Big off-roaders like the Mitsubishi Shogun may lack the sophistication of luxury rivals like the BMW X5 and its ilk, but their tough looks, great off-road credentials and large, torquey engines have ensured a constant stream of fans since its introduction in the 1980s.
The latest model is a more polished beast than its predecessors, but its lost none of those qualities. Weve spent a week with a top-end Shogun SG4 to discover whether it still cuts the mustard in a world of more sophisticated rivals.
Theres little doubt that the current Shogun is the most distinctive version yet, and doubly so in the rarely-seen Orient Red finish of our test car. Its a deep, eye-catching colour which improves further in bright sunlight, and makes us wonder why so many Shoguns are bought in such tedious shades as black or silver. The red stands out, but never looks brash.
The styling is still an acquired taste though. The big, blocky stance is very much from the old school of 4×4 design, while the 20-inch wheels, chromed grille and smoked rear windows scream urban attitude – and that may be something youd be less comfortable with, depending on your view of city folk.
Theres no doubting its presence though. Youre unlikely to lose it in a car park, thats for sure.
In common with other Mitsubishis weve driven recently, all the basics of the Shoguns interior hit the mark, but some of the materials used leave a little to be desired.
First, the good points. Theres plenty of space in the first few rows, though the high-ish floor in the back may be uncomfortable for the tallest of passengers. The seats are comfortable – electrically adjustable in the front, and leather trimmed – and theres enough adjustment between seats and steering wheel to find the right driving position.
Theres also a third row of seats, should you need it. Youll have to leave the luggage cover at home, but the third row is easy enough to erect – remove the rear section of the boot floor, roll the seats out until they latch to the floor, pull up the back rest, attach the head rests, replace the boot floor – maybe 20 seconds work. Space is tight, but theyd be fine for primary school-age children.
Drop those seats, and tumble the middle row forward, and you get a vast, usable load area, and provided you dont mind heaving things up to the fairly high floor level, itll handle heavy objects with ease.
Less impressive are the interior materials. The leather is nice enough (both on seats, steering wheel, handbrake and gear levers), and most dashboard materials acceptable, but further down the dash and door cards youll find plenty of nasty, scratchy plastics lurking. The design isnt much to behold, either – but everything should be hard-wearing, at least, and it all feels well screwed together.
On the road, the Shogun is a mixed bag. Refinement and handling lag a fair way behind many modern rivals, and it certainly doesnt feel like a wieldy vehicle on the road – its slow, ponderous, and prefers a gentler driving style.
Theres enough grip to cope with most situations, though stability control does cut in fairly early to prevent understeer, particularly in tighter corners. Steering is feel-free and slow, but nicely weighted, and thankfully the turning circle is fantastic – helping the occasionally tricky task of parking something so large.
Ride quality is rarely uncomfortable, but would be better still on taller tyres. The body does shimmy and shake over larger ruts and holes too, creating more rattles than you might expect in a new vehicle. Its better on the motorway, but there youll notice plenty of wind and tyre noise instead.
And off-road? Well admit to not testing it over anything rougher than muddy, gravelly car parks, but on 20-inch wheels and road tyres this wasnt the trim level best suited to such behaviour. We do know its capable however, as Shoguns are common in the deserts of the Middle East.
Under the Shoguns large bonnet is a four-cylinder DI-DC turbodiesel engine, displacing 3.2 litres and putting out 197 horsepower. In our car, it was paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The engine may be a little bit of a shock if youre used to more modern diesels. Much like the Mitsubishi L200 pickup we recently tested, its a lot more harsh and clattery than many units in rival vehicles – particularly so on a cold morning. Mitsubishi has done an admirable job of keeping noise and vibration out of the cabin, but the engine is still distinctly at the agricultural end of the spectrum.
Hard acceleration results in lots of unpleasant noise, and only respectable performance – 0-62mph is quoted at 11.1 seconds, but this cars a load hauler, not a sprinter.
Thankfully, large reserves of torque ensure it rarely needs to be worked too hard, and in our automatic example, gear changes were generally very smooth. You can pick your own gears too, using the tiptronic-style mode. Theres little joy or benefit to be had doing so however, so we just left it in Drive most of the time.
Value for money
In SG4 trim with the automatic gearbox, our model kicks off at 41,799. Thats a reasonable chunk of money in anyones book, but not excessive considering just how much metal youre getting.
Equipment levels are good too. Climate control is standard on the SG4, as is cruise control, leather seats, and a reversing camera – the last of which is particularly handy, combined with the parking sensors. The navigation system was effective and easy to use, though misses out on a simple postcode input for addresses, but we found it easy to hook up an iPhone to listen to our own tunes – even if the USB input is inconveniently located in the passenger glovebox. Sound quality from the 12-speaker Rockford Premium Audio system was pretty good, aided by the large subwoofer in the boot.
Furthering the equipment tally was a rear DVD entertainment system, which many parents will tell you is absolutely invaluable for keeping kids entertained on long journeys. Naturally, the further down the Shogun food chain you move, the less equipment you get – but Shoguns kick off from 30,099 for a short wheelbase, three-door, manual-transmission model in SG2 trim.
Another 2,700 gets you the long wheelbase five-door body, like our test car. That puts it on a similar level to its closest rival, Toyotas Land Cruiser, but the Mitsubishi quickly undercuts the Toyota at higher trim levels. The only sticking point might be the Land Rover Discovery 4, which has a similar price to the highest-spec Shogun, albeit with less equipment, but significantly greater brand cachet.
Official economy figures for the auto are 29.4 mpg urban, 39.2 mpg extra-urban, and 34.9 mpg combined. With 224 g/km of CO2 it sits in VED band K, so tax costs 270 per year.
Our test showed between 25-30 mpg is possible in town (depending on traffic – and those in gridlocked areas will see even less), with around 35 mpg available on the open road, and around 32-33 mpg at 70mph on the motorway.
The Shogun SG4 gets a solid score. It does most things well, but nothing spectacularly. Practicality and equipment are its strongest attributes, and as such it should serve well as a good all-purpose family vehicle – keeping the kids entertained on long trips, but also more than happy to tow trailers or caravans when required.
It does lack quality and brand prestige however, and when the more modern-looking and refined Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 sits within reach of top-end Shoguns, that may be enough to sway you away from the Mitsubishi.
Oh, and if you do get one, get one in red. Were sick of seeing black ones everywhere!
What the press think
Reviews of the Shogun are mixed. Most advise you to stay away from the short-wheelbase, three-door – it takes all the Shoguns bad points, but offers none of the benefits of space.
Some also point out the closeness in price of top models to the Discovery. That vehicle really will be your deciding factor in buying a Shogun, we reckon.
For more information check out our full summary of the Mitsubishi Shogun alongside reviews, photos, stats and videos!