with a sole purpose of transporting cargo from point A to point B. It’s no longer just your “dad’s” truck.

No, it’s a truck that can meet the demands of the young twenty-something entrepreneur, looking to buy a one-size-fits-all vehicle with a good balance between work and play. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the second-gen Triton (fifth-gen Mitsubishi pick-up).

Before we go further, let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s indubitably a subjective topic, but one that needs to be mentioned nonetheless. Many years ago, someone once said to me, “if you’re getting a truck, you’ll want a truck that looks like a truck.” Wise words from a man who knew plenty about off-roading, mechanical four-wheel drive systems, limited-slip differentials and everything else about roads less travelled.

When the original Triton made its debut many years back, I didn’t really know how to react – that bubbly face, the curvaceous rear-end, that sloping roof and the J-line rear. It all seemed so unconventional that a company famous for its boxy Pajeros and Storms of yesteryear would even come up with such a design – but it did. I admit it took a while for me to get accustomed to such a look.

Eventually however, the style of the Triton grew on you. The all-new Triton, however, has managed to recreate that feeling, but I’m still unsure whether it will have that same creeping effect. While it does retain, to some extent, the shape of its predecessor, it now gets a large chrome grille, larger headlamps and rear lights that edge to the sides. It is however a great step away from what I was initially expecting, or hoping for it to look like, which made me wonder, what was so wrong with the GR-HEV concept?

Although it’s always a different story from concept to production, not much of what was seen before made its way onto the Triton. It’s a shame really, but then again I reiterate – design, like art, is subjective. Seeing that this is positioned as an urban lifestyle truck, it’s where it’s supposed to shine. This design however, may or may not do it for some. But enough about art, so how does the new Triton fare as a vehicle?

At the start of our trip, from KL to Penang, we flagged off from Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia’s (MMM) headquarters in Peremba Square. The variant I started out with was the mid-spec Triton VGT auto. Now, if you find that the exterior leaves much to be desired, all that is quickly forgotten the minute you’re about to get inside – the keyless entry system allows you to button-unlock the truck and push start the engine.

The interior is a vast improvement over its predecessor, no longer do you get that mix of cheap looking beige and greys on the fascia, but instead it comes in a consistent blend of dark colours which gives the new Triton a very classy feel. The left and right side vents are now smaller than the elongated ones previously. As for the steering, you get more switches on it now – in the Triton VGT models, you get audio controls.

Apart from that, the standard double-din touchscreen headunit and digital temperature display and buttons are indeed welcome additions. Surrounding the centre console, is a piano black finish which has also been applied to the 4WD selector and the encasings of the automatic gearbox. The instrument cluster now has a multi-information display that shows you the range, the fuel consumption and the temperature outside, while gone is the uninteresting barometer.

As we made our way onto the highway, the 2.5 litre four-cylinder VGT turbodiesel carries on with the right amount of grunt. It has the same amount of horsepower, 178 PS at 4,000 rpm but an uprated 400 Nm of torque which comes in at an early 2,000 rpm. That said, there is still a noticeable turbo lag, when you step on it.

Having the car for a couple of days, I couldn’t ignore the very obvious blow-off sound each time you lift off the accelerator. It’s quite audible from inside the cabin. I myself found it to be pretty cool, but in the long-run, hearing that little “swish” over and over again might irk a little, especially if you’re not that sort of car enthusiast type of person.

As for the transmission, there’s a notable difference between the five-speed auto and the five-speed manual. Cruising along the highway, the auto tranny works fine – gear changes are almost seamless. Driving at higher speeds, say 120 km/h, it starts to feel a little lacking when you try to pick up a little bit more power. To go from 120 km/h to 140 km/h, took a bit of a climb – it’s here when you actually might find that sports mode shifting handy, compulsory even, because leaving it in “D” really just won’t do.

Despite being a carryover from the previous truck, the five-speed manual had better response than the auto, and that’s pretty much a given – like the saying goes: “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

It took a little bit more time getting used to the manual clutch, seeing that the biting point is buried a little bit further into the ground, and sometimes you can feel a bit of vibration coming through the pedal. But being a heavy-duty truck, it’s just something that you’ll come to adapt to, because real men adapt to their trucks!

Mitsubishi claims that the new Triton’s cabin is quieter now. I do find that the interior feels better insulated this time round, though that’s not to say that it’s fully sound proof. There’s still a hint of wind noise and a tinge of tyre roar which is to be expected. The rattle from the tray behind isn’t as prominent as before. The loudest noise inside would have to be that burble coming from the diesel engine.

I have to applaud the Triton for its ride. I could feel that the new truck was very grounded, so much so that it’s actually quite comfortable on- and off-road. It absorbed bumps, smaller pot holes and adjusting to uneven surfaces fluidly enough. I also realised that there were no sudden “sinks” that you would come to expect of a truck. It was pleasantly smooth throughout and I was thoroughly impressed, especially compared to the previous model.

There’s also reduced bounce in the back, and the backrest is angled at a 25-degree slant. As for rear space, I measure at 5.8 feet tall and found it to be sufficient. Not huge, but sufficient. I didn’t feel it was cramped and with the foldout armrest, it just makes sitting in the back quite alright. The fabric seats for the Triton VGT variants are decent, but you get leather seats in the more-expensive Triton VGT Adventure.

With a turning radius of 5.9 meters, the Triton is quite able to take on tight U-turns. That said, bear in mind that this is still a very long vehicle, so it still depends very much on the angle in which the U-turn is made. Taking the bends along the way, the steering feels quite balanced – it’s not too light, neither is it stiff. Even with its tall height, the Triton could handle sharp corners at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Push it further, you’ll start to feel the sag of body roll. In any case, it shouldn’t be driven like anything else other than the truck that it is.

Upon reaching the off-road track in Ulu Slim, Perak, we engaged the 4L mode, which was simple enough. With the convenience of the new 4WD Selector – bring it to a stop, select neutral and at the twist of a dial, all four wheels were ready for action. The shift-on-the-fly system allows you to put it into 4H on the move. In the manual, you still get the extra set of 4WD gears, which doesn’t require much exertion to shift.

Throughout the short course, the Triton managed the earth mounds and deep ruts effortlessly. Even with standard all-terrain tyres, the truck held together pretty well; you didn’t feel like there was any need to pay extra care to the deeper trenches. Also, thanks to its 205 mm ground clearance, (which is the same amount of clearance that gave the previous-gen much acclaim) the sidesteps and undercarriage were kept well away from random humps on the track.

Moving along in a convoy, we kept a safe distance from each other. However there were still times when I got too close that I needed to step on the brakes quite immediately. In this, there was no need to apply extra pressure, even as we sloped downwards in some parts. Seeing that we were in new trucks, all four brakes were still fresh and smooth.

The four-wheel drive system worked well to keep us going, regardless of how the terrain dipped. At speeds of about 20 to 30 km/h and at a varying 1,500 rpm to 2,000 rpm, off-roading in this guy was truly effortless. Not boring, but effortless – up to a point where I was really hoping for rainfall to see how the system coped on wetter, more challenging terrain. But unfortunately, no rain fell that day, making this article a little bit “dry”.

New to the Triton is the Hybrid Limited Slip Differential in the rear, which combines torque-sensing helical gears and speed sensing viscous coupling. To cut it straight; aside from better traction, it automatically works to send all torque to the other three wheels when it senses that one other is in the air. But as I said, we weren’t in such challenging enough situations to actually give this a go (sad face).

The next day, switching vehicles for the drive back home, I was handed the Triton VGT Adventure as my ride back. I was greeted with automatic folding mirrors outside, while inside I had paddle shifters, additional buttons on the steering such as Bluetooth and voice control on the left and cruise control on the right. The Adventure is fitted with DRLs and xenon lights, which activate automatically – same as the wipers. While the headlamps turned on instantly, the auto wipers were a tad slow to react, at times not at all.

There’s also a reverse camera. I appreciate that driver and front passenger now has the choice to choose their own temperature with the dual-zone climate system, but the systems lacks rear air vents for the passengers behind.

Aside from six-speakers, you now get voice control in the new Triton. You can use it to make calls, pair your phone, and control the audio. Surprisingly, it works quite well in that you don’t have to put on a fake accent or scream out the commands. As for the Bluetooth pairing, the system had some trouble finding my three-year old Galaxy Note, but to be fair, a few phones had been paired successfully before mine. Damn phone.

As I arrived back after the long drive, a verdict was already in mind. While I’m not a big fan of the new design, I have to say, the Triton is still as capable as the truck it replaces, perhaps even more so. Power is sufficient, and although the new auto gearbox still might be a tad lacking, it thankfully makes up for it with the manual-shifting sports mode and paddle shifters – if you’re so inclined to use them, that is.

On that note, while the powertrain and drivetrain are important, it’s the way the new Triton rides (significantly better than before) and what it has to offer inside that makes living with it on a daily basis, really easy. As I said earlier, it’s no longer just a truck. This new guy earns its place as an urban four-wheel drive vehicle. It’s a vehicle that anyone, and I mean anyone, can now consider owning. The Mitsubishi Triton has indeed upped the game a notch.